Friday, October 31, 2014

Four Down, Two to Go.

Went to my fourth of six chemos yesterday.  I came home and crashed on the couch the rest of the night.  I've felt a little bit woozy yesterday and today, but I'm doing well enough to sit at a computer, and that is seriously saying something.

Here I am, cozying up in a blanket that my friend, Margo's, daughter, Hayley (sp?) made for me:

She's maybe a year younger than Dylan?  Maybe Sadie's age?  And this dear little girl made me a blanket.  What a sweetheart.  Just like her mama.

I'm so used to seeing these people at the clinic.  When I walked in, I was like, "'Sup, homies?'"  I stopped and chatted with an older couple inside the chemo area.  Three weeks ago, the man receiving treatment was dithering on whether to get his own Precious Portia.  I told him how great it's been for me.  I'm not sure what his cancer is, but he has to get like half an hour of treatment once a week for the rest of his LIFE.  And I was like, "Brother, if they have to poke you that many times, you have GOTS to get a Portia."  And he went and did it!  I asked how it was going for him, and he was like, "I'm not sure yet."  I assured him that he would grow very attached to his and maybe name it Porter Rockwell or something.  The nurse and I talked about the best places to buy clogging shoes.  We talked about how both of us hate Halloween.  When I left the clinic 5 hours later, I was like, "See ya on the flip side, girls!"

I lost 13 pounds this last spring, which I had worked really hard for, and I've been watching the poundage go up and up to where I've gained 8 since my diagnosis, which makes me so dang MAD. I'm supposed to maintain my body weight, so, in the rebellious phase I'm in lately, I've taken that to mean I can make my body weight go back down to what it was when I was diagnosed.  I won't go under that.  But there is no way in hell I'm going to let it slip back up.  I worked too hard for those pounds!  So I've been pretty good for the past week or so - no Cokes, unless I'm nauseated.  No midnight snacks.  Substituting healthy foods for what I really crave all the time - carbs and sweets. And the scale showed me three pounds lower this time.  I was so excited that I did a little moonwalk there in the room at the doctor's office.

I found out my BRCA results - negative for both BRCA tests.  I sent out the good news to my sisters. But I'm still making Sadie do self-exams starting when she's 12, and I'm still going to encourage her to start getting mammos when she's 30.  Apparently there are a couple of other gene tests that can be indicators of inherited breast cancer.  I need to find out more about those.  I just don't want to take any chances for my little doo.

The bad news:  I'm not allowed to get surgery on my foot until four weeks after my last chemo treatment.  Which will put me into January.  Which means I'll actually have to pay for it.  But the doc pointed out that I'll blast through my deductible and out-of-pocket within the first two months I'm there because of radiation (ticket price $5,000), so then I could just wait until then to get my foot surgery.  Either way, I'm getting it, dudes.  Oh, and did you know that the herceptin treatment I have to get every three weeks for a year is $10,000 per IV?  No, that's not a typo.  

Cancer is expensive.  And it's a jerk.

There's a small chance that I'll be eligible for Medicaid in Oregon, so we'll check it out.  We can't sign me up until Nov. 15th.  If I get on for Medicaid, I just hope they don't put me on a ridiculous waiting list to get in for services.  If that happens, I'm going to have to whip out Old 8th Grade Teacher Kar and kick some butt and take names.  It's not a persona that comes naturally to me, but I can do it if necessary to get stuff done.  Ben and the kids are on Medicaid right now.  He has to go into the doc so he can get a refill on some really important medication he has to take, and he can't get in to see the doctor that he was assigned - no, we weren't even given a list; he was assigned a doctor, and that's it - until, like, January 4th!!!  

This brings back memories of being on Medicaid in California.  What a pain in the BUTT.  I appreciated that it was free, but dang, we had to jump through a lot of hoops.  I spent hours and hours getting signed up, waiting in waiting areas for hours with my two teeny kids driving me nuts just to make sure we were all covered...  And our assigned doctor was a piece of crap.  When I told her I had all of these symptoms indicative of thyroid disease, her response to me was, "No, I think you're just getting fat."

Nonplussed, I stammered out, "Um, okay, but nevertheless, I'd like to take the blood test, please.  My best friend has had this her whole life, and I'm very aware of the symptoms."

And guess who was right?  Me, that's 'oo.

Back to my chemo story from yesterday.  My darling friend, Megs, came with me.  We had so much fun chit-chatting that we didn't do ANY of the projects we brought for ourselves to do.  We literally talked for six hours.  That's cray.  And AWESOME!  I love that about us.

So, um, gosh, I'm feeling well enough to sit at a computer this time, which is really good!!!  But we'll see how it goes from here on out.  I was really feeling the exhaustion and other side effects for longer than usual after my 3rd.  I'm going to try to use the Power of Postive Thinking to make this one different.  I'm going to try to power my way through it.  I mean, obvi, I'll honor my body and do a ton of resting.  But I'm going to try not to let my physical limitations get me so down emotionally.  But I give myself free reign to cry myself to sleep from time to time on my huuuge pilla.  (What movie?)

Peace out, homies.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Great Carrot

Micah started getting amped up for Halloween, oh...maybe the second week in September.  Yeah.  He decided to make Halloween "decorations" - a.k.a. strips of paper with purple and orange scribbles on them - and taping them all over the house.  This tickled his grandpa.*

My mom has this awesome table in her entryway that gets decorated for each holiday.  Cutest table ever.  And the grandkids love it.  Micah knew that Grandma had some sa-weet decorations, just itching to get put on that table, but she told him he had to wait until October 1st.  He counted down the days.  He kept asking how long before they could "decowate."  Finally, on October 1st, he woke her up at 7 a.m. and said, "Time to get up and decowate, Gwamma!!"  She grudgingly got out of bed and obliged.  Such an angel my mother is.

A few days later, my mom was pulling out the last of her garden carrots, cleaning them up, pulling the little carrot hairs off of them, etc.  Micah had been bugging and bugging us to carve pumpkins, but we kept telling him that they would be all gross and moldy by Halloween if we carved them now.  He was really upset.  And persistent.  Who, Micah?  Persistent???

Finally, he asked, "Gwamma, can I just decowate a cawwot?"

I interjected.  "Look, babe, you can draw on a carrot with a marker, but we're not going to attempt to gut it and carve it.  There's no way."

He reluctantly agreed to the terms.  So he drew on his carrot.

Then he got another "wild hair," as my dad likes to call it.

He was going to hang this carrot up in our living room.  From the vaulted ceilings.  And it was going to stay there until Halloween.

We were squarely against this idea.  And he was pissed.  "But Aunt Beads hanged lanterns from the ceiwing for her baby shower..." he complained.

"Mike," I said, "Lanterns don't rot.  Or attract fruit flies.  And the lanterns were up for one day.  Not a whole month."

We fought back and forth for a few hours about this stupid carrot being hung from the ceiling.  Finally, my mom thought of a good idea.  She had an old salsa jar and said, "What if we decorate this jar, and then put the carrot in the jar for decoration??"

He seemed okay with this idea.  So I pulled out what little Halloween stickers I had, and Micah found some old Thanksgiving stickers I also had on hand.  He decorated the salsa jar and happily plopped the carrot back in.

Unfortunately, I don't have photographic evidence of his carrot.  It disappeared a few hours later when Micah decided the jar could be his money jar.  I keep asking him where the carrot is, and he has no clue.  So I guess if we start getting fruit flies in some room, that's where the carrot is stowed.  I've combed our bedroom multiple times, looking for it.  Here's how his old carrot jar looks now, with his tooth fairy money and his allowance for helping Grandpa prune the bushes:
He's already asking about decorating for Thanksgiving.  I keep telling him to ask his Gwamma.  Poor woman.  And you KNOW he's going to be pushing her to get the Christmas decorations up the day after Thanksgiving and not one day later.

We've got a little home-decorating guru on our hands.  A persisent one.  The kid kills me.

*Grandpa hated it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Celebrating Mom

We had a leetle family party a few days early for my mom's birthday.  She asked me to make a buttermilk pie for her instead of a cake.  She isn't a huge cake fan.

She's the big 6-0!  We had a barbecue, stuffed our faces with pie (did you know that one slice of buttermilk pie is 678 calories?  Mom and I plugged it into My Fitness Pal just to see.  Mama Mia...), and watched old home videos.  We've decided that Dylan is my doppelganger and that Troy (seen in these photos eating punkin pie) is Nat's doppelganger.  We had a good time laughing at my lurpeyness and Nat's large glasses.  1988 - a good year. :)

So, my dear Marmie, Happy Birthday.  The world is a better place because you are in it.  Love you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I guess this does qualify.

Going through Micah's in-class work that gets sent home is always bound to be interesting. Sometimes I see worksheets or packets where he got a 35% or a 60% (yes, his first grade teacher gives percentages on her student's work - I guess it's got to start sometime?), which  And sometimes I see stuff that just makes me giggle.

I found one yesterday after school that fell into the latter category:
So the instructions say to write about things you do with your family.  I'm not certain what happened here, but he wrote down a bunch of classroom objects.  No sentences about things you do with your family.  Obviously the teacher was okay with what he did here, because he didn't get, like, a 35% on the assignment, and he had help with spelling.

What I love is number 3.  We have definitely become a hand-sanitizer family.  I mean, we always practiced good handwashing and everything, and I was a maniac about sanitizing the dish scrubber and dish cloths, etc.  But now we're always sporadically using hand sanitizer, just to kind of help me to stay healthy with my low white blood cell counts and all.  We went bowling this last weekend, and I couldn't wait until I could sanitize my hands afterwards.  I could practically see the germs crawling around on those balls...

So yeah, I thought #3 was quite apt. :)  We are sanitizer-happy.  I'm not sure where pointers come into play in our family life, but ah well...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Teaching Bald

Here are some pics from my Ballet 3 class a few weeks ago.  Sorry - these will be the last dance pics for a while. :)  And these are special, because they show me teaching ballet bald.

(I'm breaking in some pointe shoes.  The arches aren't as pretty as they will be when they're nice and broken in.)

 I'm the prepping queen:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nights are hard.

Haha!  This t-shirt is funny only if you know what Chemo Brain is.  It is soooo real.

Ohhhh you guys.

Whenever I realize that chemo is coming up, I feel such a heaviness...  I try to push it out of my brain, but it's hard.  It starts when I go, "Oh, crap.  Chemo is in a week."  As each day brings me closer to Chemo Day, I get more emotional.  I briefly (I try not to, but it will sneak into my brain) picture the drive up to the doctor's office, the visit with the doctor, and walking into that room.

When I think of walking into that room, the taste of mango popsicles fills my mouth.  And I get physically nauseated.  (During my first two chemos, I sucked on mango popsicles during the administration of The Red Dragon - I have to keep my mouth cold to prevent mouth sores, which I end up getting about a week later anyways...  Last time, I just couldn't suck on one.  I asked for ice chunks to suck on instead.)  I don't think I can ever have anything with a mango "taste" ever again, except for real live, fresh, wonderful mangos.

I realize that, the more chemos I receive, the longer it's taking me to recover from them.  I'm getting more tired.  My symptoms are lasting longer.  I don't have the strength I did at first.  And that frustrates me.

I hate having to walk into a room, knowing that poison will be invading my body in that room.  That I'm voluntarily letting something into my body that is destroying not only any cancer particles, but also the healthy, vibrant parts of me.

It's like voluntarily walking into a room that you know will give you a violent flu bug.  Who wants the violent flu?  Every particle of you would want to run from that room as fast as your legs could carry you.  Yet you have to walk in there and let the flu in.

I guess chemotherapy is taking its toll on me.  Physically and mentally.  I try so hard to stay chipper. I try to stay really busy.  I try to focus on the positive.  But at night, I cry a lot.  I talk to Heavenly Father a lot.  I tell Him how much I hate being away from my kids and husband.  I tell Him how much I hate being bald.  I tell Him how sore I am, how exhausted I am, how frustrated I am.  I tell Him that it really sucks that I got this.

I'm mourning the life I used to have.

I'm trying to be brave, and I'm trying to stay strong.  Cancer really is a fight.  And though my physical symptoms are extremely frustrating, I think the hardest part is the mental part.  I try to stay positive, and there are so many things to be positive about - I'm not going to die!  I'm not terminal! All of this is temporary!  But it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I don't feel sad sometimes.  Especially the week before chemo.

Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed with how much I lost, and in such a flash.  My body is permanently disfigured.  My arm will never feel the same, or be able to have the range of motion it once did. Sometimes I feel like a freak.  Like Frankenstein Barbie. :)  We lost the house we always dreamed of having.  We lost our dog (seriously, I miss her so much).  We have been separated for a really, really long time. Maybe it's going by in a flash for everyone else, but for me, time has crawled almost to a stop.  It's hard.

I think even the week after chemo is less emotional than the week before.  Once it's done, it's done, and I can cope with the effects and take solace in the fact that I have three weeks before subjecting myself to this again.

I guess my purpose in this post is, like the purpose of all of my posts, to be transparent.  I don't want anyone to think that I don't struggle like everyone else does.  I really hate blogs whose authors pretend that life is so perfect and that they have no hardships.  I think denying life's struggles does a disservice to others.  Because then the people who read these blogs, or Facebook posts, or whatever, think, "Wow, my life is so sucky compared to theirs.  Why do I get all the trials when they don't?" The reality is, everyone has trials.  All the time.  There is no break.  I can't think of any time in my life that I didn't have something going on that wasn't hard.  Or the readers might think, "Why can't I be plucky like them?  Why can't I be positive like them?"

Here's the thing.  When I was diagnosed, I decided to be as positive as I could be.  And mainly, it works.  I really believe in the power of positive thinking.  I believe in positive energy.  I believe that forcing myself to focus on my blessings and on looking forward to the future will ensure my complete recovery from this beast.

I just want you to know that yes, I struggle, just like everyone else.  But I also want you to see me trying my dangedest to see the beauty through the ashes.  I want you to see me fighting hard to get through this.  I want you to see me becoming a better person because of this.  Because that's what trials are for.  I'm going to emerge from this stronger.  More empathetic.  More patient.  More grateful.

So, in that vein, let's focus on the positives:

Like I said before, I'm not terminal!  I'm not going to die!

I only have to do six of these treatments, total.  I've heard of some people having to do 12 or 16.  I've heard that a lot of people, after the ninth treatment, say, "That's it.  I'm done.  I'd rather die."  I won't ever have to get to that point.

I'm halfway done with chemo.

Having only Micah here is allowing me to spend really great, quality, one-on-one time with him.  He needed this.  He needed some focus just on him.  Especially with his problems in reading.  I have the luxury of going the extra mile with him.  I make extra flash cards for sight words.  We spend extra time having him practice writing his numbers facing the right way.  We read longer than required. We fix assignments he didn't understand.

Gage has bloomed under my sister's careful care in Chicago.  He's speaking so well.  He's learning to ask for what he needs instead of physically acting out or screaming.  He'll go to Oregon with a beautiful assessment and IEP in place so that he can get the help he truly needs.

Sadie and Dylan have really learned to step up to the plate.  They're doing their homework without anyone having to remind them.  They're doing their chores without complaint.  I'm amazed.

My skin looks freakin' awesome.  If any of you has acne, dude, all you have to do is undergo chemo. Some nights, I don't even wash my face.  Because chemo also makes you not give a rat's about anything.  Six months ago, I would never, ever have gone to bed without washing my face.  Now? Well, let's just say that I don't wash it every single night.  And guess what?  My skin is as clear as can be.  Not a blemish. Not a blackhead.

Guess who is starting to feel some hair re-growth?  Me, that's 'oo.  Spots that were as bare as a cue ball are starting to get a little bit of stubble.  I heard this might happen - that hair growth might even begin before the final chemo.  I do have to shave my head one more time - my friend Megs is going to take pretty bald pictures of me this week, and I don't want a five o'clock shadow.  But after that? Let it grow, let it growwwww....

I might, might, might be able to get surgery on my foot before the end of the year.  I've reached my maximum out-of-pocket, so it will be free.  Because of how expensive it is to have cancer, I might be able to fix something that has been plaguing me for a year and a half!!!  Can you imagine me walking without a limp?  I can't.

It really is so luxurious only having one child to care for.  I have more time to rest (which I need a lot of).  I don't have to worry about feeding everyone or cleaning everything.  I just have to worry about one kid, and when I feel too crappy, I can rest easy, knowing that my mom is taking care of him.  I truly think this was a good decision, to go about my therapy in this way.

I'm so glad I have cancer in this day and age, rather than 20 years ago or 40 years ago.  That I'm able to get implants to replace my breasts means so much to me.  I'm so grateful that chemo treatments aren't as horrible as they used to be - that they're more individualized and more advanced.  I'm grateful that cancer isn't necessarily always a death sentence like it used to be in times past.

I really love not having to wear a bra.  I love not having to worry if  it's cold outside and I don't have a jacket on to cover up.  You girls know what I'm talking about.  And you perverted boys also know what I'm talking about.  I love being perky.  I love that I'm a C now instead of a B.  Seriously so much fun.  I'm walking around going, "So this is what it's like to have more substantial boobs!"

It really is fun not having to do my hair.  I miss having it, but I don't miss having to style it every day. I need to realize how great it is not having to deal with that.  Though I will be grateful to get it back.

I don't have to shave my legs or my armpits.   Awesooooome!

My eyelashes haven't disappeared!  And I still have some of my eyebrows!  I'm so grateful.  Stay with me, eyelashes.  Stay with me.

Heavenly Father has sent so many angels to me, in the form of friends, family, and even acquaintances, who have lifted and carried me through this ordeal.  I'll never forget the love and care that you have all exhibited toward me.  There are so many horrors in the world, but people like you guys make me realize that there is good in the world.  That there is hope.  That there is happiness.

So see?  There are silver linings everywhere I look.  I'm allowed to be sad and mad.  But Heavenly Father is making my burdens lighter, and I will emerge from this a better Kar.  Kar 2.0. :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sorry for the ballet overload, but for reals...

...I just love these pictures.  This is from a class I taught this summer, the day after my port was put in, before chemo and hair loss.  I love these girls!  I LOVE TEACHING BALLET!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ballerina Girl

My adorable friend, Megs, took some pictures of me in August, after my mastectomy, when I was pumped up to a size A and had just gotten my port put in the day before.  They are gooooorgeous!  I love them.

And she totally photoshopped me to make me skinnier, per my request. :)  I am sooo not this skinny. Haha!  She does such good work.  If you want to see more of her beautiful photography, go here.

I'm going to put a few of my very, very, very favorites here.  It was hard to choose.

 It's strange/sad to see me with hair.  I miss it.  Terribly:

Sorry/not sorry for all of the foot pictures.  I insisted on them.  Ballerinas are obsessed with their feet.

 Portia the Port:

Dear Megs photoshopped my bandages out so I could use these pictures in job applications for the future.
 This one is my favorite, favorite, favorite:

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