The best kind of morning

Nathan climbed up on the bed, put his arms around me and said, "Mommy, you're my best fwiend" and gave me a kiss. (It was his first time saying that to me...maybe I can always remember this day for THAT instead of chemo.)


This warrior's favorite song

I have about 400 "favorite songs", but I estimate I've listened to this particular song about 1000 times (only slight exaggeration) since my diagnosis...it was so perfect for my sad days ("now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone", "can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?") and it is even better for the moments leading up to my next chemo treatment (the whole chorus).

I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world,
but its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone,

The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour and I,
started staring at the passengers waving goodbye
can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

But I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we're gonna find out
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come

I think it turned ten o'clock but I don't really know
then I can't remember caring for an hour or so
started crying and I couldn't stop myself
I started running but there's no where to run to
I sat down on the street, took a look at myself
said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell
say your goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to

I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we're gonna find out
let's see how far we've come (right now)
let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come

Its gone gone baby its all gone
there is no one on the corner and there's no one at home
well it was cool cool, it was just all cool
now it's over for me and it's over for you
well its gone gone baby its all gone
there's no one on the corner and there's no one at home
well it was cool cool, it was just all cool
now it's over for me and it's over for you

I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we're gonna find out
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, i guess, we're gonna pretend,
let's see how far we've come, again
let's see how far we go
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we go
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we go
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we go

(It's "How Far We've Come" by Matchbox 20...I'd thank them for the song except the thing is, it seems sort of like it is my own song now...)

My Progress

Every time I log into my "Participant Center" on the3day.org, I see a little spot where I can click to see "My Progress". Today, on the eve of my last chemo treatment, I thought it would be fun to write down a few little notes about what I think "My Progress" has been since April 17, when I started my chemotherapy.

Since then, I have:
  • Raised almost $8,000 for the Breast Cancer 3-day (This isn't really my accomplishment, this belongs to the generosity of almost 100 donors to my walk!)
  • Made some incredible friends, and reconnected with other wonderful friends
  • Discovered the glories of menopause
  • Walked or ran more than 327 miles (I forgot to record a few days)
  • Rowed over 40 miles since May 13th, when I started erging again (an accomplishment since my breast surgeon said I wouldn't be doing any rowing this summer)
  • Started a garden I'll always think of as my chemo garden - planted 41 perennials there, plus another 73 I had ordered before my diagnosis (I never thought I'd have the energy to dig up that much ground, haul all that dirt and mulch, etc. It's not gorgeous but I did it!)
  • Learned to adore the working parts of my body - I can't tell you how proud I am of it for pulling through this chemotherapy the way it did. Way to go, all you body parts!
  • Discovered how much I want to fight for my life - I've become my own strong, bald warrior
  • Learned to love who I am on the inside enough that it doesn't matter to me what I look like on the outside
And I'm not even done yet! Wish me luck - tomorrow I go in for round 6 of 6 treatments...I'm sure I'll learn and do even more over the next 3 weeks as I work on being as strong as I can, and then recovering...this time, hopefully for good!

**And I should note, behind every exercising, gardening, fundraising, menopausal cancer patient with 3 active children is a very strong support system...thank you to my darling husband, Bill! (And all of my other helpers, especially Amy and Sybil on my hard days!)


We've escaped some sexual innuendo, for now

Emma spent probably an hour writing down the lyrics to "She will be loved" by Maroon 5 yesterday. (It was on a cd of inspirational songs a very sweet friend left for me and I had it in under-the-counter cd player in the kitchen.) I thought for a minute about telling her this was an inappropriate song, but she was working so hard and I hoped she didn't catch any particular inappropriate innuendo in the lyrics (plus I was being lazy).

I don't think I have to worry. She is here singing the song ("I love singing in front of crowds!" - the crowd is me + Nathan):

"Beauty queen of only 18. He was some trouble with herself." (Boys ARE often trouble for beauty queens...)

"I've fed you so many times but somehow I want more" (I sure don't feel this way about my children...that is some strong love he's got!)

"I know where you hide. Well, only your car" (It is much harder to hide a car than a person...)

I'm breathing a sigh of relief, because not only is she singing these lyrics, but Nathan is singing them as well - "she will be loved, she will be loved".


The paparazzi are stalking my children

My children have spent 3 hours constructing a car (out of couch pillows), filling it with their belongings which they need at their upcoming concert, and finally, running through the house as they flee the paparazzi who chase them after their concerts (this takes up most of the playtime). Nathan then drives the getaway car.

I'm a little worried that they know about paparazzi, but glad for the exercise they are getting as they streak through the house at the speed of light (those paparazzi are fast)!


Can I blame this on chemo brain?

Tonight, I FORGOT about the swim team's end-of-the-year banquet! It is totally crazy that I forgot, as I am so incredibly proud of our family for making it through this swim season. When I got my diagnosis, I had Bill sign up for the season thinking "we might not get to all the practices, or the meets, but we'll just do what we can do." At the start of chemo (once I knew how it felt), I NEVER thought I would be able to get myself to meets on chemo days, or even get out of bed on the bad Saturdays (much less get the kids to their swim meets)! When I saw how almost all of the meets were on "bad days", I was so sad, and so worried.

I wasn't so sure this was the right thing for Katie, either - I had plans to get her lessons this spring before the season started but the diagnosis and surgeries sort of tossed those plans out the window. I knew from last year that she probably could swim on the team, that the meets would seem a whole lot better if she was on the team instead of sitting around for 5 hours waiting for her sister to swim, and that if she did swim this year, it would make things easier if this was her first year (she could be in the same age group as Emma) and for next year.

I watched Katie struggle down the lane for the first few days of practice hoping and praying she'd make it, and that this wouldn't scar her for life! I called 5 different places to see if we could squeeze in some individual lessons on the good days to help her get through. We were totally blessed with some great teachers at the Costick Center who made swimming fun for both of the girls, but especially for Katie (I cried when I thanked them at the end of the season)...and guess who won the Most Improved Award for the 8 and under Girls tonight? Miss Katie Lucken.

BUT, I missed it, I missed Katie's special little spotlight today at the banquet. Can I blame this on chemo brain? Because I can't believe I could miss hearing the coach talk about my little girl tonight. I want to be so mad at myself, but I really can't, because I remember how it felt to be at some of those meets* and I can't believe I made it there. I can't believe Katie did it, either. I can't believe she went from barely making it down the lane, from days when she would cry and say that she was the slowest on the team, to saying "I don't really know how to do the breaststroke, but I'll make it through it, some day." I'm just going be proud of what we pulled off this season, (especially what Katie pulled off) and not worry too much about what I missed hearing tonight.

Luckily, our friend Julie called to tell us about the award and we rushed up to the club so that Katie could get it:
p.s. - I'm so proud of Emma, too! At B finals, she won her event and got her fastest time of the season! (See event 37)

*I have to say, I did not always behave very well at some of these meets. There were at least two occasions when someone tried to tell me to "let her find her spot" and leave Katie to get to the right place for marshalling (where they sit waiting to be taken up to the starting blocks) and I so jealously guarded my right to take her there and assure her that she would be fine that I snapped! "She is 6 years old, my 8 year old can find her spot just fine, but Katie is 6, I'm happy to help her find her spot, and I WILL HELP HER FIND HER SPOT!" Blame that extra-meanness on chemo too!

Bill and his Tigers' fans

Have I mentioned that I am not the biggest sports fan in the world? I love participating in sports (though since I didn't do many as a kid, I'm not great at most of them), and I love following all of my University of Michigan Rowing team alums as they make their way in the international rowing world (some of our favorites are rowing for Canada and the US at the Olympics in less than a month!), but I'm not great at sitting down and watching sports. Bill quite obviously did not marry me for our shared love of following sports, and I have spent 15 years conflicted between either feeling sorry for him for this or trying to avoid watching games with him.

But look what I helped to make, to compensate for my lack of enthusiasm:

Tigers Fans!

And this is what I found, written on a piece of paper with Detroit Tigers stickers in the 4 corners (from the Tigers Kid's fan club):

My Blog
By: Emma Lucken

I love the tigers baseball. Today my dad signed me up for there fan club. I got a tee-shirt, coloring papers, stuff about Placido polanco (who is not my favorite tiger) and stickers (they are the stickers around this page). Curtis Granderson is my favorite tiger. He plays center feild. He is really good at his place too! The D on the stickers is a old D they used in the olden days. The tiger at the bottom of the page is Paws the team mascot. The Detroit Tigers Rock!
I've got some new pictures posted under "favorite family links"...see Summer Fun - July 2008!


My reasons for walking the3-day this September


But really, I'm walking for all 3 of these turkeys.


Michigan Breast Cancer 3-day

I've just recently slipped off the list of the top-10 fundraisers for the Michigan Breast Cancer 3-day. With the amazing amount of money that some people are raising for this event, I figured it was an eventuality, but I think my husband is probably not happy. You see, Bill should be on the list of top fundraisers for the Michigan Breast Cancer 3-day, because he raised almost all of our funds by contacting people tirelessly and spreading the word!

Personally, I've been waiting to send out additional requests for support, because I would like to be sure that some of my teammates have enough money to walk - especially people who are walking for the first time this year to join me. This year, I have with me my friends from high school, Therese and Sakura, friends from college Laurie and Nicole (coming in from Connecticut to walk!), friends who have daughters growing up with my Emma (Wendy, Becky, Kathy, Sherri), my sister-in-law Bonnie, Bill's cousin Melonie. My mother-in-law Sybil, and Bill's aunt Joann are walking again this year to support me also. Each of us has to raise at least $2,200, and to me, it doesn't make a difference if the money is donated to my friends or to my walk...it is all money being raised to do more research to find a cure for breast cancer!

I have to be honest and say that during these chemo days, I don't like to think about breast cancer very much, and so I haven't asked enough for support for this walk. It is a cause that is so important to me, though...I live every day now knowing that the 3 children upstairs having a crazy dance party each have a 50% chance of having the BRCA-1 mutation that I have. I need to be vigilant with their health, and I also NEED A CURE, I need more research done, and I need it now!

Please consider donating to this cause if you are able. If you choose to help one of my friends make their total, email me (pamlucken@gmail.com) so I can thank you copiously also! And if you want to donate to my walk, my husband will be SO PLEASED. He wants to much to make a difference this year, and every year, towards the study and cure of this disease which has changed our lives this year and will be a huge part of the rest of our lives. To see my name up there in the top 10 is a visual reminder for him that he is making a difference, with the help of all of our amazing family and friends.


Bald, with breast form, at the beach

We've just returned from a trip to the cottages (my parents have a cottage in Bayfield, Ontario, and Bill's parents have one in Grand Bend, Ontario)...we left the minute we were done with the swim team for the season. It ends up that being at the cottages is much more exciting for the kids these days than it is for me, and I have to say I am a little relieved to be home. I tried my best to make it fun for the kids - shoved the prosthetic breast form into my mastectomy bathing suit, put on my swim cap and swam in the waves with them - but the beach is just not the most wonderful place for a woman in my condition. I felt like a big weirdo, which I pretty much am, these days (and all days, but now it is just so much more evident). I am much more relaxed to be at home, bald and lopsided (even if it is a pit of despair of chores and cleaning-that-needs-to-be-done, because we left when I was just about over chemo yuckiness and hadn't yet totally recovered the house).


Overheard...a conversation between Barbie and Ken

Ken: "I have certain feelings for you."
Barbie: "So do I. Fix my arm!"
(Ken then puts Barbie's arm back into the socket.)

I like that Ken has certain feelings for Barbie, despite the fact that one of her arms is not consistently attached to her body...and I also have to say that Barbie's very matter-of-fact and even DEMANDING tone reassures me that my daughter expects the girl to get what she wants from the relationship, whatever the situation might be!

(conversation courtesy of Katie)

Don't even think about listening to this latest "research"

I love my friend Ellyn because she is so much better (than me) at staying up-to-date on the latest breast cancer news and research, and then she informs others with her great blog. Just recently she discussed this article which has thrown me into a big, giant tizzy:Time just recently published an article discussing the latest research that maybe breast self-exams are not useful and - this is even worse - possibly even harmful to women.

I'm CRAZED with annoyance at this big, giant, piece-of-shit article and the research behind it. No, I don't think women need to go around feeling their breasts all the time and worrying about every little change. But, I do know that if I hadn't checked my own breasts, I'd be in some pretty serious trouble (much more so than I am in now, dealing with what I found). My tumor was a grade 3, triple-negative tumor, still smallish, still hadn't gone to the lymph nodes...but a tumor like that is serious business and would NOT have stayed that small for long. My breast surgeon was not surprised that it hadn't been found in an exam in November by myself and my gynecologist - even if it may have been around for a while as something very small, it could have grown substantially in just 3 months.

Women under 35 years old are not normally having yearly mammograms or breast MRIs - screening devices which can find breast cancer in its earlier stages. BUT, younger women are also much more likely to develop these more aggressive, grade 3, triple-negative tumors! I was sitting at chemo with a woman in her later 20s whose husband had found her 6cm breast tumor...now a stage III cancer which comes with a 5-year survival rate of somewhere between 37-60% (the percentages I find are all over the map). That tumor was not there for very long, either. Yes, I have the genetic mutation at the BRCA1 gene (but didn't know it...my grandmother on my father's side died of breast cancer but she had 6 sons. We didn't have any other breast cancer in my family history to clue me in, either.) BUT, this young woman does not carry the gene and still developed a serious breast cancer, very early in life.

The craziest part of the article noted that women who find lumps and then undergo further diagnostic testing (which may then prove that the tumor is benign) "often emerge with scars, breast deformities and emotional wounds." Can I just say, big F-ing deal? I'd just love to post a picture of my chest at this moment, which last night as I changed into my bathing suit on the boat (in the cabin) prompted my daughter to say "you wouldn't want anyone to see that, probably, as you have lots of scars around there" (as she made large sweeping motions indicating my ENTIRE torso)! Let me tell all of you, right now, just as I told her last night, "if you live long enough, you are going to get a few scars along the way, and I am happy with how I look." This chest is beautiful to me, because it is SAFE. This is still me, with no hair, a thousand scars, a deflated side of my chest, a crazy balloonish other side, and I am embracing the new scars that are coming. I'd take these scars ANY DAY to give me a prognosis which gives me a 5-year survival rate of somewhere between 88-98% (again, all over the map). And all of those women out there who get a little scar just to make sure that they are safe, should take that scar as a badge of courage, and love that scar because it says that breast cancer is not taking them away from their loved ones too early because they were not afraid to get it checked out.

So go ahead, lose some sleep, worry a little, get a few scars. Check yourself. Who cares if you find something that is benign? I have met more than a few women who found something, got it checked, it WAS benign, but they had breast cancer they didn't even know about in the other breast!!!! Go get checked if you feel something and then, I boldly suggest, ask for that diagnostic testing they say is so scary and unnecessary (because who really cares if it is unnecessary much of the time if you are that one person who they "think" has a benign tumor, you should just wait, but you find out later you actually have breast cancer? I know other women who fall into this category, too!). Do it because you want either the all clear, or something small enough to give you the best prognosis possible. Take it from me - you can get over lost sleep, worrying, and even the most giant scars. You wouldn't be able to get over missing your daughter's entire life because you were too afraid to check something out (or because you listened to this piece of shit article). At least I wouldn't.


A statement from the Cub

Me: "Cubby, do you have a poopy?"
Nathan: "Yes. It's a big one. In my butt."
(I'm so glad for the clarification.)

My poor little brain

Although I heard about "chemo brain", I really have tried to stay positive and to not give too much credit to the idea of it. I didn't want to be psychosomatic, or to really allow for "chemo brain" to be an excuse. I want to really LIVE during this period of my life, not lie around and wait for it to pass, and I want to be able to look back and remember from this summer just as many good times as there were hard times.

But, chemo brain did creep up on me, at least today in my email inbox! I was a little disturbed by the intrusion in my normal life...during these days when I still feel the effects of chemo I like to pretend as much as I can that I never even had a treatment (a week ago) and move forward as quickly as I can. Once my side effects go away (like when food tastes how it would normally taste, or when I don't get so tired with everyday life*), then I can go back to reading or thinking about breast cancer or chemo or larger issues. But, it was interesting to read the article, even if the timing in my inbox was not appreciated!

As with plenty of articles I read about research being done, I said, "duh!" (in my seventh grade voice). Of course there IS chemo brain, even if I don't want to admit it to myself. As a chemo girl, I can attest that it exists. Since chemo, it is a daily occurrence that I say one word when I mean another. At the drug store, I asked for ear drums instead of ear plugs. Today I told Emma to put Nathan's toast on a piece instead of a plate. And the WORST is when I am talking to someone I know, and use the wrong name for one of their loved ones! Last night at the wonderful fundraiser-dinner for our 3-day team at bd's Mongolian Barbecue in Royal Oak, one of my very favorite girls on the swim team (and the daughter of one of last year's 3-day walkers) said hi to me and her name didn't come to me for a few seconds. I totally hate that.

It happens so much, (and I know it happens to all people, busy people, and not cancer patients) but the difference between how it felt before and how it feels post-chemo is that now I can actually FEEL my brain working so hard to get to that word. I'm really trying to get to it! It's not me just not putting enough time or effort into saying the right thing, because I am trying harder than ever to put in that time and effort.

I try to not dwell on these mistakes, not because I want to call it "chemo brain" and laugh it off. It's not really something I can laugh at, because I want so much to be regular and to do the right thing. I try to let it go because I am trying to be less high strung in all ways than I was before. My poor husband might not realize this, because I yell at him as much as before! But Bill, haven't you noticed that even if I yell as OFTEN as before, I am not yelling for as LONG? I really am trying! But sometimes I forget to try because I have chemo brain. Ha ha.

*I definitely find that I am a little more tired for longer, after these later rounds of chemo. But, I also feel like I am getting better at it. I'm better at being more cheerful, I'm better at moving past the really bad days quicker...I just stay a little tired longer. So that for me just means that yesterday I only rowed about 3.5 miles on my rowing machine, and I took Tuesday off from exercising. I also think some of the tiredness is because I am not sleeping as well at night - I'm having some of the insomnia and hot flashes of chemo-induced menopause. Last night I took my first sleeping pill ever, though, and slept all the way through the night (and I haven't done that in probably 9 years, since kids I wake up several times a night for who knows what reason).



Upstairs...some grumblings from Emma, who's saying mean things about me since I disciplined her for sassing Katie.

Katie: "Don't you know, mom has breast cancer?"


I'm glad my vociferous saying "I don't have breast cancer anymore, it is all out of me" has hit home...but it is a little sad I don't get credit for it anymore, either, at least with my kids!


Today I was showering Katie with kisses when I asked her, "What am I going to do in the fall when you are at school all day in first grade?"

Without missing a beat she said, "I don't know, maybe work on never getting breast cancer again?"

I told her that was a great idea.


She's kick bad word

Bill has an ability to love something quite fervently, in spite of that thing's very obvious shortcomings. Most of the time, it's very lucky I have a husband with this quality as I am usually the thing he loves with the obvious shortcomings! Sometimes, though, I pay for this abundant love of his - I'd like to reference his deep love for the Detroit Tigers, which made it through the disappointing 1990s unscathed (he still watched almost every game), and also his affection for one particular songwriter and his band.

Bill loves this band (which I'll keep unnamed because I don't want its name to be smeared by the wife of its biggest fan) so much, and others love it so little that he has been to at least one concert where there were only 7 people in the crowd. Personally, I don't really dislike the band...I just can't muster up the same level of devotion for it that Bill can, and this sometimes pains him (like the time when there were 7 people in the crowd and not 8...).

Luckily for Bill, though, we've been able to make fans for this band. Just the other day I was driving in his car with Emma and she started belting out the lyrics to one of the songs! I felt so glad for Bill, that he had someone to share this music with (who doesn't live on another continent, apparently their fan base is much larger on other continents). I was so glad...until the next song came on.

Why does my husband blare the song "She's Kick Ass!" at full volume each day while driving Emma to school? He does change the lyrics to make them appropriate for her life - instead of "She don't ever need another man" he sings "She don't ever need another DAD" - but that is overshadowed by the fact that he sings the next lyrics at the top of his voice - "She's Kick ASS!" The song goes on to repeat this line, 12 times until it is suddenly over. It is this charming lack of lyrical variation which dampened my affection for the songs in the first place.

Luckily for me, Emma warned me after I had heard that first line that "he just says that over and over and that's the whole song!" (I had changed the song, horrified, after the first line.) Later, when Bill was around, I launched into my lecture -This is not a good song for our kids! Not to mention that I kind of liked the phrase "kick ass" and now it's ruined for me as I hear it in this guy's droning voice only. I don't care if Emma KNOWS it's a bad word and has promised not to use it. (When she sings the song she sings "She's kick BAD WORD! She's kick BAD WORD! She's kick BAD WORD!)

The song has given a nice frame of reference though... The other night I thought the kids were sleeping and allowed myself to cry about the upcoming chemo treatment and how much I didn't want to do it, only to find out they were awake and worried. I had to explain to Emma (she wasn't as easily reassured as Katie was) that there are 2 me's. One is the regular mom she knows and the other is a totally different girl- a super tough cancer patient. Regular mom might be scared of feeling sick or getting poked or other things, but the super tough girl isn't. I turn into the tougher girl for a few days to get through the treatment because she can handle it. She's kick bad word!


Early Detection is key...

Check out Ellyn's website again today...she mentioned the website checkyourboobies.org, where you can sign up to be reminded to do your monthly breast exams! Thank you, Ellyn, for helping me to remember to spread the word...lately, I have been only thinking of how I can get through this next 4 weeks (when I should be thinking of the bigger picture).

Doing your monthly self-exam is key, especially for your younger women. First of all, not all young women are having mammograms (I had not yet had one, for example). Secondly, mammograms aren't even that great at detecting cancer in younger women due to the denser nature of their breasts. Lastly, the cancer found in a younger woman is often of a more aggressive grade (like mine was) and the prognosis is worse. Early detection is key!

And now I am going to go to bed...tomorrow is chemo day #5. Oh joy! But I am seriously glad to be doing this treatment because of what it could mean for my future...and I hope to remember that tomorrow when the yuckiness begins again!


Log your miles, help support those dealing with breast cancer

My friend Ellyn found this website, beewellmiles.com, which is sponsored by Bumble Bee Foods. At the website, you can log and track the miles that you walk, map your route, read articles about tips and training...even play "heart healthy Sudoku" (seems funny to add that on to the site - walk and do healthy things, or play sudoku on the computer? But I bet I'll try that too!) They are "collecting" miles up until September 30th, and will donate up to $200,000 to the Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization, which provides a hotline and support for people going through breast cancer and treatment.

It seems like a pretty fun little website...and I always like to keep track of various training-related totals as it makes me feel good about myself! It is fun to see those miles add up, though.

Overheard game of hide-and-go-seek

First: "One-Two-Sebben-Three-Two-Three...I come!"
Then: lots of giggling and screeching when Nathan finds Emma!
Last: "OK, Emma's turn!" "NO, Cubby count!"

And the cycle repeats itself, over and over, as such a thing would when an almost 3-year old is involved!


Nathan's been asking a lot about my hair lately. Tonight he said, "I want you hair to come home."
Me too, buddy!

Rising to the challenge

Today is my wedding anniversary...9 years ago, after 7 years of togetherness (and some procrastination, this motherless daughter was afraid of planning a wedding), Bill and I were married. I think that I may have mentioned that Emma was a little surprise to us which spurred on the end to the procrastination. From the first moment I knew she was coming, I felt like she was a little miracle, a little person I wanted to have around, even if the timing was a little crazy (I found out I was pregnant the day I sent in my tuition deposit for MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine). Unfortunately, not everyone I was close to at that time responded as favorably to our situation (Catholic upbringing in a modern world), which is something that always weighs heavily on my heart on this day.

On top of the heaviness some sad words have left on my heart which I have not been able to shake, I've had other sad thoughts today. Last night I overheard my wonderful daughter discussing her breasts and the eventuality of their growth, the fact that she will feed babies with them, etc. Little Nathan was asking "Why" to everything, as he always does, probably while looking at himself in the bath, and she was doing her best as an older and wiser 8.5 year old girl to answer his questions. Hearing my girl answer these questions so matter-of-factly, her peaceful acknowledgement of the fact that she will grow up, did not lessen the impact that her words left on me. Fear ripped through my heart when I thought of the possibility of her breasts developing, because I know about the mutation I may or may not have given to her. Yes, she will grow up and develop...and then what?

And lastly, because this is just how 2008 has been for me, I've been dealing with some flu-like symptoms today (every special day of this year has been marred by cancer or illness). It has left me with lots of time to lie around and think of sad things.

The good thing about spending time with one's thoughts is that hopefully, with enough effort, one can direct them in the way that they need to go. Today after mulling over this day in my own history and the scariness that the future may or may not have in store (today I am afraid for my children more than for myself), I have come to the realization that my only choice is to, again, rise to the challenge in front of me. I don't know what is in store for myself or for my beloved children, but I can use my life, my hours, my time, to make it as good as it can be. 9 years ago, Bill and I took a surprise and made it into the most wonderful thing. We had a beautiful wedding, we have a beautiful family, and we proved to ourselves and others what you can do if there is enough love in the mix. It is just time for us to keep doing that, even if the surprises, like the one I got this year, are not always so happy!

So today, we practiced rising to the challenge again. Bill stayed home to be mom for the day while I rested. I made myself think better thoughts! And our children rose to the challenge as well. When Bill told Emma about our anniversary, Emma said, "Oh I'm sorry Mom isn't feeling good on your birthday! Can I make you dinner tonight? I know how to make macaroni and cheese..." And she did...we had a lovely dinner of macaroni and cheese, she made cards - "Happy Anniversary! From the whole family and the pets!", and Katie washed the dishes while Nathan provided comic entertainment. Isn't it amazing how the love that you put in just grows and grows?