Fun with pictures!

I don't know how anyone can stand to read this blog...I prefer to read things with glorious pictures, and this blog has heretofore been entirely lacking glorious pictures.

However, with the brand new paint in my house, I feel the need to finally put up some of my favorite pictures of my family! Of course, first I need to FIND all of those pictures...which means a lot of work.

The happy upside to all of this work is that I can share some of the cute pictures I find here! So I am starting today. Here's my darling middle daughter - I was looking for pictures from this time of the year, as far back as I could find.

Grand Cayman - Feb. 2003

March 2004 and also...

Feb. 2004

February 2005

March 2006

March 2007 (with Cookie Dough)

February 2008 (my wig!)

February 15, 2009 (Class Valentine's Day party)

The Hair Wars

This is something I wrote today for Trusera...but why not share it with my friends here? If I was writing it for this blog only, I would have related that JUST TODAY I figured out that I could use hats to help with my big giant hair problem. Can anyone say, clueless? I should also say that I know I could be coloring my hair to make it not look "like dirt", as Emma so delicately puts it...and that could probably boost my appearance a little. But I've never colored my hair before, and sort of want to make a point to my daughters that people are beautiful how they come. Who knows how long that is going to last, as I greet my dirt hair in the mirror each day!

So here is the post...

I think it is ironic that my biggest problem, throughout my experience with breast cancer, has been my hair. Honestly, despite having a bilateral mastectomy, an infection with one of my tissue expanders that required its removal and eventual reinsertion (and a chest that was half-flat, half-expanded for over 7 months), 4 surgeries on that chest, 5 weeks of drain tubes, so many battles with compression bras, breast forms, mastectomy bras and a bathing suit - it's the hair loss that bothered me the most. And today, as I sit here, my chest is put back together, but I am still at war with my hair!

I'm about 4 months into having hair again after chemotherapy (I remained essentially bald for almost 3 months after I finished chemo), and my hair is crazy. It's growing out, the same color that it was when I cut it off (the definition of dishwater blonde), but it seems thicker...and wants to stand straight up, as if it is saying, "Look at me! I'm here!" I've wanted that kind of body for as many years as I have had hair, but can now understand the drawbacks to such a situation.

Anyway, I am still happy to have hair with which I can wage battles...and have a few tools with which to do this. All of those hats I was SO happy to put away once there was a smidgeon of hair on my head are just waiting to be put into use again. I only regret I didn't start using them a few weeks ago ("You mean, some people wear hats when they have hair? That's news to me...") - I could have saved myself a lot of bad hair days!

P.S. - This is my 300th post. That's a lot of writing!


Birthday Party Boy (and his Mommy)

Here's a little picture of my magical nephew, and wonderful sister, at the party on Saturday...
(so cute I can't stand it!)


NOOO! Winter break cannot be over!

We had such a lovely break - the trip to Evanston, some quick home improvements before the big first birthday party for Matthew, the Kay family visited, the birthday party itself, and then tonight we went to a fun 18th birthday party for my nephew David. Sadly, though, I was moving so fast I did not expect this break to be over so soon! It's a good feeling when you are not sick of your kids, and they aren't sick of each other, at the end of 9 days off.

Not to say we didn't have our moments... but I have realized I am more immune to those moments than I ever thought I would be. 9 years of motherhood (and three kids) have really taught me to just let some things slide...and then there was breast cancer to teach me more big lessons in that way.

I could really tell the difference in pre-breast cancer Pam and post-cancer Pam when I was painting over the past week. I decided at 3pm on Saturday that I would paint the entire main level - about 1000 square feet, but no ceilings, and not the heinous kitchen cabinets, which take up a lot of those square feet. Still, it was a fair amount of work, but I finished the job Sunday around dinner time. (Just don't look too closely, because I am not a painting perfectionist!) I was about 10 hours into my painting weekend when I realized I had not yet had one single fit or tantrum. I could hardly believe it! Pre-cancer, it would only take about 4 hours of painting to set me off...and here I did a whole weekend without losing it.

So...maybe it is the 9 years of motherhood, or the fact that the kids are getting older and easier, or maybe it is the nice way my breast cancer experience colors things - but something has weathered me in a rather nice way. Because here I sit, after 9 days of crazy home improvement projects, a trip with 3 kids in tow, preparations for a party at my house, more busyness than I normally like, and trying to control the craziness at my house so that my 3 kids and too many pets (including puppy) did not disrupt every minute of sleep my nephew/sister/brother-in-law may have been trying to have at our house - and I don't want it to end!

Good thing the Luckens are going on vacation together in only 4 days...



I'm a couple of hours early (about 22...I got the phone call around 8pm Eastern Time on the 18th of February)...but Happy Anniversary to ME!

I was thinking I should do something really special, like write something about all of the things I have done this year - the number of appointments, surgeries, bras, hours I spent in bed, blog posts, kind email messages from friends - anything to collaborate my special year. But instead, I am having such a great time living my life...too much fun, really (tonight I am in Evanston with my kids, visiting my sister, and magical nephew - and we have had a lovely stay, though the kids miss Daddy terribly).

And really, isn't that the point? Life, despite all of its difficulties (which are varied and many...my breast cancer having been quite small in the scheme of possible difficulties one could face in life, I realize), is really, really wonderful.

I'm happy to be here, happy to be alive, happy to feel healthy again. And even if I am not perfect - because of the breast cancer that I had, or really, because of any other shortcoming I have - it doesn't matter so much to me anymore (and that is a breakthrough for me, a different statement than I could have made a year ago). I accept that I'm not perfect, that things aren't always easy, and am really just grateful for the chance to PARTICIPATE in this journey called life.

And THANK YOU! To all of the people who have helped me, or sent good wishes on this journey of mine, or kept me company here on my blog - THANK YOU! I never imagined I would have deserved such good will and kindnesses, and am blessed to have such wonderful friends and family members.

(And now, I have to stop three overly tired children from fighting...and send them to bed. The Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview blew their minds and made them so happy, but now they are exhausted. And Katie just said, "Mom, are you almost done? Or are you just writing silly comments? MOM? I just asked a question. The polite thing to do is to answer." OK, Katie, stop saying such funny things and I will stop writing them.)


Love is Chroo!

In honor of Valentine's Day, courtesy of my darling Katie...

(That's "Love is True!", for those of you who don't readily understand first-grade phonetic spelling...)


Everybody is Kung Fu fighting

Don't I just love having kids who want to hear their new favorite song over and over and OVER again, until we know all of the words and the way the singer lifts his voice in that one verse, but not in the other? YES, I do, because I am the same way. I can, and do, listen to one song, possibly hundreds of times in a row before I feel the need to move on.

So the new song in the Lucken household, courtesy of Mr. Nathan R. Lucken, is the song that closes out Kung Fu Panda. And I love the words. So here are some good lines for you (and for me):

Everybody is Kung Fu Fighting
Your mind becomes fast as lightning
And though the future is a little bit frightening
It's the book of your life that you're writing...

You are a natural, why is it so hard to see
Maybe it's just because you keep on looking at me
The journey's a lonely one, so much more than we know
So sometimes you have to go, go on and be your own hero

(chorus again)


The things I do for my daughters

NO, I'm not ringing my own bell about what a great mother I am. And to fully illustrate this fact, let me share the following exchange in my household, last night:

Me/Mom (loudly, so as to be heard upstairs): "KATIE!"

(No answer)

Me, louder: "KATIE!"

(No answer)

Me, to myself, quietly: "Why did I ever have children?"

Me, again: "KATIE!"

Emma (in a normal voice, like everything is perfectly normal and maybe even amusing): "Katie, Mom is questioning why she had children. You should probably answer her."

So, you see - not the greatest mother. BUT, I do put some thought into things, occasionally, and in weird ways, since I have had daughters. For example - Thursday at Target.

I didn't have tons of time to go running off to a lingerie store to buy my first post-breast cancer and reconstructive surgery underwire bra after getting the all-clear last Wednesday (no more surgical compression bras!). But I can always find time for Target, so last Thursday, there I was, in the undergarment section. Who knew you could find so many undergarments so affordably, and without driving more than 3 miles from your house, with 3 children in tow?

Now, Mrs. Lucken prefers her undergarments to be EXTREMELY utilitarian. I like to have things comfortable (first), and then extremely flexible (second). I don't want to have separate undergarments for separate clothing, and since I mostly wear white t-shirts in the summer or something just-as-boring-but-warmer in the winter, I stick to comfortable, nude-colored (i.e. ugly) bras. BUT, I do put thought into weird things, and in light of the fact that Emma and I had an interesting conversation the other day, and in light of the fact that once, when Emma was mad, she told Katie that she might get breast cancer someday (how is that for a way to totally destroy your 6.5 year old sister? It worked...), I thought I should branch out.

You see, my daughters have seen me in all sorts of strange undergarments this year, and have also seen my chest in all sorts of stages of damage and repair. Living in as busy of a household as ours is, I have chosen quickness of dress over privacy too many times to keep things out of their line of vision. I feel a little sorry for them to have been faced with such a stark reality so young, and have read enough to know that children ARE affected by the physical things they see with regard to breast cancer transformations. And I know that there is a chance either or both of them might have this gene, and might be facing breast cancer in their futures (though I hope and pray that they are luckier that that). So, a big goal of mine has been to be a good role model for them in dealing with my cancer - to keep things real, but also show them that we can still be happy, we can still have fun, and we can still live a really great life, even if we have a screwed-up genetic makeup.

So, in the lingerie section at Target, Mrs. Lucken picked out a blue polka-dot bra. Not for herself, but for her daughters. Just in case they are looking (and especially for the 6.5 year old, who is still more easily scared by breast cancer, but equally fascinated by all things fancy), I want them to see that even if you get a different-looking chest out of the whole thing, you can still dress it up all pretty and do all things girly with it. Who knows if it will help, but I'm giving it (and many other strange little thoughts) a try.

And it is a big pain, when I am wanting to put on a white t-shirt and have to change out of that bra...but each time I see it I am reminded that I am supposed to be keeping things light, and fun, and to keep taking steps for my girls and their futures.


Check yourselves, people

I read several blogs daily, or almost-daily. I read one against my best interest, because the writer drives me absolutely batty (I am sure you, reading my blog, can relate). She lives in Michigan, though, and I am always interested in what she has to say about living so near to me (if interested also means, I read what she writes and always disagree about everything she says). Anyway, she does have nice decorating style, and a very large readership base, despite the fact that she is more than a little whiny, and maybe not the brainiest, as you will now read.

So this young blogger knew she should have a mammogram, and was putting it off, despite the fact that "the doctor has given me three different referrals for one and even though my mother had breast cancer and even though I believe with almost absolute certainty I will one day have (and survive) breast cancer."

OK, so you have been given reason to check yourself out, and you are not? And does that last line, with the parenthesis, bother anyone else but me? Because let me tell you, I feel like there are A LOT of other WONDERFUL WOMEN out there who would have a) loved to have been given a "heads up" about their breast cancer risk, and b) who tried like crazy to survive their cancer. I'm mad at her for thinking "Oh, I'm just going to survive breast cancer." Yes, we would all LIKE to, but better women than her have lost that battle. How dare she think it would be that easy, when there are good, good, women who have lost their lives to this disease?

So this young blogger puts off her mammogram. But here's another gem of a paragraph: "Why would I worry about a mammogram, the girls are healthy. They're my favorite thing on my body. My boobs get their fair share of attention and there have been no reports of lumps from either party involved (or the occasional medical professional)."

And then I want to hit her again. Because her husband likes to grope her and she likes it when he gropes her, she doesn't have breast cancer. OH, and yes, don't we all think we are healthy? That doesn't always mean you don't get cancer...I have met the healthiest, strongest women who despite all their health and strength found they had breast cancer.

Let me insert one thought here, to everyone - THE REASON YOU HAVE MAMMOGRAMS AND MRIs IS SO YOU CAN FIND A BREAST CANCER THAT IS SMALLER THAN SOMETHING YOU WOULD FEEL. So that you could then have a better chance of surviving it. 2 cm is not that big, and anything larger than that is already considered stage II breast cancer.

Anyway, they found a mass. And even though she is driving me crazy with the way she does everything (at least from how she does everything she writes about), I do hope it is nothing to worry about. But take a lesson from her, people - self exams are just ONE way to check for a breast cancer. Mammograms and MRIs are another. And knowing your family risk is very important, too. I don't want all of you to go off the deep end worrying about breast cancer, but I do want you to be aware, and not as silly as this woman has been.

And also, don't ever tell a survivor that if you had breast cancer, you would survive it (or don't tell this one). It's just disrespectful. Yes, I would hope you would, just as I would hope everyone would...but life is just not that fair, and there are better women than me out there who have died from this terrible disease - stronger women, more important women, nicer women. I am haunted by their stories and the people they left behind, and I walk for them and for their children, because I know they would want me to do whatever I could to make this world safer for their offspring. And I may just not read this woman's blog ever again, for her offhand comment about how she could beat a disease (that these other good women could not) that she knows very little about (you'd think she'd know more if her mom had it, but her stupid comments prove otherwise).


So you are looking for a good cause to support? I've got one for you!

Breast Cancer?
  1. Join my 3-day team! You will LOVE it. OR...
  2. Support my 3-day walk! I promise you only need to do this one time per year! And if you want to know why I NEED this support, read this.
  3. Support one of my teammates' walks!
Leukemia and Lymphoma Team-in-Training?
  1. Support Liz...in her first marathon. Her goal is $4,000.


Getting tired of the cold...

I've been trying not to complain, but I'm missing my garden. I do have 40 pansies started under a grow light...but they aren't making up for the other plants I'm missing. I guess I'll just have to look at pictures of my plants...

My Irish Setter

Should I be alarmed that my puppy may stay a puppy for the next 4-5 years? (Just read that as I browsed through this book...) This could mean extended games of keep-away with valuable stuffed animals (valuable to the kids, not me) for 4-5 years, spiking levels of adrenaline coursing through my veins every few minutes for 4-5 years. YIKES.

On the positive side, I think this crazy energy is going to serve us well. I had such a great time with the pup this weekend, as she bounded through 2 feet of snow off the path we were following. Part of me was annoyed when she was snatching hats off of the kids and running off into the snow with them, but then part of me loved having the crazy little thing chasing us on the sled (and I took an evil sort of pleasure out of making her slide down the hill on a sled with us). It's good for the family to choose outside time, and active time, over sedentary time in the house - and the puppy is forcing us to do that. For if we don't, "a bored dog will find something to do, which often manifests itself in some type of destructive behavior." I don't think I want to figure out what that destructive behavior might be...

Anyway, here is my favorite sentence of the book: "The Irish Setter companion dog relates well to every member of his family, regardless of his or her age, and the dog's loyalty, especially to children, is absolute." Did you read that, Bill? She's going to be just perfect for us.


One year ago...or, don't give me that look

About one year ago today, I was lying in bed after a fun vacation day in Orlando, and found a lump. Then I made Bill feel it, and though I tried to go back to our Disney vacation, I knew in the back of my mind that I had a situation on my hands. I could see it in his face. My husband is not a worrier, and he didn't go crazy with worry starting that night, but I knew this had registered with him as something to worry about. I could just tell, even though he said nothing (other than, "whatever it is, we will take care of it.")

And as we all know, it WAS something...but it even felt like something from the start. A hard lump, (it seemed to be a bit smaller than the size of a quarter, if a quarter was a sphere) way inside my small and saggy breast. It only took one more appointment for me to know for sure (my GYN is not a worrier, either, but he had the same look that Bill did), and one more appointment for me to get firm confirmation. None of the mammogram or ultrasound technologists or the radiologist who performed my biopsy even had a look of hopefulness, or offhandedness, about what was going on. They didn't tell me what they thought, but I could tell from their faces.

So, without anyone telling me that I should expect that this was breast cancer, I was expecting it, just from the look on their faces. But though I was expecting to hear the words "breast cancer", I can't say I knew what breast cancer treatment would be like. Luckily you have time to learn these things as you go along!

So now, one whole year has passed since those first looks on people's faces. Here I sit, knowing more about breast cancer than I ever thought I would know in a lifetime (and of course, it's still not enough...when someone asks me for advice, I still don't quite know what to say, because each situation is so different, each cancer is so different - even within the realm of breast cancer). What do you do when you are given the all-clear - no more appointments (or at least, far, far fewer appointments), surgeries, chemotherapy, baldness, wigs, hats, hats, and more hats, more surgeries, and more strange bra situations than I ever hope to have again? I'm sitting here with a different-looking chest, and crazy hair, but I'm in the same seat, and the same person that I was a year ago.

I guess what I can do is embrace life. Try to make a difference (however it all happens, because I still don't know quite how I will make the difference I want to make in the world). And HOPE HOPE HOPE that I don't ever get those looks again!


Did you miss me?

Ha ha...I know there are better things to do than to read the ramblings of this cancer has-been...and I am happy to be a cancer has-been! My oncologist is insistent with me on that point - any time I enter into his office with my giant list of questions derived from hours upon hours of Bill's research, he laughs at me and tells me "You're cured!"

Anyway, I'm a happy girl, despite more rumblings in cancer world (again, not mine, but still, it's troubling). How can I not be happy? I still have my wonderful family, and extended family. I have no more surgeries on the horizon and my hair is growing (albeit slowly, and darkly). I had a great weekend at my parent's cottage - full of nature walks and impromptu sledding down hills on those walks (I even went down a hill with Dagny on the sled, and then once with crazy Hope!). I am fully back to all motherhood activities.

I'm even filling in my extra moments dreaming of what I can do next, which was something I couldn't really do much of last year. Something about over 61 doctors' appointments - driving to them, waiting for them, recovering from them - that sucked up a lot of dreaming time. It was a dream to even feel normal during those 11 months...and hard to think past that except to plan for how to get through the next round.

Anyway, it is great to be alive, friends and family! I know hard stuff is always around another corner, but for now I am going to just relish the present. Here's a little quote from Kung Fu Panda (probably from somewhere else first, but Kung Fu Panda is our latest Lucken obsession): The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.

Thank you to our generous donors!

Katie is very excited to put on her jumping shoes on February 5th for Jump Rope for Heart.
Thank you so much to the following people who donated to the American Heart Association!

Bonnie, Jeff, and precious Paige Kenewell
Lori, Dan and smart-and-handsome Hayden Buckfire
Amy, Chris, and magical Matthew Kay
Julie, Tyler, and precious Natalie Gibbs
John and Nancy Carroll
Melissa Marzorati-Bergmann and family
Joann Wilcox
Sybil Kenewell
Madeline and cutie-pie Campbell Parks (and Tara and Doug)

Thank you so much to such great friends and family! This means so much to our family...it is fun for the kids to be involved in doing something special in honor of their family members!