Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tomorrow is St. Crispin's Day.

A few years ago, my dad, sister, and I decided to do the Resolution Run on New Year's Eve. It was a 5K.

It being Idaho, New Year's Eve at midnight was not a super great time to be outside. The wind was absolutely howling. We were either running in ankle-deep snow or on fully frozen ice.

We had to basically run two huge loops. Around once, and around the second time. I had been training, so I was confident and didn't feel horrible about it. I wore proper gear and all.

But that icy wind - dang. That sucked. And it hit us whenever we curved southward. It was blowing so hard, and with the ice, it almost felt like we were trying to climb a sand dune - not a ton of quick pacing during those parts.

Lex and I decided to yell at the wind to get through that challenging part of the race.

"Bring it on, beyotch! You think you can intimidate us with your roaring??" I bellowed.

"We're Idaho Girls, Idiot Wind! Do you really think you can hurt us with your ice blasts?!?" screamed Lex.

"Your wind is like mother's milk to us! We were weaned on it! Ain't nothing you can throw at us that we haven't seen!" I roared.

"We are stronger than you. We are still going to make crazy awesome time. We are gonna kick this race's butt!!" howled Lex.

Dad was with us, but he is more of a stoic runner. Haha!

Anyways, yelling at the wind - challenging the wind - was really empowering. We got through it just fine and now have something cool we can tell our grandkids about. (I can also tell my grandkids that my sister took such good care of their daddy when grandma was sick. That in just two weeks in her care, he started learning to respond when people talked to him. That he learned to share. That he started instigating 3 to 4 word sentences. That a miracle took place because my sister made this sacrifice for me. I'll never forget what you did for me, Lex. Not until the day I die.)

So tonight, on Chemo Eve, I am shouting at my cancer.

Bring it on, you sneaky little bitch.

You think you're going to take me early? Not a chance in hell. I WILL beat you. I will live to watch my kids get married. I will be the coolest grandma on the planet. My kids will be my best friends.

Ben and I are going to grow old together. So you can forget about taking me.

I am a force to be reckoned with. Just because I'm a peacemaker does NOT make me a quitter.

Be gone, I say.

You know who you're dealing with, right? I've been through some hard-core stuff. I wouldn't roll over and take it then. I certainly won't roll over and take it now.

In a year, to quote Iggy Azalea, "I'll have 99 problems, but you won't be one; like, WHAT?" (That's
rapper talk right there.)

This chemo will be horrible, but it's like a sword in this battle.  Chemo and I are going to SLAY you, dragon. And then my hair will grow. And my strength will return. I'll have gorgeous, perky boobs. And I'll be skinny. Rock on.  And I will emerge victorious and triumphant.

One of my favorite speeches in all of Shakespeare's works is the speech Henry V gives before going to battle against the French:

    This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian. 

    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, 

    And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red. 

    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered- 

Every year, on July 25, I'll remember that, in 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  I'll lift up my shirt and look at my scars - my battle wounds. And I'll remember the feat I will have accomplished - the remission I will have achieved while fighting for my life.  My kids will tell their kids how hard I fought. How I came out champion. And they'll toast me with their cups of coke and yell, "To mom!  To grandma!"

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fy Dollars.

I had a friend in college from New Jersey.  I loved to hear him talk.  He said "water" like "wooder."  And he said "five dollars" like "fy dollars."  It's such a kick to listen to peoples' speech speech patterns.  My brother-in-law is from Montana, and it's a "beg" instead of a "bag."  Their dog, Maggie, is "Meggie." My sis, Lex, really emphasizes the ending -ing sound in her gerunds.  (Helpful hint for you non-grammar nerds out there - a gerund is a word that ends in -ing.  Gerunds are a good way to condense and electrify your sentences.  Just so you know.)

Today was such a good day for me.  I didn't have one doctor's office visit.  No pokes or prods.  I didn't feel nauseated or too tired.  Not even too much pain.  

However, the best, best, best part of the day was purchasing these:

Those, my friends, are bona fide Coppelias.  What I used to dance in.  When I was a little girl in the springtime.

Back story:  So last night, I was on pinterest, pinning a billion pictures of ballet feet and bodies.  Poses I think I'm capable of doing for my fabulous photo shoot on Tuesday after I teach my littles.  I had to be careful in pinning, because there's a whole heck of a lot I can't do anymore, even if I still had a full range of motion in my left armpit (which I don't).  When I taught my little girls grand jete, way back 1 month BM (Before Mastectomy), my own grand jetes were woefully inadequate.  As were my double pirouettes.  I mean, once I lose 30 pounds and get stronger, hopefully I can fly like I used to.  But for now, I just pinned things that I think I'll be able to do on Tuesday.

And as I was going through these pictures, I was like, "Dang it, I wish I could wear some pointe shoes.  These pictures would be so much more bad-arse if I could have some pictures of me on pointe."  I figured it wasn't to be.  Pointe shoes, back in the early 2000's (the last time I wore them), were like $60.  Who even knows what they are now?  I don't eeeven want to know.  And I don't have that kind of fundage.  I have medical bills to pay, yo.  So I just sighed and pinned a lot of feet that were nicely placed up on the ball of the foot when in eleve.  Or pointed in a cool way.  Out in tendu, or in low arabesque.  That kind of thing.

I also decided that, for my photo shoot, I don't want to wear my running capris and an underarmour shirt, as I usually do when I teach.  I wanted to look legit.  I wanted to look regal.  So I decided to go to a dance wear store.

The only dance wear you can buy in our city is in the foyers of different ballet studios, and I didn't think they'd have enough inventory.  Especially for this extra-large woman.  Yes, I wear an extra large in leotards now.  They're also expensive.  The best thing is to buy online, but I came up with this idea so late in the game that I knew I'd have to pay a ton extra to get anything here on time.

So I headed down to Pocatello to a store with dance wear.  Word on the street is that this shop is where all the I.F. girls have to go to get properly fitted with pointe shoes.  There used to be a place here, but not anymore.  Sigh.  So I thought, kay.  I'm-a go there.  Dylan elected to stay home and play Wii/baby-sit Pep Smear, and Micah and Sadie went with me.

I admired my new bracelet as I drove.  Wanna see it?
My darling sister-in-law sent it to me, along with a warm, fuzzy pink hoodie that says "Fight like a girl!" on it, a cup that says the same thing, a coke cozy that says the same thing, and a cute white winter knit hat with a pink ribbon on it.  The bracelet is in the shape of an angel's wing, and it says, "Be brave."  I love it.  Thanks so much, Kristine.

See, I think I'm just going to have to say my thank-yous via the internet, you guys.  I literally have a list of like a hundred people I need to send thank-you notes to.  It's so overwhelming...  I also have 25 voicemails.  Overwhelmed.  I just can't do it.  I can't check those voicemails.  I'm so sorry if you've left me one.  I'll sit down and do it soon.


So we got there to the dance shop, and the dang place was closed.  Her general open hours are Wednesday evenings.  And then only by appointment on other days.  I called the phone numbers on the door, and one of the gals that works there said she actually had an appointment for a fitting in about an hour and that I could come back then.

So the ninos and I went to our favorite Pocatello sandwich shop and came back.

My initial goal was to get the basics - leotard, tights, skirt.  But it took me some time.  First of all, my left armpit is sore, and my pecs are sore, since they're getting all stretched out over my new boobs, so it just plain old took time.  A lot of wincing and sharp intakes of air.  A few groans.  Also, I really wanted a pretty spaghetti strap leo, but I couldn't get anything in a tank or a spaghetti strap, because the swelling in my left armpit is too apparent.  I also really wanted one of those cute shrug things, but I didn't want to spend too much.  I still have to go out and purchase some scarves for my future baldness, after all.  I also wanted one of those full-bodied knit jumpsuits.  Or booty shorts.  Or cute thigh-high legwarmers.  Or these knit leggins that go all the way to the boobs, and then you fold them down.

For those of you in the know, all of the above make you bad-arse in the ballet world.

But I couldn't hack it.  And it's okay.  If I'm honest with myself, I never, ever worn legwarmers when I danced.  My legs were plenty warm.  And my arms were plenty warm, too, so I really don't need a shrug, either.  I got a short-sleeved leo to cover the armpit swelling.  The skirts are one size fits all, and, um, mine is...snug.  I'm seriously wondering if I'm going to need to wear spanx under my leo so I can actually tie my skirt on. Sad.

So after much contemplating and sighing, I chose my three basics and went up to the front to pay.  I glanced to my left, and there it was.  The five-dollar bin.  Full of pointe shoes.  I thought, Naw.  Pause.  Naw. Glance.  Naw. Stare.

"So each of these pairs of pointe shoes is only five bucks??"


"For realsies?"

"Yeah.  If you can rise in them and feel comfortable in them and they're your size, only five bucks."

I had to try some on, guys.  So I sat there on the floor and tried on all of the beautiful pink toe shoes that hadn't found a mommy to love them yet.  The lady was helping a teenager with a fitting, and she saw me trying the shoes on. 

"What size do you wear?" she asked.

"No idea," I responded.

"You can't remember?"

"Oh, no."

"What kind of shoes did you wear when you danced?"

"Uhhhhhhh.... something that starts with a C?"

"So you didn't dance in Blochs?  Grishkos?  Sanchas?"

"Oh, honey, Blochs were just coming out when I was just finishing up.  I was old school."

She chuckled and turned back to her client.

So I found two pair that actually fit my wide foot.  I didn't have any lamb's wool or anything, but I had to be sure that they felt good.  That I felt comfortable and stable up on that box.  So I shoved them on (if toe shoes fit correctly, they hurt to just stand in.  They feel okay to run on the balls of the shoe or be on the toe, but standing = pain), and I rolled up on those suckers.  One pair felt...meh.  I felt like I wasn't on top of the box. Like it was dragging me back.   But the other pair...clouds were parting.  Choirs were singing.  Right on top and over the box.  Good arch support.  Perfect.  Just perfect.

The lady turned to me.

"Do you have any lamb's wool in there?"

"Naw, not yet."

"How long did you say it's been since you've rolled up on a toe shoe?"

"Um....fifteen years?"

"Damn.  Those shoes are perfect on you."

"And these are only five bucks, right?"

She chuckled.  "You lucked out, lady."

I looked at the insole of the shoe to see what type had fit my foot so well. They're called Coppelia.  And that's when I remembered - I danced in Coppelias!  I thought it was funny and so cool.  Once a Coppelia girl, always a Coppelia girl, I guess. Once you go Coppelia, you never  Oooh, ooh, I thought of one:  If it's not Coppelia, it's a failyah.  Badda-BA!  Get it?  A failure?  But you have to say it like you're from Brooklyn.  A failyah.

So I bought my fy dollar shoes and my lamb's wool and my ribbons and my elastics.  I'm going to have to look on YouTube to remember how to properly sew my stuff on.  And I'm going to have to use my mom's sewing machine, because all my sewing stuff is packed.

The lady was like, "Tell me you're not going to try to full-on dance on these?"

"Oh, no.  I don't feel like breaking my ankles."

"Right?  So promise me you'll just roll up on them and make them pretty for pictures.  Next to the barre."

"Oh, I promise.  I'll come back to you when I'm strong enough and skinny enough for good ones."

"It's a deal."

I'm in love with these.  I think I might propose soon.
I might have to sleep with them tonight.

The other day, I was reading one of my pamphlets from the Cancer Support Center in town.  I think it was entitled, "Dealing emotionally with cancer."  It talked about cancer as an opportunity to evaluate your life.  It asked questions of the reader, such as, "What activity makes you light up inside?"  "What is something you always look forward to?"  "What makes you feel like life is worth living?"  "What makes you smile?"  Then it basically said, "As much as you possibly can, do those things.  That's what will get you through.  Even if you can't do these things sometimes or not even at all, look forward to doing these things."

I think that's what will help me fight this battle.  Hope.  I need to look at chemo as just an obstacle.  It's a road I have to cross.  It will take me four months to cross this stupid road.  But then I can grow strong again.  I can grow my hair again.  I can recover.  I can dance again.  And who knows.  Maybe I'll feel good enough to dance sometimes during this whole process.  On those rare good days, go gently work out at the barre and break these shoes in.  Break a sweat.  Feel moments of strength amidst the weakness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Prognosis and Game Plan

Sorry for the lack of posting.  Lots of things going on.  We went to the oncologist Tuesday morning.  My prognosis is good.  70-80% survival rate.  There is only a 10% or less chance of the cancer having spread to my other organs.  I had a CT scan today to see if we can find any errant cancer cells anywhere.  I'll let you know the results when I get them.  I had blood drawn this afternoon.  Tomorrow I do an Echo to make sure my heart is healthy before we do chemo.  I have a port put in Monday where my chemo and other things will go in.  It will be near my collarbone.  Here is my treatment:

1.  Chemo once every three weeks for 18 weeks (finishing roughly at Christmas time).  Six times. I'll start losing my hair about 2 weeks after my first session.  Planning to have a shaving party.  You're all invited.  I'll feel good for a couple of days, feel nausea for a few days, feel weak for a week, feel tired for a week, and then feel okay for a few days before doing the cycle again and again and again.

2.  One month of rest, then moving to Oregon to reunite my family.  Can't wait until that day.  Sadie and Dylan are going to Oregon with Ben to start school.  We're keeping Gage with my sister Lex until Christmas.  He's getting so much invidualized help for his autism; I want to do good by him.  I won't be able to help him until I am well and strong.

3.  7 weeks of radiation.  Five times a week, Monday through Friday.  The only side effect is feeling like you have a sunburn.  That feeling happens when you're all done with the 7th week.

4.  One year of Herceptin treatment.  Will be put in through my port in IV form.  Once every three weeks.  No side effects.  Hard to explain this therapy.  Here's a good explanation:

I'm teaching my ballet class Tuesday.  And then whenever I feel good.  My beautiful photographer friend is going to take pictures of me teaching.  And then she'll take pictures of me dancing. Pictures of my feet.

I start chemo within a few days of that.  After I lose my hair, I'm going to have her take pictures of my bald head, a la: 

I will look beautiful.  I will stand proud and strong and not be ashamed of my hair loss.  I am a warrior.  If I ever feel good enough to teach, she'll also take pictures of me teaching with a scarf on my head.  And then dancing bald. I want to do what makes me happy as often as possible.  And teaching ballet makes me happy.

I've got a little bit of boobs!!

Sorry, you guys.  That was a seriously dirty trick, to write this very, very dark post and then to disappear for a few days.  Yikes.  Bikes.  I didn't mean to.  I really didn't. 

Kay, so.  It's safe to say I moved Dylan's medications to a completely different counter in a completely different area in our kitchen.  Because first I had that high, high, high, and then I cried for like 5 hours, and then I wrote my dark post, and then I was consumed with this really scary, really horrible panic attack.  That's what I think it was.  I described it to my sister, who has had them, and she was like, "Yep."  Whoa.  That was really horrible.  I feel so badly for anyone who has chronic anxiety.  What an awful feeling.  I was really paranoid and really scared about the dumbest crap.  Like, I couldn't sleep, right?  Because, you know, I had accidentally ingested speed.  So I was lying there next to my mom (she spent the night with me, which was so sweet, but then she immediately fell into a deep sleep beside me in bed with her oxygen mask hissing blissfully), and I'm staring at her, like, "Dude!!!!  Now I'm lonelier than ever!  Everyone's asleep!  I'm all alone!"  And then it quickly went to, "What if I never sleep again?  If I can't go to sleep, I can't heal!  And then I'll die!  I'll die because I couldn't sleep!  Bwahahahahaha....."  (That is the crying "bwahaha" and not the laughing "bwahaha."  I was doing some ugly crying at this point.)  And I was pacing all around, and I was just fa-reaking out.

Finally, at 4:30 in the morning, I shoved my mom's shoulder. 


Ahhhh, mom's pink pills.  The Fabled Ones.  My mom has RLS really, really badly.  I feel badly for her.  I mean, I have it and have to take medication for it, but this woman... her legs drive her crazy.  So she has these pink pills that calm the restless legs but also kind of knock her out.  We've all learned to accept the fact that, at 9 p.m., she's either standing and shuffling and kneading at her legs, or she has passed out in the middle of the movie in the theater.  I feel badly for her.  I really do.  Restless legs is AWFUL.

So anywho, once, my parents and Ben and I went out to New York to visit Beads.  And my restless legs were just off the charts.  And Mom is like, "Do you want to take half of my pink pill?" because my RLS pills were packed.  And I was so desperate for my legs to be calm that I was like, "Well, Nancy Reagan says not to do drugs, but...okay.  I'll try it just once.  To be cool." 

You guys probably think I'm a total drug abuser.  I'm not.  I just...needed not to be doing a tap dance on the ceiling above my seat while my head and upper body were on the chair.  Because that is what happens in the car on long drives when my legs go crazy.  So I took Mom's half of a pill, and dude, it made me sick as a dog.  I barfed for like 6 hours in the airplane toilet.  It was horrifying.  Awful.  Awful. 

Mom's pink pills are so famed for their potency that, when my grandpa was dying, and hospice hadn't kicked in yet - we had to wait 24 hours - he begged her for her pink pills so he could sleep.  And she gave them to him.  And he slept peacefully.  Those pink pills carried my grandpa home.

So at 4:30 in the morning, crazy Drug Addict Kar was asking her mom for a pink pill.  She gave me half.  We waited an hour.  Nothing changed.  I was still darting my eyes around.  Running to the bathroom every five seconds because I swear I had to pee.  Crying.  Breathing heavily.  Hot, then cold, then hot, then cold.  So after that hour, I took the other half.  Another hour.  Nothing changed.  It was 6:30.  Mom suggested we go on a walk.  I cried the whole time.  Breathed heavily the whole time.  My brow was furrowed the whole time.  I felt this weird impending sense of doom.  When we got home, I called some good friends in the ward, and they called their husbands over to give me a blessing.  I felt so stupid.  And nauseated.  I was dry heaving a bunch from the stupid pink pills.  I am never touching those things again.  They couldn't even put me to sleep!

I've got to admit, I was yelling at Heavenly Father inside my head when mom was clutching my hand and I was trying so hard to calm my breathing.  "DUDE!  CAN YOU THROW ME A FREAKIN' BONE HERE??  THESE PILLS COULD MAKE A DYING MAN SLEEP, AND THEY CAN'T EVEN HELP A GIRL WITH CANCER SLEEP?  COME ONNNNNN!"

We were in a fight.  And I felt guilty.  I've tried never to be mad at him, but I was really, really pissed.  I felt betrayed.

Finally, I fell asleep for about two hours.  When I woke up, the anxiety was still there.  This ADHD stuff was still in me.  My mom had taken my kids to her house, and I was in the house, all alone.  By myself.  I was terrified. 

My dear friend Cathy called me right then and saved me.  She told me some really great, very sacred stories that helped put things into perspective.  She gave me some good ideas to help exterminate the negativity and gloom that had settled on me.  Her mom died a few years ago of cancer and she nursed her mom through the whole thing.  So she knows a thing or two.  She is a spiritual giant and my spiritual sister.  Her perspective and her words helped me more than she will ever know.  Thank you, Cath.

I felt the anxiety slip away. 

But the high was still a little bit there. 

I went and got a medication my psychiatrist had called in which should boost my anti-depressants a little bit and also help sedate a little bit at bedtime.  Under my current circumstances, I need a little more than I've had.  A whole s-load of stuff has happened to me in a really short amount of time, and I need to be able to cope.  Then  Mom and I went to my plastic surgeon to get the cursed blood grenades out.  I was being such a butthead to him.  He took it like a champ.  He was whining about having pulled a hamstring, and I was like, "Wow.  That really sucks.  I can't imagine how it must feel to have a hamstring hurt.  That must be really hard for you."  And then I clapped my hand over my mouth with wide eyes.  "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry."  He chuckled and said he was fine.  I explained the ADHD situation, and he got a good laugh out of that.  After I reminded him that I would CUT him if he didn't pull my grenade hoses out gently, he did so.  He did a very good job.  And then he examined my mutilated chest and said, "Okay, let's start filling you up!"

"Wait.  What????"

"You're healing so well, it's time to give you some boobs again!"

I couldn't believe my ears!  I had no idea! 

I was soooo scared when I saw all those huge vials full of...whatever they're full of.  The inserts that I have are only temporary. They're meant to help my skin stretch. This is what's inside me right now.
When we're to the desired size, they'll take the stretchers out and put the real...boob implant  I was like, "Ummmmmm, please tell me you'll, like, numb the area before you put that huge needle into my chest."  I was having visions from Pulp Fiction dance through my head - the whole, Uma-Thurman-has- overdosed-and-you-need-to-shoot-this-adrenaline-right-into-her-heart thing. 
 Yes, I went through a rated R phase in college. I have since repented.  And I've been off rated R movies for... maybe 12 years or so?  Thank you, thank you.  [Insert deep, lovely, ballet curtsy here.]

And he's like, "Oh, you're not going to feel this.  Can you feel me do this?" and he flicked my chest. (He had every right to do so.  I mean, first of all, he was flicking my exoskeleton.  Second of all, there is no indignity I haven't faced in having children and having my girl parts taken out and having my boobs cut off.  Someone could cut off my head, and I'd be like, "Yep."  Plus, he had a right to flick me because I had threatened to cut him and told him that his jokes were really dumb and had mocked his pulled hamstring.  In addition, I know his little sister really well.  So I wasn't offended.)

"Oh.  No."

"Yeah, you're not going to have any feeling in this general area again.  I can put this needle right in there and you won't feel a thing."  And he did.

That's trippy.

So he filled me up slowly and carefully.  I felt scared, so I held my mom's hand and sang "Baby I'm Amazed" with her.  Because it was still in my head.

And slowly, gently, the high from the ADHD - the horrible, awful, no good, very bad high - slipped away.  It was replaced with a profound exhaustion.  My eyes were rolling around in my head.  I was so, so tired.  And so, so grateful to have that horrible crap out of my system. 

He told me not to take a nap.  To let my circadian cycle reset itself.  I made some dumb joke about cicadas and their life cycles.  He said that if I couldn't sleep again, to call him.

Later that evening, I was showing my friend Monica my new boobs (they're like a B-minus.  I'm thinking of going for a C-minus or a solid C.  Not sure.  Still thinking) - with my shirt over them, of course, and Micah walked over, head cocked to one side, examining my chest.

"Mom!!" he exclaimed, "Look at your boobs!  You got new boobs!  I'm so happy for you!!  I love them!  You look so pretty!  And skinny, too!"

I love that kid.

Somehow, I managed to make it to 9 that night before sleeping all night long.   Like a log.  It was awesome.

My boobs hurt a little bit, but they're quite, um, perky.  I have to sleep with ice on them and all that.  I have to keep wound dressing on the holes where my tubes for my grenades tortured me for three weeks.  I still have special tape on my stitches from the mastectomy.  They are hard as ROCKS.  Those hard port things on them are right on top.  I hugged my sister last night, and she said, "Ouch."  My mom hugged me and then copped a feelsky.  She was curious as to how they felt.

My dad was all, "Cheriiii...."  But I wasn't offended.  Like I said, no indignity is too much for this messed up body.  I might as well walk around naked.

So, the plan is to fill 'er up again, just a tiny bit, in a couple of weeks, and then that part is done.  At some point they'll put the real implant in.  I don't know if I'm going to even worry about getting n-words.  I'm over surgery stuff.  We'll see if I change my mind, but right now, I have bigger fish to fry. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

You get what you ask for.

Kay, seriously, I need to stop blogging at night. Night is the enemy. Night is the dark time. You are all alone, even if your Mom is sleeping in the same bed as you. Everyone is in blissful sleeping land and you, the girl with cancer, the one who needs desperately to sleep, are wide awake.

Not sure if it's the after-effects of accidentally getting high yesterday or what, but I tried Tylenol PM. I did that doTerra oil on my feet. I took a bath. Then another bath. Wrote a letter the size of a novel to my friend. Nothing seems to be doing the trick.  I had the worst insomnia when I was in college. I would cry and plead with Heavenly Father to let me rest. My brain just would not stop moving. When I had kids and started falling asleep as soon as I hit the pillow, I was so grateful, in a way, that I was able to fall asleep. This staying up all night business is not terribly fun. I really should read my scriptures, but Ben moved them somewhere when we were showing the house. Maybe I should read them on But I have a weird thing with electronic reading. It makes me intensely uncomfortable. It's like I can't connect with a book unless I can hold it physically in my hands.

I've got a lot of quirks. Have you noticed?

So. Robin Williams. When he died, and also when my friend Frank died, not once - not ONCE - did I go, "Oh, he is so selfish." That is the most ignorant thing to say. You know what I said when I found out about each if them?

"I know how they feel."

Don't freak out. Please.

It's a hard thing to describe depression to people who don't have it. But I've been fighting that dude
my whole life, and he is a killer.  I'm way more intimate with Mr. Depression than I would like to be.

Obvi, depression is different for everyone. In my case, I had two main difficulties. 1) Anger. 2) I had this deep longing to be dead.

Don't freak out. Stay with me here. It will get better.

I never, ever made plans to kill myself. I never tried to kill myself. I was lucky I never got to that point. But there have been many, many times in my life that I wanted Heavenly Father to take me away.

"It's too hard, Father. It's too hard. Take me away."

I also had this weird desire to be underground. I wanted to be under the earth. Hidden from any view
while I grappled with this. I would bury myself deep within my bed. Completely covered. Hidden. I would put ear plugs in my ears and pretend I was peacefully sleeping under the ground.

I know it's weird. But it was how I felt.

Somehow, I was able to reach out for help, amidst the fuzzy cloudiness of my mental pain. And I got help. Real, good, specific psychiatrist help.

My meds are what hold me together.  When my grandma died, I didn't shed a tear. And I loved her.
"Wow, Kar," my dad said in admiration.  You are a ROCK."

"Oh no. No, no, no. It's my meds."

But it's not like I'm a zombie. Sure I didn't cry very much anymore, but my meds made me feel like
myself. It was like my real personality was trapped in this big ball of despair.  Now (with the notable exception of the past week), I can feel sad. Happy. Ecstatic. Angry. It's just that the ebbs are like valleys and foothills instead of ravines and...less deep ravines? Haha! My meds have saved my sanity. Therefore, they have saved my family.

Depression is like thyroid disease. No amount of scripture reading, praying, excercising, or eating healthy will rid you of thyroid disease.  Same with depression.  Some things will help for a little while.  Excercizing gives me an endorphin boost, which is why I do it ALL the time. But if your depression takes you to a place as dark as I have been, the only way out, at least for me, was clinical, medicinal help. You wouldn't tell someone who was born without an arm that if they just ate right and excercized, they could regrow an arm. It's so utterly ridiculous when people make obtuse statements like that to me.

Until you have experienced it, you have NO idea how horrifying it is. How debilitating. It will bring you to your knees.

What I feel toward people who have attempted or completed suicide is nothing but compassion. Because I've been to that dark place, and it is sheer hell. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I know that helpless feeling. I know what it's like to beg for death.

I can't help but wonder sometimes if I got cancer because I wished for death. Like I brought it on myself. I regret having thought those thoughts and said those words, but I was not in my right mind. I feel like this whole thing is my fault. I asked for something I didn't truly want. And now I'm staring death in the face. I mean, my chances are good - 72% survival rate for stage 3b breast cancer. Plus I'm young, active, etc. But I don't know. Part of me wonders if I summoned the reaper.

I'm starting to feel myself slip into that dark place once more, so I'm getting help from my psychiatrist soon.  I have an appointment this week.

Robin, you don't know me. But you were an extraordinary talent. I have zero judgment to mete out. I've been where you were. You feel like you're being tortured. You had to escape. I hope that you can actually truly rest in peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I was high at church today. Not on purpose.

OMG.  I think my brain is seriously getting overloaded.  Just so you know, voicemail is NOT the way to go if you want to reach me, aight?  Text.  Texting all the way.  If I haven't called you back, I am so sorry.  It's just that there are like 50 voice mails, and I get so overwhelmed and can't deal with it.  But at the same time I feel the need to be surrounded by people.  So just come over.  Or just text me.  And I'm so sorry.

So dude.  This morning, I was all, "Dylan, come upstairs and take your pills!"  His ADHD pills.  And then I took out my two extra strength Tylenols, or as we like to call it around here, "I might as well take air" pills.  And of course Dyl didn't come up, so I was like, "Dylan!!" and I got out two capri suns, one for him and one for me.  P.S. Having cancer makes me not give a damn about what I eat.  If I can grab it, I'm good.  If I have to cook it, fugeddaboutit.  I used to avoid processed foods like the plague, but now, I'm just so emotionally exhausted, it's all I can do to make Kraft Mac and Cheese for the ninos.  And then eat a bowl myself.  Just because it seems like the thing to do.  No appetite.  I always wished my clinical depression was the one where I lost my appetite. That hasn't ever been the case until the last week or so.  Don't want to eat.  Have to force myself to when I feel hunger.  I do make sure to feed my kids, but...I don't know.  I might need to move in with my parents sooner than later.  I'm in a pretty dark place.  When my kids fight, I just kind of glance their way and then turn away.

Sorry.  Upbeat.  Trying to keep this upbeat.  So I got our capri suns out, and I was distracted, because my mind is a jumble of a million things right now, and I popped my Tylenols and sipped them down, and I realized that I took the ADHD pills and not the Tylenol.  I texted my nursey-sciencey sisters and was like, "Should I make myself barf??"  They both were like, "Dude, they're long dissolved by now.  You're going to be really hyper." 

And boy howdy.  I felt like a million BUCKS.  I was singing "Baby I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney and getting everyone ready for church.  And I felt ZERO pain.  ZERO.  I felt invincible!!  I was happy and funny and oh so witty and had so much ENERGY!  I haven't had this much energy since I was 20!  I felt euphoric!  I was like, "Damn."  I can see why people can get addicted to the stimulants.  I've seen the narcotics, and I've now seen the stimulants.

Yet, through the hyper happiness, I knew it wasn't real, and I knew I hadn't eaten, and I was vaguely aware of that, but was too busy GETTING STUFF DONE to eat...  I decided to take us to church. 

I tried to really keep it toned down, and I'm reeeeally not sure I accomplished that.  I feel like maybe I made like 20 comments in church??  Just so.  obnoxious.  And I was writing all this stuff down.  And I was like, "These are such deep thoughts I'm having.  I'll bet nobody has ever had these deep thoughts about the gospel before.  The cosmos are all coming together.  I'm seeing the great and divine plan.  Ommmmmmm....."  It was cray.  I really usually always feel the spirit in church, but it's a calm peaceful feeling.  This was like a little tornado happening on my chair.  I wasn't a person.  I was a tornado.  A note-taking tornado.

And dude, it lasted FOREVER.  I hoped it would get out of me by noon.  Nope.  Not until 4 p.m.  And, as we all know what happens after a high, we CRASH.  And I did.  I've been crying for about 5 hours straight.  My mom is coming over to sleep tonight.  Because nights are...terrifying to me.  I cry and cry myself to sleep.  Every night.  It's exhausting. 

I have an appointment with my favorite psychiatrist.  I'll talk to him about our options.  Obviously, I'm in need of a little anti-depressant tweaking right now.  After this is all over and I have my family with me again, perhaps I can come back down on dosage, but what I got ain't cutting it. 

I think it's safe to say that reality has hit.  HARD. 

And that I'm going to be really careful from here on out.  I hate feeling out of control.  Ugh.  I'd rather sit here bawling than have my hands shaking and talking so fast that my kids can't understand me.  That wasn't me.  And crying all day isn't usually me, either.  I'm trapped in here, guys.  I'm trying really hard to fight my way out.  Be patient.  Maybe if my mental state is more stable, then I can handle this better.

Sorry for the Debbie Downerness of this.

And sorry if your name is Debbie and that phrase offends you.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sir Paul

Kay, so today was a seriously craptastic day (do withdrawals from percocet involve flu-like aches?  Dude.  That stuff is EVIL), and I pushed myself too hard, and then I crashed. And then I cried and cried.  So.  I want to talk about something peppy. 

And nothing is more peppy than the subject of Sir Paul McCartney.  My dad and mom got tickets for themselves and my sisters to go see him in concert in Salt Lake City.  They got these tickets MONTHS ago.  Before Ben's layoff.  Before cancer.  (Actually, cancer was happily settled into my body long before Salt Lake was a glimmer in Paul's eye.  It's weird to have had this killer inside of me for so long and I had noooo idea.  No inkling.  And when I finally got an inkling, BAM!  There it was, and it had spread and been kicking my butt all along...)

They flew my two non-local sisters in and got us hotel rooms and everything.  It was so awesome.  SO.  AWESOME. 

Eeee!  Okay.  I'll set the scene.  Lex and I had gone to the mall a few days before the concert to get t-shirts made for each of us.  There was this t-shirt kiosk that could basically print anything you can find when you google any kind of image.  And each t-shirt was only like $25!!  Pretty good deal.  And what we got printed on our shirts was way cooler than anything they were selling there at the Delta Center.  Or whatever they've named it now.  The American Express Center?  If it's the American Express Center, they might as well name it the You-Can't-Use-Our-Card-ANYWHERE Center.  AmIright?

I was going to explain our shirts to you, and then I thought I would google and show you the images we used on our shirts, and then I got ADD and got distracted by little nuggets such as this:
 Yeah.  I'll just tell you that they were cool.  And we liked them.  And each one was different.  Nat is doing her "I think my shirt is cool" dance:
 The energy outside of the Geico-Guaranteed-to-Save-You-15%-or-More Center was electric.  People were smiling and laughing at each others' shirts and just smiling ear to ear.  We were among them.
 Lex wanted me to listen to a song on her phone:
And then we wanted to see what I would look like if I was blonde:
Whattaya think?  I know it's hard to make a good judgment based on my weird face in this picture.  I'm really not seeing blonde in my future, though Micah has chosen a blonde wig for me.  I think I'm a better brunette.

We ate once inside.  I got nachos.  And was obvi still embarrassed about my flat chest.  Or maybe just kind of...supporting it:
Though back then, man, I was on the good stuff.  If I felt pain that night, it was miniscule compared to where I'm at now.

Hiding my chest again:
 And then letting my flatness show (I really want you to see my shirt, too):
 "I look like a little girl in the springtime!  And it's okay!"

Okay, now for the nitty-gritty.  Best concert EVER.  First of all, my family and I are huge Beatles fans.  And therefore huge Paul McCartney fans.  And I actually like a lot of his later stuff from Wings.  And then there was that one cool song from the eighties, "Set on You."  I was hoping he'd sing it, but he didn't.  Anyways, he did a really great mix of songs - lots of Beatles.  A little bit of Wings.  A few of his new songs, which weren't bad a-tall.

So dude, he comes out, and the entire Aren't-You-Glad-You-Used-Dial Center exploded in cheers.  And he looked fantastic!  I mean, I don't know if he's had work done, but he's 72, dude, and he looked like he was maybe 52.  He's fit as a fiddle and has tons of energy.  He looks awesome.  He wore Beatles-style boots, skinny black jeans, and a white collared shirt with a red blazer.  After his first song, he took off his blazer and announced that would be his only wardrobe change for the whole concert.

And that man played and sang for three hours straight, you guys. 

The stamina!

The charisma!

The adorableness!

He's always been adorable.  Even more so now.  I just want to give him a hug.  After every song, he would dance around a little, like, "Man, I don't want that song to end.  I just love that song!"  He often would yell, "Oh yeah!" after each song, just like he does in "All you need is love."  Same thing.  After every song, he'd hold up a number with his fingers while he raised his guitar in the air.  I think he has numbers for his guitars.  Because I noticed he'd hold up the same number the same time he used a certain guitar.  It's like he was saying, "Give it up for Guitar Number 4!"

And this man is amazing.  He plays bass, guitar, and the piano.  And I know he paints a lot and is an artist - he and John met at art school, for Pete's sake - and the videography on the screens surrounding him was very artistic and just beautiful.  I wondered if a lot of the art shown was his own.

My family was just a little bit emotional.  I saw Dad getting weepy outside the Plop-Plop-Fizz-Fizz-Oh-What-a-Relief-It-Is Center.  And I saw him crying when Paul sang "Yesterday."  Mom cried when he played "Let it Be."  Nat cried when he played a song he had written for John after his death.  The song basically was saying, "I wish I had said these things to you before you died."  It was a beautiful song.  I'm not sure when Lex cried, which was weird, because I sat right next to her.  I cried during "Blackbird."

And did you KNOW that Paul wrote that song when he was watching all of the footage of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60's?  Oooh, and he told he coolest story about Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.  Jimi learned Sgt. Pepper's like two days after the Beatles released it.  And he was playing it at a concert, but he did this thing with his guitar that made things kind of psychedelic, but it would make your guitar go way out of tune.  So he was playing Sgt. Pepper's, and his guitar got out of tune, and Eric Clapton was in the audience.  And Jimi asked Eric to come tune his guitar.

I mean, we were just eating these stories up.

I kept thinking how sad that he's lost so many friends and family.  Jimi, John, George, Linda...  He's outlived so many people in his close circle.  He played "Something in the Way She Moves," which was written by George, on the ukelele, which was cool, and they showed photographs of he and George together behind him.

I spent most of the night with my jaw on the ground.  Like, I can't believe I'm in the same room, albeit a really large one, as Paul McCartney!!!  Oh, and his voice was clear as a bell.  It sounded like it sounds in all of the recordings from fifty years ago.  Awesome. Amazing.  What a talent.  And what a burst of sunshine he is in this world.  His songs have touched so many.  It was such a dream come true to watch him perform.

Now I can die happy.

Sorry.  A bit of dark humor.  That is what Tina Fey calls a "rough joke."  It's like when Thibault gets stabbed in Romeo and Juliet, and he's trying to laugh it off, and he says, "I'm okay, but tomorrow, you may find me a grave man."

But I'm not dying like Thibault did.  Promise.  I'm wearing my Cancer Assassin bracelet, which basically makes me invincible. 

A side note:  We brought Gage down so he could fly out of Salt Lake City airport with Lex and Chris the next day.  Chris watched him while the girls and the mama and the papa went to the concert.  And the next day, Dad gamely took Gage swimming in the hotel pool.  Gage reared up or did something and hit Dad in the eye, HARD.  And gave Dad quite the shiner:
I told Dad he looked like a Mary Kay consultant had done his makeup.  You know how they tell you to swoop the darker color through the crease of the eyelid, and then kind of fill in that triangle at the outside corner of your eye?  That is a perfect Mary Kay eye, right there.

Anywho, it's time for my Tylenol PM's to take me away.  Which they don't really succeed in doing, by the way.  But I'm determined to stay off Percocet.  I can DO this.  I did it before with my hysterectomy.

Another side note:  Micah told everyone at Cancer Camp that his mom has stomach cancer.  Because of my hysterectomy I got two years ago.  I reminded him today that what happened two years ago wasn't because of cancer.  It's because my baby holder and my bladder had collapsed inside of me.  I told him the cancer that I have is breast cancer.

"Can you say 'breast cancer,' Micah?" I said.

"Bwest cancer."

"Good. That's right.  That's what I have."

"I thought you have Boob Cancer."

"Um, yep, yeah, same thing.  Boob Cancer.  But not stomach.  I never had stomach."

"Yes, you did.  They cut you open and stitched you back up, Mom."

"Okay, whatever.  What I have right now is Breast Cancer."

"Boob Cancer," he corrected me.

Sigh.  "Yes."

Anyways, Paul McCartney.  I am a fan.  A huge fan.  Bless him for bringing joy to so many.  What an amazing thing, to have touched so many millions of people.  Wow.  We can definitely check this off the bucket list.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Everyone has a Sanderson Story.

My poor sweet dad drove me all the way to My-Mom-Has-Cancer-Camp today.  I was so anxious to see the ninos that I leaped out of the car and ran all the way to the lodge.  (I can run if I don't move my arms.  If I run with my hands down at my sides.  It looks pretty neat.  I say I should run any chance I can get while I can. Even if I look like Napoleon Dynamite)

When I dropped the kids off on Sunday, their first task after depositing their suitcases and gear off in their cabins was to meet at the main lodge and make name tags for themselves, with the name you will go by that week on them.  This is a big camp tradition - making a nickname for yourself.  Heck, I even had this tradition myself my first summer as an EFY counselor.  By mistake, I hadn't been ordered a name tag.  So I got someone's old name tag and put a new name on it each week.  My friend Thad was in charge of naming me each week for 8 weeks.  One week I was Disco Diva.  Another week I was CK One (Cool Kar One).  One week I was Karate Hottie (no, I do not know karate).  It was AWESOME.  Nobody knew my real name.  And it was a blast.

Anywho, some of the kids and all of the counselors had given themselves names.  Artichoke.  Batgirl.  Ghost Ninja.  Thor.  So the kids thought hard and came up with names for themselves.  Sadie decided to be Twilight (after Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony).  Dylan decided to be Roblox (some dumb video game). 

Micah's counselor turned to him and said, "Sooooo, what do you want to be called this week?" 

At this point, I was praying silently.  Please don't let him pick something really girly like Diamond Tiara and get teased all week long.

Micah turned to him with derision.  "Duh," he said sarcastically.  "Sanderson..." [This isn't our real last name.  If you know me, insert my real last name here.]

"Oh!  Um, are you sure?  Most people choose their favorite food or cartoon character.  Like, what's your favorite cartoon?"

"Scooby Doo."

"Well, you could be Scooby Doo!"

"No.  I'm Sanderson.  That's the name I want."

"Are you sure?"


And the kid proceeded to write "Sanderson" on his name tag and decorate it with stickers.  I said a quick "thank you" prayer.  Sanderson is better than Petticoat Princess or something.

That kills me.  Duh...Sanderson...

Pretty soon the kids were so excited that my sister, mom, and I were like, "Um, okay, so we'll go, love you?  See ya?  Can you give me a hug?"

Fast forward through lots of pain pills and lots of tears, and I was running with my hands down by my sides to the lodge to see my kiddos.  I ran into a group of guy counselors on the path who were kind of directing traffic and saying goodbye to the campers as they left.

"Hey," they said, "Whose mom are you?"

"Dylan, Sadie, and Micah," I said, grinning like a drunk.

They looked at me with blank stares.

"Oh, I mean...Roblox, Twilight, and Sanderson."

"SANDERSON???  WE LOVE SANDERSON!!!  Your kids are so awesome! But Sanderson, he's the BEST!!"

Another counselor came wandering up.

"Hey, Captain America, this lady is Sanderson's mom!!"

"Sanderson??" said Captain America, chuckling.  "We love that kid.  Everyone has a Sanderson Story."

I looked from face to face.  "Oh no.  Was he nuts?  Was he really over-emotional?  Did he tell people he would kill them?"

"What?  No!  He is so cute!  He says the funniest stuff!  He's my favorite kid in the whole camp!"


So I picked up my really smelly, really dirty kids, bawling and hugging them so hard.  ["Ow, Mom, your chest is really hard...It feels like hugging a rock..."]  As we gathered their stuff and made our way back to the entrance of the camp, every single kid we saw, and every single counselor, hugged and high fived all my kids, but when they saw Micah, they yelled, "Sanderson!  Sanderson!!!  Dude, we love you!  We'll miss you so much!  You ROCK!!"

It was NUTS.

I loved it.

Stories I've heard in the long car ride home:  They pulled pranks on each other.  Sadie didn't have any girls her age, so she was put in the cabin with 12-year-olds and those girls doted on her.  Dylan had only one other boy and one guy counselor in his cabin, and like 12 beds.  So he and his friend made an elaborate fort to navigate through and to sleep in for the whole week.  They canoed, swam, did archery, did obstacle courses, got rained on HARD, and made really great friends.  Oh, and they did lots of arts and crafts.  I can't wait to get their little disposable cameras' pictures developed (yes, those still exist).  Dylan was given the Best Archer award.  Way cool.  Sadie was given the Sweetest Camper award.  That's my girl.  Micah was given the Spanish Award.

I can feel another Sanderson Story coming on, can you?

So everyone was given a camp shirt that could be written on.  Like, the other campers would sign your shirt, right?  So apparently, Micah would write gobbledy gook on peoples' shirts.  Unintelligible signs and slashes and curliecues. And the signees would look at their shirt and say, "What did you write?"  And Micah would importantly say, "It says such-and-such.  It's Spanish."  In all seriousness.

On the ride home, we stopped at a Scenic Overlook of the valley that's right near the camp.  Pretty, right?
 Look at my weird chest and my fat gut.  So unfortunate.

We also stopped at Craters of the Moon, because I had promised my kids that I would let them buy stuffed animal puppets that we had seen there on the way to camp, but only if they didn't cry and ask to go home.  I did not want to make that drive more times than necessary.  Since they did brilliantly well, I had to pay up.  And I made Dylan pose in an astronaut hat for good measure.

They were so dirty and disgusting, you guys.  I asked Dylan if he brushed his teeth at all the whole week.

"Yeah," he said, "Twice."

When we stopped in Hailey to eat and to gas up, I went into the gas station and bought fingernail clippers, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.  I brushed Dylan's teeth hard core and cut his nasty dirty fingernails.  I just couldn't stand it.  We ate dinner at Mom and Dad's house, and I made all of them wash their feet and trimmed their dirty nasty toenails, too.  And Micah's fingernails.  He was in hysterics.  He HATES me to trim his fingernails.  He says that he "can't feel anything" when I cut them.  Dad was cuddling him when I was done and he was wailing, "I can't feel anything! I'm SERIOUS!"

Everyone has a Sanderson Story, indeed.

I'm so thrilled with Camp Kesem (That's the real name of it.  There really isn't a banner that says, "My Mom Has Cancer Camp" hanging at the entrance).  There is one in almost every state.  If there's not one in Oregon, I swear on all that is holy that my kiddos will return to the Idaho Camp Kesem every year until they turn 16.  I'm going to milk this for all it's worth. 

Because even kids whose moms or dads are in remission can go to this camp for FREE until they're sixteen.  And guess who will be in remission next year?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Staying at a club and dancing all night long doesn't constitute "fighting."

Sometimes I have deep thoughts. 

Like, in that Kesha song, "Tik Tok," (which I love, by the way), she says she's gonna be in the club all night and that she's gonna fight until she sees the sunlight.
To me, deciding to stay and dance at a club all night isn't hard.  I mean, I guess it is, because you'd get tired and your feet would hurt, and you might get a headache.  But in the big picture, is dancing all night really that awful?  Is it something you have to fight through to become a better person? 


Or in "Dynamite," by Taio Cruz, he says that, in his club, he'll be the "last one standing." 

Wow.  What an accomplishment.  You danced all night.  That must have been hard for you.

P.S., I love that song, too.  I don't know.  I'm just feeling sardonic.  And extremely emotional.  (Because my Good Pills are gone, and so I'm more sore, and so I'm more emotional.)  Today, I'm fighting through withdrawal symptoms.  Every minute or so, my heart speeds up reallyreally fast and thumps in my ears, and I can literally hear, in my ears, a noise that sounds like "Zz, zz, zz, ZZ."  And I have to stop whatever I'm doing and clutch at my heart, which is hard to do, because I swear the doctors put an exoskeleton inside me. 

Well, I guess that's the antithesis to an exoskeleton, right?  If it's inside you.  But hear me out.  So, when I was a little girl, like Sadie, I didn't have boobs.  I had a rib cage, and I had pecs, and then I had a little fatty tissue layer, and then I had skin.  And n-words.  And when I breathed, my rib cage expanded and contracted.  And my skin was soft.  And the fatty tissue was soft.  And the pecs underneath that were soft.

Right now, my entire rib cage, plus where my boobs used to be, is like a breastplate.  You could knock on it and hear it go, "Dong, dong, dong."  My sternum sticks OUT.  And then there are two slightly indented caverns, with these slightly elevated bumps in the center of each cavern.  But all of it, all of it, is as hard as a ROCK.

Back to the topic at hand.  To me, having your heart jump into your ears and thump really hard and feeling like you're having a weird heart attack every minute is a fight.  Not knowing what I'm facing is a huge fight.  I'm fighting to keep my sanity.

I skyped my baby boy this morning.  He recognized me.  For now.  I'm terrified that he'll stop recognizing me.  That he'll start calling Lexi "mom."  He lifted his forehead to the laptop screen so that I could kiss it.  He kept putting his new toys on the keyboard for me to look at, but I couldn't see them.  He kept saying, "Hi, mommy."  "I love you, mommy." 

I miss him so much that it hurts. 

What if I have to do chemo for six months?  What if I have to quarantine myself from him?  (A lady who drew my blood and had the same kind of cancer as I did told me, tears streaming down her cheeks, even 8 years after she went into remission, that she had to be quarantined from her children sometimes because her immune system was weakened.  I don't know if this will happen to me.  It's a concern.)  What if it's a better decision to keep him with Lex? 

Then what if he really forgets me?  And then when we're reunited, what if I'm a skeleton - a bald skeleton - and he's like, "You're not my mommy.  Where's my mommy?? Where's Aunt Lex?  I want Aunt Lex."  What will I do then?

I get to pick up my kids from My Parent Has Cancer Camp tomorrow.  I can't wait to get my hands on them.  I've missed them so much.  What have they learned from their friends?  Are they scared I'm going to die now?  Because some of their new friends have had their mommies or daddies die.  Are they going to be emotionally scarred?  Was this camp a really bad idea??  What if we decide to send the oldest  two or three out to be with Ben (same reason - quarantining.  Or a parent who is too sick to even talk to her children) for six months while my mom takes care of me?  What will I do without them??  Will they make friends?  Will they feel like fish out of water?  Will they miss their mom?  If they stayed with me, would they wish they hadn't??

I've been fighting tears all day because I'm so scared.  THAT is a fight.  Choosing to stay at a dance club all night is not a fight.  I'm going to be fighting for my life.  I know that I'll win, but I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't sign up for this fight.  I didn't put on my dancing shoes and go to a club to emerge victorious at dawn.  I just wanted to be a mom.   I wanted to teach dance.  I wanted to be with my kids.  I wanted to be with my husband.  And it's all been taken away from me.  And I'm really, really sad about it. 

I guess I'm in the mourning phase.  Which phase is that one?  Isn't that supposed to be one of the last ones?  And then acceptance?  Is that right?  I suppose my phases are all screwed up.  Maybe I'll have an anger phase pretty soon.  I guess my first phase was denial, and then positivity.  And now I'm in the crying phase.  The heart-in-the-ears phase.  The anger-at-trite-dance-club-music phase.  The scared phase.  The can-we-please-fastforward-to-Tuesday-morning phase.

Tuesday morning will answer a lot of questions for us.  How long my treatment will last.  How awful it will be (or we might have to take a careful watch-and-wait stance on that one).  Whether Ben should stay in his rent-a-room situation, rent a small apartment for the next six months, or rent a large house for a year.  Whether I should leave Gage in the capable hands of his aunt.  Whether I should keep my very emotional and sensitive Micah at my parents' house with me.  Whether we should keep the older kids here.  Whether I'll be fit to even be a mother.  Whether I can have my treatment in Oregon.  The thing is, I don't have a support system in Oregon.  Am I going to need a full-time nurse?  There are a lot of unknowns.  And I really, really hate that.  I'm a planner.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer.  I'm just...scared and really sad.  There are good days and there are really hard days.  And it's stupid, because I haven't even gone through the really hard part yet.  I've gone through some weird parts (I have an exoskeleton!  Am I an Inspector Gadget-type person?) and some annoying parts (I HATE THESE BLOOD GRENADES!  I'M GOING TO HAVE THEM ATTACHED TO MY WEIRD LATS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!), and even some funny parts (any of the thank you notes I attempted to write while I was stoned are exhibits A through Z).  So I feel really stupid for having a meltdown today.  I just can't believe that any of this is happening to me.

Let me reassure you that I know I'll get through this.  Or not.  It's up to the Lord.  I trust Him.  I'd like to stay.  And I plan to stay.  And I always talk about staying.  Because that's what you do to help those around you.  And to help yourself.  We'll see if the Lord agrees.  And if he disagrees, I won't be mad.  But I don't want my kids to go through that.  Or my darling husband.  And I will fight to the end, because my kids deserve to have their mom and my husband deserves to have his wife.  And they deserve to see me at least put up a fight.

My adorable sister-in-law quoted a poem on her facebook page - it was in conjunction with Robin Williams' death.  It was an excerpt from that poem, "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," which I believe Robin quoted when he was the character of Mr. Keats in Dead Poet's Society.  It's by Dylan Thomas.  One of my faves.  He's telling his father to rage against death:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 
In the poem, the narrator's dad is old.  And he's still telling his dad to fight with everything he has.  I'm not old.  Which means hell yes, I'm going to fight.  I have to see my daughter get married.  I have to watch Dylan play baseball.  I have to watch Gage become some genius doctor with weird social skills.  I have to watch, I'm not sure what will become of Micah.  I know I'll love him.  We'll leave it at that.
Soooooo... my plan is to listen to Kesha and Taio Cruz during chemotherapy.  And maybe all the time.  Just keep it on replay.  So that I can stop all this crying nonsense.  So that I can be all hyped up to fight.  Perhaps I should be like Kesha and sport a nose ring.  I'm not sure what I can do to be like Taio.  I suppose I could say the F word.  But that's not really me.  Maybe I can hang out with some twerking bootylicious girls at some drag racing course.  

At any rate, I'm going to rage against the dying of the light.  I'll get through this.  But you'll have to permit me some crying days, mmkay?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Only one Percocet left...

I know.  Scary, right???  Haha!  Ah well.  I have to get off of them sometime.  I tried a day off of them on Sunday and just about died, but I was also driving all day long to take my kiddos to that camp.  But tomorrow is Thursday.  A new day.  So we'll just whip out that Tylenol and pop it like canday.  I need to do some positive self-talk.  "Kar, if you got off of oxycodone after your hysterectomy, you can DEFINITELY get off of percocet after your mastectomy.  The mastectomy has been way easier than the hysterectomy was.  You can dooo eeet!"

Although I will say that I'm facing something new in my recovery from the mastectomy - I'm having phantom pain. You know, when people have to get amputations, and they get phantom pain, like, their ankle really hurts, but they don't have an ankle??  I don't know if it's possible to get phantom pain from boob amputations, but for reals, I'm feeling it.  I feel engorged.  Like I just had a baby and my boobs have grown to size double-D's.  It hurts.  Maybe I should put cabbage leaves on my bony craters.  Or take a shower and just let the milk run out to get some relief...wait, that won't happen...

So, today, let us add to the People Who are Way Too Nice to Karlenn List.

1.  Five of my high school friends assembled a huge pink laundry basket with the fixin's for a "Karlenn is Cancer Free" future party.  What a cute idea.  For reals.  It meant so much to me.  And I'll seriously be able to throw a fabulous one.  We're talking table cloths, cute lanterns, cute napkins, cutlery, those flaggy thingeys that you can string around, party favor bags, pink gumballs...  And look at these invites they got made: 

Could they be any cuter!?  What a positive and lovely gift.  Plus they put in other fun, non-party related stuff - pink lip balm.  Pink lotion.  A pink notebook.  A pink laptop desk thingey.  And an iTunes card.  EEeeeeee!  Sooo excited about that.  What shall I get with it?  The possibilities are ENDLESS.  I'm thinking another funny book.  I'm almost done with Ellen's latest, Seriously, I'm Joking.  I was laughing so hard in bed last night that my chest hurt, and Pepper kept looking at me like, "What is wrong with you, Mom?"  I think I want to get the Hyperbole and a Half book.  I love that blog.  I will love that book.

How cool.  Thanks, you girls.  I love you tons and tons.  And who is going to a 20's-themed 20-year class reunion next year?  Us, that's 'oo!  We are going to partay.  And maybe my hair will be long enough to do a bob by then.  And I'll be skinny enough that I can pull off the drop-waist look for a dress.  I haven't been skinny enough to pull that off since...I was 16 and went to my first dance.  That dress was drop-waist.  And it was sexy.  Pink satin with off-white lace over it...poofy sleeves...

I'll definitely have a cloche hat to wear to our reunion.  I'm tots going to get a cloche hat when I lose my hair.  I love cloche hats.  (I also love the ballet move called "cloche."  It feels nice.)  I have my favorite hats in my cancer hat directory circled.  My son has chosen the wig he wants me to get.  It's long blonde hair, with long layers and bangs.

It looks really hot and heavy.  I'm not sure that I'm sold on wigs yet.  I'd rather wear just cute hats.  Or do the Sinead O'Connor look.  Though I don't know if I could pull that off.  I mean, Sinead O'Connor is really, really beautiful, and has a really nicely-shaped head.  Who knows what's under all this hair?  Maybe lots of nobbley areas.  I might be a really ugly bald lady.  Or I might knock your socks off and you might have to nickname me Sinead.

2.  See that Old Navy bag in that picture with the pink laundry basket?  Filled with new school clothes for my kids.  "New."  "Clothes."  These are words that are never used in the same sentence in my house, you guys.  Phrases like "hand-me-down," "from my friend's kid," "Wal-Mart," and "part of the grocery budget," are more on track for us.  So this is really, really luxurious.  My Activity Days partner-in-crime (one of them - there are four of us partners in crime) brought it over for me today.  What an amazing lady.  And the shirts she picked for Sadie - priceless.  They have those awful x, y charts we had to do in math, but with, like, cute hearts on them.  And other fun t-shirts with funny little equations on them.  It's like taking a horrible, torturous thing (math) and adding something cute and fun to it (hearts).  That's my kind of math.

3.  Another lady gave me $200 in cash today to buy school clothes for my kids.  Not kidding.  My jaw is still on the ground.

4.  Another lady cleaned my disgusting fridge out.  She deserves a medal for that.

5.  Another lady packed all of our books and DVD's, plus cleaned my kids' disgusting bathroom.

6.  This is cheating, because it was yesterday, but my cute friend Cassady came and packed books and a whole bunch of other stuff.  I'm pretty sure.  It's a little hazy, on account of the percocet.  And she made me chili and cornbread.  Which rocks because she graduated in Culinary Arts.  Yumberry!  (Have you seen that SoBe Zero flavor called "Yumberry Pomegranate"?  It's okay.  Ben HATES all SoBe Zero flavors.  And I must say that the word "yumberry" is highly suspect.  There is no such thing as a yumberry, is there?  They should do, like, Raspberry Pomegranate or something.  I don't really know what goes well with pomegranate.  But they need to take out fictional fruit.)

Is it bugging you that I'm talking about getting spoiled?  Let me know.  I would maybe start to get bugged a little if I was you...

So, needless to say, I really need to get caught up on thank-you notes.  I attempted to write some when I was on the higher milligram amount of percocet, and...well, I'm not sure they turned out okay.  My sis, Nat, said that she couldn't even read my handwriting.  I do remember trying to write, and seeing the lines of words go uphill instead of in a straight line, and frowning and trying to make them horizontal, but then having words write on top of other words instead...  And seeing enormous writing on some cards and tiny, squinched writing on others.  How embarrassing.  I've started writing a little note on the backside of each envelope:  "Warning - this was written while I was stoned.  I'm so sorry..."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One of these things is not like the other...

Ben is artistic:
(The  man whipped this up in like an hour.  Coolest chandelier ever.  Perfect for our perfect modern house that we have to leave in order to purchase a double-wide trailer in Bend.)

I am artistic:
(We're going to pretend this is me, and that I'd look that good in a leotard.  But I seriously pull this move all the time.  Molding those cute little feeties to where they should be.)
Dylan is artistic:
(He had to paint a picture for one of his pins to get his Webelos badge.)
Sadie is artistic:
(Sadie's drawing of Pepper.  Including many, many teats.  Hahaha!)
Micah is artistic:
(Kay, I couldn't find any of Micah's drawings, or any pictures of him drawing, which is something he does all the time, so you get to see a picture he took of a door handle.  I personally think it's a cool-looking picture.)
Gage is autistic.

Literally.  I just found out.  

Part of me always thought he might be, but he had been tested, and they had said no, no way, he wasn't autistic.  He was developmentally delayed from having been basically deaf for two years.  I clung to that.  It meant he could get better.  I've seen kids with developmental delays catch up (including my own son, Micah).  Graduate from special ed.  Having caught up to the other kids.  Maybe I was in denial.

Gage will have this forever.

My sister, as you know, has been giving Gage tons and tons and tons of therapy in Chicago.  She and her amazing pediatric therapist friends, basically doing pro bono work for my little man.  I get misty-eyed when I think about these people giving of their time and talents because they think so highly of my sis.  So, so cool.  It turns out there really are good people out there.  Hundreds of them.  I've seen them emerge during this horrible time and give so freely and lovingly of themselves.  It's an amazing and humbling thing to be a part of.  

So, the Amazing Therapists from Chicago have been working in tandem with each other and communicating together about my teeny man, and they have all come to the conclusion that he is autistic, albeit highly functioning.  My sis says that a lot of his issues stem from sensory perception difficulties.  She says he does a lot of vestibular movement - jumping off things, jumping on tramps, always asking to be swung around and bounced, spinning over and over again to make himself dizzy - because it's a way of regulating himself in some way.  He needs more sensory input than he's getting in a normal environment.  He's sensory-seeking.

I, of course, bawled like a baby when Lex told me.  I mean, I know a lot of autistic kids.  And yes, there is a broad spectrum.  But still.  As I wept, I asked her if he will be able to go on a mission.  If he'll make friends in high school.  If he'll be able to have a relationship with someone.  If he'll be able to have a job. If we'll have to take care of him for the rest of his life.  If he'll be able to go to college.  If he'll get good grades.

All the things you hope and pray for your children to be able to do.

She told me yes, absolutely, unequivocally, yes.  He'll be able to do these things.  He just needs intervention right now.  She says he's brilliant.  A totally smart, genius-type kid.  She says that lots of kids with Gage's level of autism turn out to be scientists or doctors.  That made me feel a little better.

Of course, I went back in my head and said, "What did I do to make him this way, Lex?  Was I not a good enough mom?  Did I not engage him enough?  Did I not get him all the help he could have possibly gotten?  Was he exposed to something that made him this way?"

She said nope.  That him having autism is like me having thyroid disease.  Or clinical depression.  It just shows up.  And you have to do things a little differently to have a full life.  

It's overwhelming, especially in the face of the other trials our family is facing right now, to have learned this about my darling youngest child.  
But seriously, you guys, I'm not trying to be cheesy when I say this - I have really seen Heavenly Father carrying me through all this.  I've seen Him in the people who keep coming over and asking to help clean something.  Telling me to lie down while they take care of laundry or packing or de-junking.  Who send me the coolest care package I've ever seen:
I've seen Him in friends who come to visit.  Who send me flowers.
Who give me kick-ass shirts and bracelets that make me feel like Xena the Warrior Princess.  (Is it okay to refer to Heavenly Father in the same sentence where I swear?)  
Who give me cards that make me laugh so hard that my weird blood-filled lats shake and I have to hold them to keep them from flapping around and hurting.  
Who cry with me on the phone for two hours.  Who find me cool hats I can wear when I lose my hair.
I've seen Him in people who I don't even know donating money to help with medical bills.  In the lovely couple who invited Ben to stay in their home while he's awaiting his family.  In the man who hired Ben.  In the couple who put an offer on our house mere days after we had put it on the market.  In the people who came and worked in gosh-awful, dusty, horrible messiness for hours upon hours to get our house landscaped.  
In the people who text me constantly, asking what they can do to help.  Looking for houses for us in Bend.  In my mother, who is sick as a dog right now, but keeps coming over to help me.  In a family that has rallied around me.
In the most darling baby I've ever seen cuddling into my arms, allowing me to smell her sweet babyness and squish those cute little cankles.
In the sweetest dog ever who has been holding vigil at my side on my bed.
In my sweet husband shaving my legs, bringing me ice for my armpits, and buying me gallons of Jamba Juice.
Heavenly Father is in the details of my life.  He's raining blessings down upon me.  
Yeah, I'm really sad that I have cancer.  And I'm really scared to go through chemotherapy.  And I'm really sad that I have a chest that feels like some kind of breastplate armour thing.  I'm flat-out pissed that I still have my stupid blood grenades hooked to my sides.  I'm really sad that my husband isn't here with me.  That I might not to get to live in the same house as him for as many as six months.  I'm sad that my oldest children might join him to start school and I won't be able to hug them and talk to them every single day, for several months.  I'm sad that my younger children are going to watch me wither away into a shell of a person.  I'm sad that my family will be split in half while my mom cares for me.  I'm sad that I won't be able to dance.

I'm sad that I have an autistic son.

But when I see all the love that surrounds me constantly, all the things Heavenly Father is doing for me through others - I can't be mad at Him.  We have to go through these horrible, difficult, heartbreaking things in this life.  It's the only way we can learn to experience true joy.  It's the only way we can become better people.  There is absolutely no avoiding it, dang it.  We don't get to choose to opt out, unfortunately.  But what we can choose to do is to open our eyes and see Heavenly Father carrying our broken bodies through this refining fire.  We can choose to work and work and work to help our children who are struggling.  This is another huge blow for me, but He is succoring me.  I can feel it.  I know that I'll emerge from these things stronger than ever.  I know that I'm in for the battle of my life, but Father has prepared me for it.  
It's time to get up and fight.
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