More New Year's Resolutions

This is so fun. I just love the New Year.
Here are my latest ideas: (I don't share the biggest plans because I would hate to have to say I did not accomplish them. Let's just call them "Fitness 2009". My Dad probably remembers Fitness 93, Fitness 94, Fitness 95, etc. It's been awhile since those days, but I still can't lose the fascination with the yearly Fitness Plan. Probably helps that I've taken about 10 years off.)

New Hobbies! Emma and I have gotten into ice skating lately, thanks to the Christie family. So much fun. We are going to do more rock climbing and snorkeling in 2009, too! So so so fun.

More goal setting to keep myself on track (mostly, to keep me from wasting a whole day cleaning up after people and wasting time on the internet.)

More consistent discipline of the Lucken children! (Yeah, right.)

Have to go discipline my middle child now. She is hurting me for not playing catch with her in the house. Is there ANYTHING wrong with this picture?

WOW, Mom

I was trying on a shirt at Old Navy yesterday...Katie was in the room with me, talking to herself and playing something imaginative and strange and all-to-herself as usual. Suddenly, though, I felt her attention on me, looked down at her, and saw some WIDE eyes.

She was looking at my chest! "WOW, Mom. Those are B-I-G."

What do I say to that? And now I feel even more confident with not filling the expanders up to the full 450cc limit (which was even not that big...I know someone who chose 650 so she could get to her normal size C)...my family and I are clearly not used to these proportions on my body!

Going from a saggy little self to this fully upright, hard expander look is quite a change. I went into my plastic surgeon's office the other day, telling her how it was a little sad that my cat, who used to be able to put her entire body between my saggy little breasts, can only stretch one paw through that cleavage now. I don't want to be able to fit a whole cat between my breasts, but I'm not sure I need only a rock-solid inch of cleavage, either!

She told me the look after this next surgery (exchange of tissue expanders for implants...only 16 days away, actually) will be softer, and there will be some movement (i.e. it won't be like my family is hugging mom + the two rocks on her chest). She said, and I quote, "Your cat will be able to get back in there." (Loved that line, so funny.)


Need a new year's resolution?

Join our Breast Cancer 3-day team! Take it from this 2-time walker (the first time I walked was before my own diagnosis): you will never regret the time you spent walking for a great cause in a sea of pink and goodness!

About the only real advice I have is to enlist one good friend/sister/relative as your walking buddy. It makes the whole thing a great adventure, and something you will always share!


Dance parties

I know I'm raising my children exactly how I want to be raising them when I rush in from the outside to disperse the screaming I hear (expecting carnage) and they happily exclaim, "We're having a dance party, Mom!" "Yeah, we're havin' a dance party!"

OH, OK, then. Continue on with your yelling and general boisterousness...

A cowbell?

We're watching the very dramatic scene during The Sound of Music, where Maria marries Captain Von Trapp - so glorious, so beautiful, so climatic!

(I made a joke that our wedding looked just like that...Katie believed me.)

During this incredible scene, Emma pops out with "He should have given her a cowbell instead of a wedding ring, since she's always running off!"

Oh, the joys of a 9 year old...so full of sass, just how I like 'em.


Wrapping paper

I'm not a person who likes to use a lot of wrapping paper. I feel like it is such a waste. Plus, I've made a whole ton of completely fabulous fabric bags to wrap our Christmas gifts in each year. SOO...whatever wrapping paper I have lying around this house has been here for a while.

This year, though, my disdain of wrapping paper went flying out the window, because the wrapping paper and I have our own little internal joke! I pulled out the same rolls I use every year to wrap a few things I couldn't put in fabric bags (my bad, bad extended family members - everyone who does not have the last name Lucken and isn't forced to do what I say - do not espouse my belief that my fabric bags are the best things in the world)...and there on every roll was a huge, huge dent! Here was the bad wrapping paper that caused me such pain and agony in early January when I fell into the barrel in which the rolls reside! Here was the wrapping paper that bruised me, from the barrel that knocked the wind out of me, that made me check to see if I really was healed from my dasterdly fall, that made me find my breast cancer.

I might still adore my fabric bags, but I also have a very soft spot in my heart for these dented rolls of wrapping paper.


2009 resolutions

I'm big on resolutions, but not so big on New Year's Resolutions. I'm sure I made quite a few back in the day when New Year's Eve meant staying up and writing down the "Top 100 Songs of the year" with my sisters, but I doubt I ever kept any or made any life-changing habits. (Then again, what resolutions are that important for a young pup of 10-17?)

I'm excited for this New Year, though...excited for what it might mean. After all, 2008 brought along some pretty spectacular things - a new nephew, breast cancer, lots of surgeries, new friends, connections with old friends, a new puppy, and stronger family ties. 2009 promises at a minimum 2 new nephews...how can that not be an even more spectacular year?

So, in honor of a new year, I'm going to make some goals.

Here's my first one:
Sometimes people come into your life who make you want to be a better person...who energize you and help you to dream again. In the absence of such a particular person, why not look for that energy and those dreams in other places - books, movies, learning, the pursuit of new activities? So one of my resolutions is to take more time out from chores and constant movement to seek out enrichment activities. Yes, I could constantly flit around and find things to do, to clean, to build, to grow, to tend, to nurture, to entertain (and I do)...but in 2009 I'm going to take some time to do that for myself.

More tomorrow...daughter number two is succumbing to the vomiting monster and needs me.

BRCA+ decisions, and babies...

This is a post I wrote today for Trusera. I thought I would copy it and paste it here! And to my friends, I should say - you all know I don't need any other babies, that I am up to my ears already with the children I do have! That's why the following thoughts are so weird:

I've been dreaming of babies, lately...lots and lots of babies! Each time I see them, in my dreams, I cry and cry because my baby days are done, courtesy of the lap bso I had to protect me further from my errant BRCA1 gene. In my waking hours, I often forget these dreams and the grief they involve. UMMM...could it be that my waking hours are consumed by three children I've already birthed and am raising? Or is my rational, awake mind more adjusted to my BRCA+ decisions than my subconscious mind is?

Rationally, I know how lucky I am. Though I spent years wondering why I went this way into motherhood when so many other women my age were dating, or building their careers, or at least leading an adult life free of primary-colored plastic toys - those thoughts went out the window with my diagnosis. I could see if in my doctors' faces - my breast cancer/brca+ diagnosis was easier all the way around, knowing I had three children. All of those tough decisions were easier - I had breastfed, I had given birth, I had THREE children, which is more than many people would even want. The doctors could give me their recommendations (bilateral mastectomy, chemo, bso) easily, without worrying about my fertility. And I could make those decisions without worrying. After all, THREE is more than I can handle, on most days!

So what I want to know is, WHY the dreams? Why aren't I smiling in my dreams, happier to know that I have missed that many ovulations (chances for my ovaries to send out little teeny cancer cells before I even knew I had cancer)? I'm thinking that even though RATIONALLY I know I made a great decision, subconsciously I'm still dealing with the fact that I am BRCA+.

Even though I am in the throes of menopause (which isn't really very difficult at all for me - a little emotional, yes, and some mild hot flashes, and a few minutes' delay in falling asleep...but that is easy, in my opinion), my mind is still 35, and my friends are all still pregnant or having their first babies. Holiday cards show babies in front packs, and my baby is now up to my hip bone in height (not a small feat, as I'm 5'9"). It's still a little weird to think that the baby years are over for me. And I'm just slightly disappointed that I can't be going through this stuff with some of my friends, or with my sisters. I've been waiting for them all to have children...I just didn't think I would be so thoroughly done with having them. (And I had been holding out the idea that I could have another baby if I missed it all that much, until my diagnosis year came blowing through.)

But (here comes my trademark phrase), oh well. Motherhood came to me surprisingly quick, but then, so did breast cancer. I did all I could with both...really have tried my best to be a good mother, and really tried my best to fight cancer and improve my survival chances. Somedays when I feel so NORMAL, I want to have every option open to me that many 35 year old women have open to them - but that's when I have to remember the special things breast cancer taught me. Who needs a whole life of normal? Let's get on with having an EXTRAORDINARY amount of great moments, not thinking about what is lost or what can't be had.

p.s. - I do think these thoughts are probably thoughts many women have at the end of their fertility...the what-if's, etc. Luckily, I only have them in my sleep, (during the day I just want some quiet time!) or we'd have to start seeing adoption counselors! OR I'd have to steal my nephews, nieces, and nephews-on-the-way. ( I did want to have another boy...you'd better keep those babies close to you, Amy, Julie, and Bonnie!)


My organized girl

This is a list I found, in Katie's notebook:

Things to do
  • Get up out ove bed.
  • Go to eta.
  • Go to brush my hara, and theth.
  • Get drest.
  • Mac lunch and snac.
  • Get shoos on and chot on.

(This checklist had boxes next to each task...all filled up with checks!)

LIfe forces

Here's a reason to spread your own type of sunshine: when you need that sunshine someday and can't find it within yourself, you may just be able to find it in the people you met when you WERE sunshiney! I'll be the first to admit that I don't live without emotional turmoil - cancer or not - the same Pam that can go up can surely also come down. No one is without their own challenges, though, and learning to deal with my emotional swings is one of mine (and probably worse than breast cancer, if you can believe that!).

Anyway, back to sunshine... today I received one of the nicest emails from a man we met on this breast cancer journey. He mentioned living in a "new world" - one where you know you aren' t free from health challenges like breast cancer. At the end of his email, this is what he wrote:

You and your family will always be a part of our "new world" which is at the same time challenging and overflowing with the most powerful life forces imaginable!

I just love that sentence - the embrace made by words, and the vision of powerful life forces flowing around. It is so reminicent of this whole year - of how people CAN and DO reach out everyday to other people (sometimes embracing with words, sometimes with gifts, sometimes in person!). More importantly, it puts words to what I learned about cancer this year and couldn't quite express so succinctly: cancer does put you so in touch with the "most powerful life forces imaginable"!

Whether I was recovering from chemo and feeling my life come back to me, viscerally, or exulting in something I could do which I previously thought was improbable, or seeing the way cancer can bring people together - cancer taught me to see life forces at work in the world. Even today, when I was (dumbly) all stressed about (of all things) how I was going to manage my stress!, I saw a scene at the oncologist's office that made me take pause.

- a woman, spunkily making her way into the chemo room. She was so put together and full of vibrancy that I hadn't noticed her infusion pump at her side until they called her name...
- a husband, fussing over his wife, taking her coat at the exact moment she started to take it off, helping her fill out her chemo questionnaire, patiently attending to her needs. And the wife, for her part...underneath everything (like the infusion pump, her hands which couldn't quite work, her clothes which she had to choose for ease of dress) I felt like I could see the person she was: the one who had kept everything together all of these years and now had to cede some of that responsibility but was doing it so gracefully.
- a mom, playing with her child as he waited for his appointment with the pediatric oncologist.

In all of these scenes, the thing that struck me was "life", not cancer - people continuing to thrive, to love, to play. Life forces at work!


I love your hair?

Yesterday I was waiting for an elevator at the mall (because riding an elevator in a mall is an exciting activity if you have a 3 year old companion), and a woman stopped me to say...

"I have to tell you, I love your haircut! I wouldn't do it myself, but I think it's really great."

I was shocked for a minute, then confused. Did she secretly KNOW that I would never have chosen this hairstyle, that this hairstyle isn't really a style at all, just what a person's hair would look like 2 months after she was bald? A closer look at her stylish apparel and long flowing mane didn't seem to present someone who was spending a lot of time thinking about things other than style, though. How could she? I would have been emotionally AND physically exhausted if I had to shop for that stylish outfit, and spending that much time on my hair, ever, would never have been possible for me. I would have thrown the curling/straightening iron out the window in an impatient rage. (I know, it's possible she has conquered domains foreign to me AND spends time searching out strangers who have recently battled diseases to compliment them.)

Normally in this situation, I would have opened my mouth and told her all about my cancer, even down to the size of the lump, the bilateral mastectomy, the kind of chemotherapy, etc. (Not only am I unable to keep my mouth shut, I like to take every opportunity to educate, even if it is inappropriate. Well, it is probably the inability to keep my mouth shut...I only rationalize it with the education piece.) I think I have learned some restraint, though, because I just smiled and said, "Thank you so much!"


How I'm not crazy, and why I love friends

I have received the nicest messages from people about my post yesterday...and first I should say, THANK YOU! for caring and saying such nice things. Next, I should say that I'm really not diving off the deep end!

I love my mom, but I am very at peace with her spot in the universe and have been for so many years now. In fact, I often feel more protected than I could have been if she was alive. I've had several very visceral moments when strange and miraculous things have happened to me, and at each of those moments I really felt my mom. So I am happy, and not grieving for her.

I DO think, though, that sometimes anxiety can be a habit. Yesterday when I wrote I was trying to get to the bottom of WHY I might be feeling anxious...and I think it is partially a holiday habit which I now must break. Maybe there is something about this time of year that subconsciously puts me on edge. I think it is something like how I used to attribute fall in Beverly Hills to being miserable, because during my first year here, I was feeling sick, pregnant, and depressed in the first trimester with Katie (I was off depression meds during that first trimester...don't think I didn't want Katie very, very much!). I love Beverly Hills/this area but for a few years after that I got a whiff of that yuckiness during the fall. Perhaps my holiday anxiety was also a habit which needed to be broken, again!

On a last little side note - we did turn our hard day around, with the help of great friends (like Patty, who commented!). Maybe in 2003, we had a caroling party on my mom's day, and then again in 2005. So now on that day I can remember the fun we had during those parties! I may just have to pull out another one of those again next year (it might not fit with my theme of relaxing through the holidays this year!). Oh, and I have to get a piano, and commission Rob to come again and play for us...and maybe someone who can lead the songs, since singing is not my forte (though I love to do it).


Making Christmas

A special kind of panic descends upon me during the holiday season; some years it seems to come down harder than others. For a few years after I became a mom, I almost thought I was cured of the panic, as the thrill of the special traditions we were making as a new family superseded the worry that everything got done perfectly. This year, though, the stress seems to have come back. (It could just be that I can handle a certain amount of worry, and now that breast cancer took up some of the open spots in the worry section, I don't have room for Holiday Worries.)

Christmas was my Mom's favorite holiday. I have memories of her taking a job at Toys R Us, just for the toy discount, of the year she special ordered all of the Strawberry Shortcake pets because we had the dolls before they came with pets, of adorable stuffed animals under the tree for each girl, of stockings brimming with fun, lovingly placed on our beds by Santa, and her little notebook filled with notes on all the special things we girls wanted. Somehow, she also managed to have special things for my Dad, as well as for the other many members of our extended family. It was beautiful, magical, and filled with love.

Christmas came crashing down one year, though, when we came home from Mass on December 22nd, to find my mom dead on the floor. (We didn't know that at the time, but the sight of my little sisters crying and my Dad trying to find a pulse was enough for me...I don't remember who called for the ambulance but I waited and prayed for it outside.) I was 12, and keenly aware that the magic was gone. I recall my Dad calling me to his room as he waded through all of the presents, trying to match gifts with girls. I remember the pain I felt as I thought of the slippers hidden in my own closet, bought for a mom who could no longer wear them. As my broken family opened presents on Christmas, after two days of visitation at the funeral home and the day before we buried my mom, the pain began to morph into the panic I can still feel. I felt obligated to take on this holiday and to keep it special for my family.

It was a doomed operation from the start, though. Holidays are a time when you so keenly feel a loss, and if you lost the person who MADE that holiday for you, a mother, and 3 days before Christmas, you just can't fix that. It may have been the same had I not fretted so long and so hard over what to get for my Dad, or how to make the holiday special for my sisters, because it just couldn't be. I wasn't smart enough to figure that out, though, and for me the holiday season just became this time of smiles I plastered on my face, covering the anxiety I couldn't control. "HOW can I make them not feel the loss of what we had?"

I found more joy in Christmas once I had children...but at the same time, I'm completely flummoxed by the happiness my mom seemed to get from this holiday. HOW IN THE WORLD DID SHE DO IT? I'm about 1/5 of the Christmas mom that she was, and it's still making me crazy. Could it be that I am worn out from all of the work I put in from years 12-26? Or is it that the grief of those years somehow injured my brain, and made me incapable of even a fraction of the stress the holidays brings on?

I think I had a revelation last night, though...I can't do it all, and I can't MAKE the holiday for anyone. More importantly, I don't NEED to Make Christmas for anyone for myself. My dad and sisters, and each member Bill's family all are part of their own special units who provide the most intimate celebrations. My own little unit doesn't even have a form they are filling out, "How this Christmas compares to all the other Christmases ever had, by anyone, and why ours is suckier." They are going to love Christmas because it is magical, all the time with the family and the exchange of gifts/love. And they are also going to feel let down when the presents are all opened, but that doesn't mean it was a failure, it just means that they are kids. Lastly, I can't compare the joys I take from the season to the joys my mom took, and it's not wrong if I don't love the shopping, the buying, etc.

What I can do is add some misery to the holiday, if I want to keep stressing about it - I can make Bill miserable by nagging him to participate with the writing of holiday cards, holiday decoration, and all of the things I have felt for so long were essential to a good holiday. I can make myself miserable by carrying around my own checklist: "How this Christmas compares to all the other Christmases ever had, by anyone, and why ours is suckier." OR, I can dial it down a notch.

I can trust that everyone will indubitably feel the magic, even if I don't make 10 different kinds of cookies, get all the perfect gifts, do every service project I run across in this holiday season, etc. If I can't take the stress, I can remove some of it. I don't need to do everything...being here and happy is enough. Dancing around to some Christmas carols, taking time to relax, enjoying the moment...that's going to have to take the place of some of the extra presents and preparations this year. I hope no one misses what could have been, but I am pretty certain they won't.

I sure wish I had figured this out 20 years ago...


As "normal life" descends back upon me - cancer treatments are sliding into memory, and even the reconstruction is close to wrapping up - I'm surprised at how easily one can forget the great lessons that cancer teaches. It's the beautiful, inspiring holiday season, and despite the fact that most of my year has been taken up with cancer and I SHOULD KNOW BETTER, I still find room within me to get stressed.


I'm trying to resolve myself to take things a little easier - who cares if the house doesn't have lights yet? Who cares if all the cards haven't been written and I can't foresee enough time to get them written? Do we need to have our tree yet? Will the world fall apart for my kids if they don't have that special "Christmas morning feeling" preceded by hours upon hours of preparations by their mother? But it's not working. I'm still yelling at my husband for not helping me write out Christmas cards, and making snarky comments like, "Are we going to have Christmas lights this year?" and "These things don't happen by magic, you know."

What a total snot. I wish I could slap myself. I guess I could enlist Nathan. The other night while we were wrestling he hauled off and slapped me so hard I made a decision that I needed to either stop wrestling, or do some sort of quickness and agility training so I can deflect the blows. (I think I'll go with the latter. I know Bill hates it when I rile the kids up and we act all demented and do dangerous things, but it is so FUN. A girl needs to get her cheap thrills somewhere, and I get mine from being terrorized by my children.)

Anyway, I wrote a reflective post on Trusera (like I probably should be doing here, this is the internet and how much should I be revealing? I've been worried about that lately), but here I would rather just blather on and tell the truth. The holidays are killing me and I need them to stop. But I don't want them to stop! I want to see my whole family! I want to give them presents! I want to thank everyone for the help they've given us this year! I want my kids to have a special Christmas morning, where we celebrate God's love and our love for each other!

On top of that, I want a clean house, I want to exercise daily and eat healthy things, and have time to read and to write, and to communicate with friends and family, and to teach my puppy how to not bite the kids, and to spend time with the old pets, and to learn new things and conquer new frontiers...and whatever else there is to want, I probably want that too. I'm just in that mode.

Unless I get my own little collection of elves, though, I can't see it all getting done.


Reflection and reply

Note to self:
Pam, if you decide to the gym, and attend two 1-hour classes in a row with people that are smaller, cuter, made-up, better dressed, with more hair, and in better shape than you, you are a glutton for punishment.

I already knew this about you, but this is taking things to a new level! I really don't think you should keep up this self-punishing behavior.

Reply to self:
OK, I'll go get some better-looking gym clothes. As soon as I can walk again.


Annoying myself

I'm annoying myself by being upset about my lack of hair, yet being totally unwilling to do anything about it. Do I, or do I not have, a fully functional (and relatively expensive) wig upstairs in my closet, just begging to be worn? Do I, or do I not have, about 15-20 hats (yes, that is extravagant, but I have received lots of gifts...plus remember how I was throwing money around when I was first diagnosed?) just waiting to be worn? Yes, I do have all of these things.

YET, I INSIST on walking around with my head of nearly-no-hair, and then being upset about it, just about all the time. I hate the way I look with this hair, or lack thereof. I don't want any of the attention about how it is growing, etc. And I could do something about it, but I am refusing! I want to just smack myself...I'm acting just like my young daughters, crying about something they could so easily fix, but wanting to just cry about it without fixing the problem.

The thing is, I feel like I should be well-adjusted enough to like these hairs on my head, no matter how short they are. Every other young breast cancer survivor I know is so cute and confident with her short hair, and I am determined to be that strong, too...but failing miserably. I am absolutely convinced that I am a huge baby about this hair, and the part of me that is convinced of that is in an epic battle of wills with the part of me that just wants to look girly again.

The huge baby is winning! ARGH.

The attachment is perhaps a little too strong

Nathan has a VERY hard time on Mondays. It is an extremely painful thing for him to watch Bill go off to work (as if I am beating him during the day, or forcing him to do whatever manual labor a 3-year old could do).

Today, thankfully, he slept in, so we averted our normal Monday crisis. However, Bill came home at lunch, and then stayed for a bit while I went to the plastic surgeon's for my fill. Now he's gone though, and Nathan is back to his Monday grieving. Writhing around, he is yelling and crying, "I WANT DADDY! ARRGGG! I WANT DADDY!" He's added to his repetoire today, though...it's a particularly hard Monday: "I WANT DADDY! CAUSE HE'S MY FAVORITE GUY! I DON'T WANT HIM GO TO WORK! CAN'T HE JUST COME HO-OME?"

I've got plenty of time to blog about this, because he's going to be crying about it for the next 20 minutes, no kidding. Poor child. And poor me, to have to live with such a superstar as Bill. I can assuredly say that I never receive this sort of adulation/misery when I leave!