I have to say that I feel like cancer is opening up my life. It's much like the way motherhood opens up a woman's life - suddenly you have this giant thing in common with a whole subset of humanity, a touchstone upon which you can connect with other mothers of all different ages. Yesterday, my chemo day, really showed me another way in which cancer has made me lucky.

I kind of like wearing one of my she-definitely-has-no-hair-going-though-chemo? hats. I feel like the hat and as big of a smile as I can make are my best accessories these days. The hat singles me out, and lets other people who need to find me, find me...and the smile says that "Yes! You can talk to me! Everything's good here!" (The smile alone seems to put all the little children at ease, I notice them look at the hat, then see the big smile, and it's like the hat no longer registers... remember about how I was worried about freaking out little kids?) Anyway, my hat/smile combination helped me connect with three great people yesterday.

First of all, I saw someone who has kind of become a legend in my own mind... I have heard so many things about her, how she had breast cancer, was so beautiful, so great, so inspiring. I walked into Emma's new school yesterday, she saw me (hat's the dead giveaway), asked if I was me, and introduced herself. It was wonderful to meet Peggy! I was hoping I would see her, because the one thing about Emma changing schools in the middle of my baldness and the surgeries that are to come in the fall is that I will miss the comfortable feeling I have at Emma's current school, where people have been so nice to me. Plus she is a legend... :) I can DEFINITELY see why so many people love her.

Emma had a great time at move-up day, and was totally excited to go back to her current school which had a whole host of big and exciting things going on. I could feel her excitement, and was so happy that it seems like I have a pretty happy, well-adjusted child (at this moment). I remember thinking, "this is one of those days when it is just so amazing to be living my regular, everyday life". Just before she got out of the car, she told me, "I think Thursday is my favorite day of the week! There are so many fun things going on, Aunt Amy is here...it just seems like everything good happens on Thursdays!" Then I got to thinking about what Thursday meant to me - chemo day - and I became so sad about what I was about to go through, I started crying in the car! (I don't do a lot of crying about the things that go on, I just happen to report every episode of it!) It was one of the moments when I felt like it was unfair that I found the lump... I felt like all the other parents were dropping off their children, maybe basking in the glow of all the fun their children were having and how great it is to have them at this age, and they would be able to stay in the glow while I was about to put yucky stuff in my body and deal with it all weekend!

But then I went to chemo, and I can't believe I am saying this, but it was so fun. When I got there, my new friend Missy had NOT been scared away by my possibly overenthusiastic introduction of myself the previous time at chemo, and had found seats next to each other for us! So we happily sat next to each other and shared our cancer stories the way new moms share their birth stories. And then, I was so excited to see another legend in my mind, Ellyn, come into the room! She had found out when my appointment was, and stopped by! This was amazing to me because I am horrible with phone calls and she had left the most wonderful messages on my cell phone in the times when I really needed it the most, and I had never called her back! We had one phone conversation, and a few emails, and she was wonderful enough to come find me. I have to say that she mentioned that when she went to chemo, it was like a party - she had friends coming to visit, etc. - and I can see why, because she made my chemo (and I think, Missy's) like a party, too! So I felt extra lucky that day - 2 friends, we talked the entire time, and the time flew by. I was also inspired by them to try to make the most of these bad days...Missy is walking in the Race for the Cure tomorrow! on day three after chemo! with 38 friends! And Ellyn has always been so uplifting about the challenges that are ahead for me, that I almost thought they couldn't have been challenges for her (but I know they were, she just turns everything around to good stuff).

So, all in all...it was a great day. I have more to say about this opening up of my life - but I'm feeling a little yucky so back to bed for me!


A full life, just condensed

During the days leading up to chemo, I feel like I'm getting ready to leave on a trip (a really bad trip). I'm of course not going anywhere, but for the 5-6 days after chemo it feels like I can only count on part of me being here, and I float in and out of the situation. One thing is for certain: Pam may or may not be around, but MOM will be partially absent as she recovers. That woman does a lot of stuff, and so there are preparations for her absence!

So the few days before chemo Thursday are days filled with almost manic preparation. I'm furiously getting ready to be out of commission for the next 5-6 days or so - shopping for the food the kids need, checking over the calendar and making sure I have all their school stuff together for the next 5 school days, bathing the household, making sure the pets all have enough food for the next week, their nails are clipped, the cages and boxes cleaned, cleaning the house, doing all the laundry, getting the guest room ready, buying my People magazine, stocking up on pineapple (the only thing I know I will like after chemo), filling the meds, changing the sheets on the bed, tivo-ing anything remotely interesting...

It does feel good to get everything in order, but then I am kind of gone for 5-6 days, and invariably things unravel a bit, so that once I am feeling better I go into ANOTHER manic overdrive to put things back together again. After the last round I had to call my parents, who kept calling and calling, to reassure them that I was not having big problems...I was just so busy doing things I missed when I was out of it that I wasn't stopping to email or return calls.

I worried that I would be so sedentary all summer, but it seems like things are not like that at all...my life is just jam-packed into 2 weeks, and then I take a week off from it. It almost sounds nice, and would be, if I wasn't feeling like such garbage during that off week! The last two times, I WAS kind of looking forward to the break from responsibility, but by now I have become more wise and know what I have to deal with is going to be far worse than the responsibility of of being MOM.

Wish me luck, and send some prayers starting on Thursday, and over the weekend! After I come through everything I will be halfway done with chemo!


Bald head - surprise!

Sometimes I am positive that I have ESP, or whatever it is that means you can predict the future. (Increasingly, I am having problems finding the right word for things - yesterday I was on the phone with a really nice person, who I hope I will become a friend, and I think I used 3 different names for her daughter in the course of the conversation! I don't want to blame this on "chemo brain", but I have to say that I don't think I would have ever been so stupid before, and I am a bit mortified!)

Anyway, I was cleaning the house and having a fine time doing it (as I was aided by my iPod), and thinking to myself that I believe I have come a long way with my thoughts on my appearance. Other cancer survivors have told me this, and I absolutely did not believe them at the time, but it is a bit freeing to find oneself so changed and yet to realize it is the same person. I'm still here and still me with only one fake boob and no hair! So then my thoughts progressed and I thought that I might actually feel comfortable if more people saw me bald (I still think it will make them uncomfortable, though).

So here is where the ESP came in...my dear friend Patty dropped by with some flowers today and saw my bald head! So how funny is it that I had just had the premonition that I would be fine with it, maybe an hour before? I guess it is either ESP or I can thank God for giving me little hints just before I need them. (But why would God be telling me what song is coming next on the radio, it seems a little silly to waste his messages on that, that is why I think I have ESP.)

Poor Patty may have left quite shaken with the vision of skinhead Pam - I also had on my gardening boots, and was thus quite attractive! But I thank her for the flowers, which are beautiful. (And I did go put some sunscreen on my scalp!)

Oh, and thank you Sherri, for the perennials! I already planted them, and then since I had enough and Patty was coming back from Lowe's where she was buying more perennials, I passed the few I had left on to her. So you have helped 2 people in their gardening endeavors today!


What have you done with your hair? and your gentle personality?

Katie had her 6-year old's doctor appointment today. I wasn't sure how I'd feel going there - I didn't want my health stuff to become part of her appointment. I know that is their future now - instead of saying they got their height from their mom they will be wondering what ELSE they got from her, every health history they have to write down in their adulthood will be filled with my cancer info, and doctors will look at their chart and then look at them a lot differently. I just didn't want it to start now!

So, I went in with my wig on...hoping to ward off any questions. We haven't been to the pediatrician's office much, and it is a giant practice so we haven't really made a relationship with any particular physician. I like one of them, but we weren't seeing him. I figured I could pull off the wig just fine.

Imagine my surprise when the first thing the pediatrician says is something like it's been a long time, Katie is much older (maybe I saw her with Katie 3 years ago, maybe), and I look different (better? I almost think she thought I looked better), I've done something much different with my hair! I think I could have smiled and said yes, I started doing my hair, thanks.

Of course I'm not that happy in the wig so I blurted out the whole cancer story, quickly, and we went on with the appointment. She was very physician-like about it, not very affected (unlike my OB/GYN, who is still derailed by this, I think), same as usual to Katie. I thought I was fine about being "caught" with my wig, too.

But then I went to check out and caught the receptionist reprimanding Katie for pushing up onto the counter to look for a lollipop. I sassed that poor woman so badly ("I am sure you see a lot of children, but it is not appropriate for you to reprimand my daughter. What is appropriate for you to do is to mention the problem to her PARENT, and expect the parent to address the matter as the parent deems fit. I will most certainly discuss this with Katie as I also feel it is wrong for her to jump up on the counter. Thank you and I hope you have a nice rest of the day."). I must have been a bit more upset about revealing the cancer story again than I realized I would be when I revealed it!

*btw, she WAS using a mean voice. I think I may have been fine with a nice gentle reprimand, or something with a note of concern in her voice. But she sounded mean, and though Katie was fine, I do not do well when people are mean to others in my family - children, sisters, husband - I lose it and become a monster. Plus, though this is sort of annoying of me, I knew that once she started saying mean things about me after I left (because you know that is exactly what would happen) the pediatrician would come out and tell the woman I was going through chemo and then the woman would at least feel that I had other reasons for being a snot. Using the cancer! How low have I sunk!

She wants it all (She wants it all)

So funny it is, that since I've been feeling good, I think I should be able to do everything (and maybe more than everything) that I usually do, and not get tired at all. I was telling Bill that I was so tired this morning, that the rest of the family has to PICK UP THEIR STUFF AND HELP AROUND THE HOUSE! because I am tired! (And don't you know, I'm going through chemo - is what I did not say but of course it is understood.)

Then I reflected a bit, and thought back to the activities of the past few days. I guess I should not blame my tiredness on chemo when I walked 9 miles on Wednesday (how often is that EVER a daily activity?), and have been tearing apart the yard, and hauling yards of dirt to my garden in between driving my kids all over the area for various activities. I've been doing so much that I squeezed in a dirt run when I only had 30 minutes in which to do it - isn't that something you plan and give time to do instead of throwing the kids and the buckets and the shovels in the car and hoping you get it done before you have to pick up your eldest from school? Sorry Emma, that I'm late, I was getting dirt... (just kidding, I was NOT late, because I was moving so quickly during this efficient dirt run, and I've learned to time myself better. I'm embarrassed to say it wouldn't be the first time, though. Once last year I was late picking up my poor first grader because I was so immersed in picking dandelions!)

I then called Bill, and admitted to him that I had done all of these things lately (because I am doing them all when he is not paying attention, so he won't tell me I'm doing too much). I figured I should confess so that he didn't go to work feeling sorry for his poor tired chemo wife, or feeling badly that he should be coming home and cleaning the whole house for me, when really I've been doing extracurricular vigorous activities and just blaming my tiredness on the chemo!

So then he said to me, "But you want it all, BG (BG is a nickname)" and then burst into a soft-rock song I remember from the late 70's or early 80's - "Key Largo", and of course changed the lyrics to make it applicable.

So now I will be singing a Bertie Higgins song in my head all day, and laughing just thinking of Bill trying to hit the high notes. Oh, that and I need to look into preparing some raw vegetables or protein shakes, or whatever is best to fuel me for this crazy lifestyle... maybe I should skip the Cookie Crisp, followed by a handful of chocolate chips (desperate for chocolate?) as a nighttime snack?


We start them young around here...

Nathan actually got up to this all by himself! I was busy making a new garden in the back, and he found his own shovel and wheelbarrow...and then followed me around dumping mulch.

Matthew's baptism - pictures!

I uploaded some pictures from Matthew's baptism...they are under "Favorite Family Links" on the right. It was such a great day!


Animal Watching!

Why are these two just lying around in the grass? I think that is so funny! Hey, aren't you worried about predators?
This was in the middle of a bit of a downpour! Look at the enterprising squirrel, using its tail as an umbrella...
These are my favorites, though it isn't a good picture. They come every night, flying over the house and landing in front of the feeder. The male was the first one to come to the feeder, and he brought her the next day. He usually stands by while she eats...what a good mate! And then they waddle off into the sunset together...

Unexpected side effect: development of new interests

I think it is safe to say that my newfound dabbling in cooking has become a full-blown obsession. It is so typical for me to become obsessed about something, but never, never, never did I expect to enjoy cooking! I am blown away.

In trying to understand this vast departure from normalcy (cooking dinner every night), I've come up with these reasons for the latest obsession:
  1. It feels so good to get one's mouth back (no yucky feeling) and feel like eating, that everything sounds good to me, and also, everything seems worth the effort of cooking.
  2. The kids have finally reached a stage where they might actually like something new - between the 3 of them there is usually one of them who will like it, so it is more rewarding/less disappointing. Nothing is worse than spending time cooking and then needing to make another meal to fill up your children's bellies (because although I know people say to make the kids eat what you eat, if we did that, stuck to our guns and made no alternatives, it was only me suffering in the middle of the night when they woke up and were hungry. I'd take uninterrupted sleep any day over winning a food war.)
  3. I've been so grateful over the meals that people have brought over to us...and also so confused as to what I would make if I had the opportunity to make a meal for someone else. I'm learning how to be kind and gracious from all the people who have been that way for me, and I want to be ready to help someone else if need be! I'm compiling recipes!
  4. I've been making family dinners a big priority, especially since Emma is at school all day and I miss her, (and soon Katie will be gone too! I might make us eat dinner like the French do...we'll be there all night!) but it seems much more of an event if you have put more effort into the dinner. With the effort put in, it doesn't seem appropriate to sit down, wolf down our meal and then run back outside!
  5. Still compensating for the lack of hair?
  6. It's easier to make these meals now that I finally have an older youngest child. Nathan plays by himself so well and I actually have that time to put together the meal.
OK, I guess it makes sense. It's not all cancer-related...it is probably just the culmination of lots of things coming together - kids old enough, lots of exposure to good food, lots of gratefulness, lots of trying to embrace the moment and really do things I have meant to do for a while. But still, it has been fun, and it is fun to surprise oneself, too!

So, who wants to come over for dinner?



It hasn't taken long - I'm totally over losing my hair. I still think it is not a good look, but it doesn't shock me to see myself without hair anymore. Actually, now when I look at pictures of myself with hair, I'm nostalgic but almost can't recognize myself that way. I guess I really move forward quite quickly - on to the next thing! Now I'm just ugly hairless girl - but the hair doesn't make the person. I'm still the same old thing inside, and that is what I mostly feel, and I'm thankful for it.

I know I'm over it because I would rather be bald at home even over wearing hats (and of course I bought the most cozy hats). It just gets tiring to have something on my head all the time. I spent all afternoon in the yard bald - the glories of 1.77 acres! I'm aware that this look could shock and scare other people (it was shocking and scary to me to see pictures of people with bald heads before I lost my own hair), so I'm glad I have such a big yard...and also glad that all the neighbors have been so nice and concerned about me so if they catch me bald it won't be a huge surprise to them. I doubt I'll take any pictures - I couldn't even take pictures of myself when I was pregnant, and though I sort of wish that I did so I can remember what it was like, I'm not going to mend my ways now.

As a side note, I tried out my wig this weekend and it seems like it was a success! I know that people who know me and are used to the way my hair was would definitely notice that this is NOT my hair, but I was at Matthew's baptism and the party following it with a good test group - people who I may have met before but haven't seen very many times or often in my life. Amy's sister-in-law Michelle said that she figured out it was a wig when I was playing with my hair and the whole thing moved (note to self: do not adjust wig in public, no matter how self conscious I am!). There were also people at the party who didn't think it was a wig at all (I hadn't met them before). Thanks to Amy for the investigative reporting!

I was SURE they all must have known that I was wearing a wig, and was very self-conscious, so later when I changed into something more cozy for the drive home I changed into a hat instead of the wig. I wonder how much I shocked people when I came down with the hat! Luckily they all know about the cancer and the chemo so it made sense anyway...they maybe just thought I hadn't lost it yet, or weren't sure.

SO the upshot is, I'm glad I have the wig because sometimes it is just nice to see hair on my head. It isn't comfortable, though, so if I want to FEEL hair on my head, I make Emma come over and drape her hair over my head. THAT feels comfortable, and I'm sure I'll love to have that again someday.

In the meantime, I can shower in probably less than one minute! There is no shaving to do, and no hair to shampoo and condition. This morning I was wishing I had more reasons to stay under the water for longer, but I didn't, so I got out. I'll be very eco-conscious this spring and summer, that is for sure...and save lots of water!

A post, in outline form, about faith

(I can't get this to format right, and I am too lazy/it is too late so I'm not going to try to fix it. I hope it isn't too annoying or confusing)

I'm going to write this post in outline form, to get my thoughts in order and to do it quickly...it's late at night but these thoughts keep going through my head. I'd love to think them through and get back to my cozy bed!

Title: I've been feeling a call to be closer to God

I.I'm open to the call privately

A. I've gone through these stages in my life before; it's fun
1.High school - it was fun to go to church when I was making my own decision
2. College

a. Pre-Bill: each person I dated was Catholic and there was always a phase when I went to Church with that person (maybe part of the reason they liked me was because of the Catholic upbringing). It seemed like once they figured out it wasn't a requisite to dating me, (few weeks in/month in, once they knew me better) I went less often!

b. When I was dating Bill: There was a time when I was going to Church during the week even. I think I was lonely. (During my junior year, he was living in Chicago and working and I was obviously still in Ann Arbor)

3. Christian Record Company Days - It would have been hard not to think about God when you are helping someone start a Christian Record Label from the ground up - music and God 24/7!

4. Pregnancy with Emma - It was a time of change and big decisions in my life!

B. I would never say I am far from my relationship with God, even if I am not practicing it within a religious framework.

II. I've been resisting mentioning this call to God publicly (via this blog)...but feel like I am supposed to mention it here. Why resisting it publicly?

A. It seems so cliche (can't put an apostrophe on the e on the blog, though I would like to) - Get a scary disease - become come closer to God. God will give you answers! Religion will give you answers! Here is the hope and truth you need!

B. It's not always fashionable to be a Catholic - examples during my life?

1. The College years - Ann Arbor is a liberal town. You could find Catholics, of course (see above about all boyfriends). But college is college and it is probably always a time when it is interesting to think oneself is more 'intellectual' in your pursuits rather than just following what you've been raised to do.

2. Christian Music Days - all the people I worked with may have flipped if I had let them know I wasn't born again (my close friend told me he thought I was going to hell because I was Catholic and not born-again. I could never figure out why he wanted to be friends, then!)

3. People who are no longer practicing Catholics often seem to be more vocal about it than the people who are practicing (and loving it) Catholics...sort of like Democrats seem to feel more comfortable being vocal about their status as a Democrat. This doesn't seem to be the case at this point in my life, but it was definitely true during my days of being a post-college, more-of-a-grown-up/homeowner/mother days in Ann Arbor.

C. I love all my friends, I don't care what religion they are, and don't want to insult anyone who doesn't practice the same faith as I do...and I've gone through phases of my life (see previous item number) where I definitely felt like people were insulting about faiths different than their own. They weren't insulting me, per se, because I hadn't said what faith I was, and they probably assumed I was either a disenfranchised Catholic ('everyone was', or wasn't admitting) or a born-again Christian (Christian Rock days).

D. Is it considered impolite to discuss your religion? I don't know. I remember hearing that when I was little.

E. I'm not good at organized religion

1. I don't like to be told what to do (I try to keep this a secret.)

2. I don't like lots of structure, (If I have to be somewhere at 10am, I might find lots of compelling reasons to start this project at 9:30am, and I do this mostly subconsciously. I don't like to be tied down to one thing.)

3. I think there is too much human/non-divine involvement in religion, too opportunities for humans to mess things up that God might have intended.

4. I don't think any one religion is the only way to be close to God, even though each religion seems to stipulate that theirs is the only way.

III. But, it is happening nonetheless, and I think I should mention it here. I am becoming closer to God, and I am a happy Catholic.

A. It is so fun to be sharing faith with Emma. When it was time for her to start learning about being a Catholic, I wasn't as involved in the religious aspect of my faith...but I felt like even if I wasn't the biggest Catholic on the planet, I should give her some framework for a relationship with God, and she could make her choices as to a particular faith when she is grown up. (Same with Katie, but she hasn't started catechism...though she has always seemed to enjoy faith-based things more strongly). I've since found that I'm enjoying the religious aspect of faith more through watching her learn. Emma really enjoys learning about being a Catholic, and it is so fun to watch her do it and remember how much I liked it as a child. It gives me flashbacks to days when I fought with my sisters over who could be the nun in the family, or even days when some teachers could make religion the most interesting thing (I had one religion teacher in high school who I thought was so great - if any high school friend is reading this, do you remember Mr. Forys? I think of his stories of he and his motorcycle band with great fondness. I think they called themselves the Purple Pierogies)

B. I'm learning (I should say, learning again. See above about phases of my faith, but then I don't like to be tied down...) that religion and ritual are a good thing in many ways - where some might think sitting at the same Mass and saying the same repetitive things over might not be a meaningful conversation with God, I was brought up to do that. I've done it thousands of time through my whole Catholic-school upbringing, so even though I have explored other faiths and religious options, for me, that is home. That is what I do, that is my springboard to a relationship with God. I might be able to find God in other ways, but I've practiced this one way so much that this is a tried and true method.

C. I think the whole scary-disease - go-directly-to-God cliche is not necessarily a cliche. It only takes something meaningful to occur in one's life to make one think more deeply, and when one thinks more deeply, it is so easy to see the hand of a Greater Being in everything. The fun thing about delving deeper into faith, reading works that people have written about God (e.g. - the Bible, but this could be extrapolated to other faiths and great books), is that other people have done this before and you can learn from their experiences...other people have had great relationships with God and have written about it.

So, dear friends, there you have it. I've gone through a little self-exploration of this journey of faith that I am now on. It's fun to look back and to think of all the phases I've been through, and I'm very interested in where I am at right now. It is fun to be in the land of miracles, wonder, and deeper thinking again (more about that later).

And here is my latest Bible verse that has touched me, from a reading this past Sunday (by the way, I had the most wonderful quick weekend trip to Evanston to my little adorable nephew Matthew's baptism - more later about that too):

"Finally brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace with be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you." 2 Corinthians 13: 11 - 12

I love this verse because I AM rejoicing in life, I am mending my ways, I do hope to encourage people, I am hoping to live in peace...I love the part about greeting one another because I am trying to use this new phase of my life to reconnect with people I may have unwittingly lost contact with and I am now lucky enough to be in contact with them gain...And I love the part about "all the holy ones greet you". I think that is just so cute to think of all the people who have gone before us reaching out to greet us. Hey guys! Nice to see you!


I think you know your children have adjusted to your appearance when they look up at you, looking out the window at them, and yell, "Hey Baldy!"

(It was Katie and Nathan yelling that up to me today...Emma was the first to use the endearing nickname the other night during a wrestling match with me when she was feeling particularly feisty! I wish I could record these memories, because the way all three of them giggle hysterically after they have called me Baldy is just so funny.)

Feeling great today

I have to say, that going through chemotherapy is quite a roller coaster ride. It is hard to imagine feeling worse, and I was so sad that I have to do it again...but at the same time, when I start to feel better again it is like I am totally amazed and in love with everything! It feels like I have almost died and then I get another chance, and look at how beautiful everything is!

I spent Wednesday night NOT putting Katie and Nathan to bed, and we ran around the house and wrestled until we were exhausted...it was so crazy, and so fun, and I caught myself laughing at Nathan in a way that I almost never laugh - where you totally lose control of yourself with giggling. Earlier on Wednesday, as I was catching up on things with a trip to Target, I was walking around in wonder, thinking "Target is so beautiful!" So how is that for a roller coaster? I have never had the experience of doing drugs and so am a total innocent in how that makes one feel, but between the crazy visions during acupuncture and my almost insane fascination with the beauty of life now, and the horrible depression after chemo - I feel like I have been using drugs heavily this week!

I did stop by both girls' Field Days today, and I have to say that I was a little nervous to go. I am self conscious about being bald, and "who is going to look at me and feel sorry for me", and "is it just too weird for other people if I come?" But yesterday I received two nice presents out of the blue, and thinking about these people, in the middle of their busy lives, thinking about me, made me feel like maybe it wouldn't be too weird if I showed up. (I'm going to write more about one of these gifts in another post, because it was so interesting.)

Anyway, one of the presents was a pendant from Chris, a mom at Emma's school. It is a circle that says "Friends, Faith, Family". I looked at it, and thought about how much it would mean to my daughters if I showed up and surprised them - family. Then I thought about how so many people have been supporting me through all of this - friends. And one of my latest goals is to try to be open to whatever God is trying to teach me in my life - faith. So I held the pendant in my hand as I walked into the school today, and it gave me strength. Thanks, Chris!

I only needed to hold onto the pendant on the drive to school and for the first few minutes, because everyone I spoke with today was so kind, and so friendly. I am so lucky to live in this community, with these people (at both schools)! If anyone has any doubt about all the goodness in the world, let me just tell you - people only need the slightest reason to show compassion and love, and they will spill all over with it! I was floored by how comfortable it was to talk with everyone I spoke with today, and I wish I could thank each of them (but that would be weird - "Thank you for talking with me today! I loved the moment we had to chat...thanks for making me feel normal and not like the alien I sometimes feel I have become.)

If I could do anything intensely magical for anyone reading this - friends, family, strangers - I would just give them a window into what it feels like to know that people really ARE so good and caring. If I could make all of you bald and insecure for just one minute (because I wouldn't want you to have to go through it for longer, though I am sure you would do well as there is no other option but than to deal, and deal well) and to have you walk into a place and realize that people just want to be nice to you. I know that people are not nice to me because it is ME - I think they would be as nice to anyone in my circumstance. I think this virtue, this kindness, is a part of human nature. We really don't want to see another person suffering, we want to make things easier for others.

I have to say that I felt lucky to be me today...to have such concrete evidence that people are so good and kind! I have a feeling that I'll forget all of this happiness when I am going through the hard days of the next round of chemo. At least for these next two weeks I know I don't have to be afraid of doing it again, though - there is always this time of goodness and light that returns on the other side which is pretty precious.



I tried acupuncture this past Monday, which was interesting. I think it would have been more interesting if I hadn't been feeling like total garbage during the acupuncture session...but the whole purpose was to pull me out of the feeling of total garbage, and I think it did work to a certain extent. I had feelings sort of similar to the feelings I had during my Healing Touch therapy session on Friday - really strange images were popping up in my head, random, sort of unsettling images but just as I was able to focus in on the image it was gone and another was in its place. This certainly wasn't normal for me, at least with Healing Touch (I usually can tell what I am feeling, and concentrate, and stay with my intention to heal...this last time I actually caught myself snoring instead, whoops!), but I think it is a testament to how wacked out chemotherapy can make a person.

It was my first time with acupuncture, though, and for those who have never tried it before, this is what it was like: I met with the acupuncturist, discussed my symptoms (acupuncture works to help your qi, or vital energy, to flow, and the acupuncture points relate to symptoms the person is currently feeling), she checked my tongue (don't know what she saw), I put on the gown, got on the table, and she started inserting the needles. The needles were fairly long, thin, and flexible, and when she put them in it felt more like she was flicking the needles into me. I would guess she used about 20. The flicking/insertion didn't hurt much - actually not at all in most of the spots, maybe a little in a few more sensitive spots. I had needles in my legs, my hand, on my abdomen, in my ears!, and one on the top of my head! I went in with my biggest symptoms being depression and constipation, so she was picking spots on me to help with those.

After the needles were in, I was told to lie still for about 25 minutes or so, and that I might feel any of a number of different ways. For most of the time I wasn't able to focus on anything in particular...it was like someone was changing channels on the television before I could even tell what was going on. I was probably lying there for more than 15 minutes when I suddenly felt almost a burst of energy or thought...a moment where I felt like maybe I WAS coming back to life. I had an incredible urge to throw away all of my cancer books...almost so much of an urge that I wanted to get up and leave right then so that I could get rid of everything I have that reminds me of cancer. I feel like that was something significant: I've been in and out of depression before, and I know I am coming around when my urge to get rid of things comes on nice and strong! Anger at something is better for me than depression (the feeling like nothing is worth anything, like the world is just all dark and blank and nothing matters), and one of my favorite ways of purging emotion is to get rid of possessions...I just call up the Veterans, they usually can pick up the next day!

Anyway, I felt the urge, but it waned... I stayed on the table like a dutiful patient, and finished the session. I was still depressed, constipated, and tired, so there was no fast miracle cure...But I still maintain that with the state I was in going into the session (I'd never met this woman before in my life and I was weeping almost as soon as we started talking!) , any burst of thought or feeling coming out of me was progression in a small way, and I'll try acupuncture again. I can use all the help I can get to make it through the next 4 rounds!


Well, my "bad weekend" is drawing to a close. I think I did better with this round of chemo (wouldn't be hard to do), but I still feel mostly dead, like the chemo just sucks the life and the spark right out of me. I don't think I've ever felt so old in my whole life.
I don't know if the sadness that comes in on Sunday is a physiological result of the chemo, or an emotional result of me not wanting to ever have to do this again and knowing that I have 4 more to do. (On Thursday that number seemed so small and now it seems so large.) I suppose it doesn't matter...I only hope the sadness goes away like it creeps in.

I do have to say, that though I don't feel so lucky right now, or so happy, most of the weekend I was feeling lucky and happy to have this family (including my sister and my nephew...Amy spent her very first Mother's Day taking care of my family. Can you think of anything sadder or more kind?). It does help to fall asleep holding the hands of two of your children when you are not feeling good. It does help to get sloppy kisses from your little son, and to hear your daughter chattering away happily to her aunt.

I also should mention that the side effects were a little easier...probably drinking 20 glasses of water the first day helped, and then the Healing Touch Therapy, and I also used Motrin more for the bone pain, which may have helped a bit with the nausea too (do you know how sometimes pain can make you feel nauseous?). So if you know anyone who has to do this, suggest lots of water, and Motrin, and rest. And sloppy kisses and holding hands.


2 Infusions down, 4 to go!

I should be saying that after this upcoming weekend of fun and games, but it does sound better to have only 4 to go. Of course, then I met a young mom who was doing her first chemo treatment yesterday, and she is only getting 2 drugs at a time, and only 4 treatments. I have chemo envy. I know there is a good reason for me to get TAC, all at the same time, 3 weeks apart, and 6 treatments, but I don't live my life thinking about the fact that I had breast cancer, and so I often forget all of the important details!

I was also eavesdropping during my infusion time yesterday (one of my hidden talents, though not a laudable one) and I overheard a few details about chemo side effects that I don't think I was told during my last treatment. I for some reason remember getting a lot of paperwork but not a lot of verbal information (as they were giving this new patient), but I could have already been totally spacey from the medications and just not listening. Anyway, the fitful sleep and red face were probably side effects of the Decadron...so maybe I didn't get a sunburn last time and I don't need to worry about the insomnia and bad dreams as much because I am only on this Decadron (for nausea) for today and tomorrow. Also the bursts of energy and great ideas (I had about 3 good ideas for a post in the early morning today, but now I'm tired and all you get is this boring one!) can be attributed to Decadron.

I do hope I did not scare away the new patient yesterday...as I went over an introduced myself after I was done with my infusion. I have a tendency to be overenthusiastic, that way. Luckily I was already spacey and I didn't push my phone number and email address at her, or offer to be her friend for life (as I usually would in my attempts to be helpful). I did tell her to save me a seat for next time, though! I do think we are meant to be friends, though. She was all prepared in the same way I was. She cut her hair short, then shorter, they way I did. She came with her own blanket, too...hers was pink which fits in with my pink-for-chemo-day theme. I like to identify myself - like "Here I am! Give me breast cancer drugs! You can talk to me about breast cancer if you want, because I am wearing it all over myself." Hopefully we'll like each other as we'll see each other for 3 more infusions together. Maybe I can help her in some way.

I have done a lot of thinking that there will be plenty of other women coming down this path, and I've been wondering what I can do to help them. I'm not ready at all to do much more than raise money through the 3-Day, because most of the time I would rather think of other things than breast cancer. I'm not at all interested in support groups, but in a one-on-one session, I'd do anything to help make this easier for someone. So if anyone knows of anyone who needs some support (in any of the years after this), mine can be the first email address you give out!

Now it is time to go get my Neulasta/pelvis hurting shot!


I'm still here...

Here's a quick update:

We had a fun weekend with playdates, soccer games, and general busy-ness.
I'm not happy with my baldness, but people have been so much more than nice about it. I wish I could bring Katie's teacher with me everywhere, she is so good for my self-esteem!
I am compensating for my baldness by doing more domestic things, and taking it to the extreme. I'm not someone who likes to cook or does it often (plus, it is so not gratifying to cook for 3 children who don't want to try something new), but suddenly I just tried 7 new recipes in about 7 consecutive days - sometimes 2 in one day, because I am like that. All or nothing.

Anyway, I think part of it is compensating...since I look androgynous I want to do something more associated with homemaking/motherliness - making dinner every night. I think also that after feeling so sick for 5 days and not wanting to eat, when I felt better suddenly EVERYTHING looked good to eat. I was devouring recipes with my eyes.

I was even staying away from aggressive gardening since I didn't want to be all masculine with no hair, throwing things around in the yard...but then I started to get nervous about chemo coming up and the perfect way to forget about that is lots of gardening. I am not kidding when I tell you that in the past 3 days I have pulled out more than 700 dandelions (only 100 of them were in my yard, since I pulled out more than 3300 last year here...yes, I like to count them as I pull them out, it makes me feel good about myself). Does anyone have any dandelions they need picked in their yard? I've got one more day before chemo starts and it keeps my mind off of it...

Amy and Matthew are coming tomorrow!


Bye-bye hair!

Well, I started being able to pull out my hair in the shower tonight (not really pull, it would come right out). I told Bill, the girls heard, and wanted to try for themselves so we had a little hair-pulling fun tonight. Then I put on my wig and the girls and I did origami (sedentary activity to try, idea courtesy of my adorable sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Jeff and Bonnie, and materials courtesy of Jane and Laurie!). Finally, we finished off the evening with a good head shave and NOW I look like a cancer girl. (And Nathan asked "Why, Mom?" - apparently this is a different enough look for him to ask the question!)

I'm glad I took time to get used to the idea, get used to my hats before I really needed them, and now I am glad I have a wig, after all! After seeing me now, I am sure it will get use.

Which brings up another idea I've had in my head for a few weeks - how thankful I am that we've been able to afford some of these extras we've bought since the cancer diagnosis, and that I have good health care. (My surgery alone was around $35,000.) I read about an organization that helps cancer patients who go into real financial trouble as a result of their treatment, and I think I'm going to look up that organization again and figure out what I can do to help.

Lastly, I think what I've told Emma has sunk in...she just kept telling me, "This means the medicine is working, Mom!" And the girls kept telling me I look beautiful (and you know that they must be trying to be extra nice because they've already told me otherwise!). All in all, it seems to have gone pretty smoothly with the girls, which is the best news. Now that the hair is gone, the only other thing for the next few months is a few bad days here and there, I would guess.
I also put a picture of my chopped hair on the family slideshow (on the right)...be warned!

Animal watching, again

Bill found this guy when looking out our window Sunday morning...