Monday, February 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it kind of bugs me.

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

Kar's Cancer Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fake Lashes upon Fake Boobs

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

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

Let me tell you a leetle story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  Herceptin Side Effects:  None. Yessss!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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