Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feelin' Good

Howdy! It's been awhile!

I am truly feeling good. Though I been off of chemo for almost 4 months now, I am now feeling like my 'old self' - which is great! I have found myself working on projects that were completely ignored or done half-assed over the past 9 months. I have even cleaned out & reorganized closets!

And in all my regained energy, I have decided to take on a new endeavor - selling Avon. My mom is retiring from her Avon business and I will pick up where she left off. And since we are closing the BBC at the end of this week, Avon is my new 2nd job.

The end of the BBC is very bittersweet for me. Our shop has been a source of great pride for my mom & I. We love our customers & making new friends, but we have also been tethered to that building for almost 9 years. It will be quite strange for us to have Saturdays off. Mom & Dad are very much looking forward to being able to go to Colorado & visit grand babies! I'm looking forward to being able to say "yes!" when a friend asks me to do something on a weekend.

As we just celebrated Christmas and are now looking forward to a New Year, I hope you don't mind indulging me while I get kinda sentimental.

2011 was a hell of a year.  Period.  And while I am grateful for the experiences & lessons learned, I am more grateful to kiss 2011 goodbye.

2011 taught me many things:
* I am one tough chick.
* I look great bald.
* Help is never far away if you are humble enough to ask.
* Love and faith are the biggest healers there are.
* It's okay to cry - a lot.
* Prayer works.
* God truly works in mysterious ways.

I hesitate to make resolutions, because they seem to set a person up for failure. Instead, I wish for good health for my kids, my parents, myself, my extended family & all my friends. Good health is priceless. I wish to be of assistance to those who are going through health struggles of their own. I feel that I will be guided to those who need me.

Thank you is not enough to everyone who helped me, prayed for me, sent me cards & goodies, cooked for me, watched my kids or came over to visit me. I'm sure there are hundreds of other kindnesses that I failed to mention, but I am grateful for each and every one of them. I hope to be able to pay them all forward tenfold.

The Happiest of New Year's to you,
Marjie

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You love me, you really love me! Right?

So, here I am at home on a Wednesday afternoon. To what do I owe this pleasure?? 

I won the lottery!!  Puking kid. 

Welcome to reality folks.

After doing personal bookwork, because I DIDN'T win the lottery and still have to think about money, I decided to hit up my usual cyber-haunts: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Poker on Miniclip. You know what I decided after visiting these sites???  I'm friggin' popular!!

Okay, not really.

The internet & social media have done a fan-tab-ulous job of bloating our self-worth. 
We have 'friends' on Facebook!
Your friends 'like' your posts!
We have 'followers' on Pinterest or Twitter!
We can +1 ourselves on Google...(whatever the flip that means)

The coolest one is the 'followers.'   Think about it, it's like you have your own tribe or gang; people 'following' your every move. Awesome!

It is soooo awesome, that I tricked all of you friends & followers into reading about my pukey, feverish kid!  (insert evil laugh here.)

There's no moral to today's post. I'm just bored and I suck at poker. Good thing it's online funny-money poker, because seriously, I have NOT won the lottery. Yet.


BTW - Feeling great after my treatments were completed on Nov. 7th! Woot! Woot!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spring & Opportunities

Can you feel it? Fall...my favorite time of year.

It's cool, not cold. Nature's colors are striking. The smell of wood smoke and fall baking fills the air.

And that's all great, but right now I'm ready for spring...my personal spring.

Yes, ready for the re-birth of my body from the horrible cancer treatments of the last 6 months. My hair has finally pushed through the scalp and I have about a 1/4" of fuzz up there. My fingernails are slowly, slowly growing out, hiding the signs of chemo. My scars are becoming more invisible by the day. And soon, the redness of radiation burns will be a distant memory.

Women have problems with body image to start with, so the effects of cancer treatments are especially cruel to the fairer sex. We are conditioned to have good hair, smooth skin, flawless nails. All of that goes out the window. You really get to where you hate to look in the mirror. You get used to it, but you still hate it.

Yes, folks, my spring is coming.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. I've also come to appreciate some of side effects. I saved a ton of money on razors & shampoo this summer. I packed for a weekend get-away and only had to take a back-pack. When's the last time you packed that lightly? No hairbrush, no razor, no curling iron, no hair dryer. I could eat whatever I wanted this summer, doctor's orders. I caught up on my sleep - good drugs!

And most importantly, I've taken time to count my blessings.

Sure, I cursed, ranted, raved, cried & screamed. Sometimes it was all too much for one person to handle. But then I remembered it wasn't just me. God was with me. My family was with me. My friends were with me.

Maybe the cancer was my opportunity to see the blessings in my life? I think this scene sums it up pretty well.


Life is full of opportunities.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lab rats, mice & guinea pigs, Oh My!

Happy Hump Day!!!!!!  

That was the message from my radiation oncologist today...I am half-way through my 30 treatments!! Today was #16. Other than the daily drive, this is a walk in the park! I am starting to turn pink and by the end of it I will have the most effed up looking 'sunburn' you will ever see! Not that you'll see it though. :)

I have 99.9% decided to go on a clinical trial for a drug that has shown promise in reducing the recurrence rate of breast cancer, hence the title of today's blog. This is a decision I have really struggled with over the past couple of weeks. The good thing is that it is an established drug, so doctors already know the side-effects. The bad thing is that it is a double-blind study, which means neither I nor my doctor will know whether I will be receiving the drug or the placebo.

About the drug, it is called Metformin. It is used in patients with Type 2 diabetes to lower insulin levels. Doctors in Britain noticed that diabetes patients who had had breast cancer & had taken Metformin for diabetes had an almost 56% less chance of recurrence than other diabetics. Scientists are finding a link between the amount of insulin your body produces and the chance that you may develop breast cancer, apparently breast cancer cells 'feed' on insulin, so lowering the insulin may help lower the risk of recurrence.

It really took a lot of soul searching & prayer to come to this decision. At first I was afraid of how I would react if finding out I was on the placebo & my cancer came back. How would I take that on an emotional & mental level? How would my body react to the drug? It can't be any worse than chemo was, right?

In the end, it was my radiation oncologist that helped the most. Her advice was to "not feel guilty" what ever I chose to do. She was right. I was stressing about it too much. And knowing what kind of cancer I had, I will take any weapon I can put in my arsenal.

Please pray for me to get the drug - not the placebo!!! :)

In other news, Svensk Hyllningsfest came and went - whoosh! My mom's lung infection has reared it's ugly head again, but doesn't seem to be tucking it's tail and running from the antibiotics this time. Pray for her, too. Looks like we will be visiting with some pulmonary specialists soon. Mom's the one who taught me to fight, so I'll be right there with her the whole time, fighting some more.

So with that, everybody take a deep breath, have a moment of Zen, and keep us in your prayers. You are all in mine.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just Call Me Freckles

Alrighty then! So far so good on the radiation front - 3 treatments down, only 27 more to go!

 As you'll recall in my last post, I was last entrenched in an epic battle for the good of the Republic in the MRI machine. Now I'm stuck in the middle of rush hour in NYC in the middle of radiation.

HHOOOOOOONNNKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!

Yeah, that's the lovely sound the radiation machine makes while it is shooting me full of...well, radiation.

I started the week with an appointment for radiation simulation. I know the techs are highly skilled, and it's an important thing to do, and there's a PHYSICIST that develops my treatment plan (yes - Physicist!!) but the whole morning felt like tic-tac-toe for beginners. By the time I left my chest was covered with purple x's & o's, little dots, and what I'm pretty sure was the beginnings of a abstract self-portrait of one of the techs. Add all that to the existing scars, port & overall asymmetrical look of my body right now, and I looked pretty hot!

On Tuesday I went back to make sure all the pictures, x-rays, CT scans & MRI's lined up with all the pretty pictures they drew the day before. Hooray! I passed!

So, I'm up on the Frankenstein reanimation radiation table that moves by remote control (!), right arm over my head, looking at the pictures of Happy Little Trees on the ceiling (seriously, there is a picture of trees on the ceiling), cancer-y area exposed for all to see and UP pops my doctor.

Seriously.

From out of nowhere she appears. Like a twisted game of whack-a-mole. Does she have a super secret series of tunnels under the clinic? Can she just pop up where ever she wants??  Apparently I'd never realized how short she was until I was hovering 5 ft. in the air, cause she has a dedicated stool to stand on so she can talk to patients while they're on the table. Thank goodness she didn't scare me, cause my ass would have fallen that 5 ft. onto a very cold, hard tile floor.Luckily I only got a case of the giggles, which I passed on to Dr. Luder, then to one tech, then the other. Probably took us about 2 minutes to get control of ourselves enough to be serious about the radiation.

Then I got tattoos. What a let down.

I'd been anticipating the whole tattooing thing for months, it's been my mental joke since I don't like needles. "I didn't go out and get drunk then get a tattoo, I just got cancer."

It's definitely not like you see on LA Ink. No Kat Von D, no cool designs, hell...there wasn't even a tattoo gun. WTF??? They dabbed ink on me, then jabbed me with a diabetic testing needle thingy - HARD! Like a prison tattoo, or some old-school tribal junk where they use a sharpened stick & a hammer. And one stick for each blot of ink, that's it.

Basically, I have 7 new freckles. Booo-rrrr-ing.

And now that I have tattoos, they use laser beams to line me up and...HHHHOOOOONNNNKKKKK!!!!!!

Ugh.

Really? That's the sound it has to make? It can't play the first few bars of Beethoven's 5th? or even Yankee Doodle Dandy??

No.

HHHHHOOOONNNNNNKKKKK!!!!!!

At least I have Happy Little Trees to look at.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm the girl who wouldn't wear PINK

Two weeks ago today I had my last chemo treatment!
Woot, woot, Holla!!!!!!!

Still a little numb & sore, but I have mostly come out of all that crap.
Woot, woot, Holla!!!!!! 

I even enjoyed an adult beverage or two last night. I haven't had more than a 1/2 a glass of anything in months, so the tolerance is gone
Woot, woot, Holla!!!!!!


And, in the last week, I did something I've never done in my life...bought a PINK shirt.  No big deal, right? SUPER BIG DEAL for me, 'cause I'm the girl who wouldn't wear PINK. Mom says the last time I wore PINK was probably when I was 2 and she was still dressing me. So, that's about 33 years of un-PINKness for this girl.

So what was so special about this PINK shirt?? I bought it from a group called Guardians of the Ribbon, which promotes cancer awareness & healing for women with all types of cancer, not just breast cancer. This group and 'Nicki', their PINK fire truck, was in Lindsborg this past weekend for an event called "Battle of the Buses," sponsored by Lindsborg Community Hospital. This was a kick-off event for fundraising efforts for the PINK FUND at the Hospital - to assist locals with the costs associated with cancer screenings. Happenings throughout the day included a 'Bling Your Bra' art show, a hamburger feed and a fire truck pull. Such a fun day!!!

And I'm here to tell you, pulling a fire truck is hard work!!!  Seriously hard!! I had 6 big, strapping guys on my team and us 4 women were no slouches, but it seemed like it took forever for that fire truck to move! See the video below, and notice the 'cheaters' we had pushing from behind - which we didn't know about until we saw the video later!

Pulling Nicki

The best part of the day was my kids getting to sign their names on Nicki. This fire truck is covered with messages written by survivors & their families. It was a great visual for my kids, getting to see just how many lives are affected by this awful thing we call cancer.

I don't have millions to give away, and you probably don't either (but if you do...call me!!), but every little bit we do to support each other in this fight gets us that much closer to a cure.

And for a cure, I'll wear PINK every day.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Stay calm and breathe...

"But it's the LAST one," my brother said to me for the 3rd or 4th time. I think he even said it when we weren't talking about chemo at that particular moment. He was trying to wrap his head around it, just like I have been the past couple of days.

Thoughts of everything I want to do race in my head, but I have to put the brakes on and remind myself that while it WAS the last chemo, I'm not finished with treatment yet. First off, the side-effects of the chemo have to work their way out of my system. The achy-ness, the fatigue, the numbness in my hands & feet, the way things still taste a bit off. Oh, and hair. MAN, do I want hair!

But the thoughts of side-effects still don't erase the fact that I want a margarita party with everyone I know in attendance. That I want the biggest slice of chocolate silk pie you've ever seen - hell, give me the whole pie! That I want to jump in the car with my kids and travel & see everything there is to see in this wonderful nation, then the world. More than anything, I'm ready to live again, not just exist.

Now, on to the Adventures in Mammogram-Land...
When you're a woman and your doctor schedules a mammogram, your inner-voice automatically begins to whine like a petulant child - "I don't WANNA do a mammogram!!!!" Even if a mammogram has saved your life, it is still the shits. Some stranger, who feels just as awkward & nervous as you, gets to feel up your 'girls' and then put them in a vice-grip & THEN take a picture! Of all the medical tests that are out there, I believe mammograms should require dinner & drinks first. At my first mammogram this year, the tech totally agreed with me. She thought there should be tequila shots available for everyone in the waiting room, even for her.

So, Thursday, (the day after my LAST chemo!!) I had to have not one, but 2 different kinds of mammograms - double torture! After the boobie squishing, I wasn't sure there was a more uncomfortable way to check the girls. Guess what??? I found it - MRI mammograms!!! Holy beans. I'm pretty sure the CIA developed closed-MRIs as a method of torture. In a nut-shell (pun intended), it was total sensory deprivation.

This test involved everything: I had to have an IV. They forced "contrast" dye into my system. I had to lay face-down on a table and put my 'girls' in their own slots, so they're just hangin' there. They put headphones on me so I could hear 'music' to distract me. Then they rolled me back into a tiny tube.

So, there I am, poked, prodded, hangin', blind, deaf & trapped. Then the noises started. Seriously, I thought I had landed in some far-off space battle. Beeps, blasters, laser cannons - any noise you've heard in a Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica movie was coming out of that machine. Holy shit. Um...hello?? Where was the "music?" Maybe that was a bit of guitar hidden behind the alien annihilation soundtrack I was being treated to.

And the worst thing, while you're thinking you're being attacked, and you can't see, and you're still in a tube, YOU HAVE TO STAY CALM & BREATHE. WHAT??? For the love of Pete, this test sucks.

But I survived it, and am better for it. Right? Sure. Luckily, this test isn't ordered for every women, so hopefully you're escape it. My next step is radiation, which sounds like an absolute breeze compared with chemo and MRIs. Let's hope for the best. I go in on Sept. 19th to have radiation set up and get tattooed. Yep, that's right tattooed! Sucks that I had to get cancer in order to make myself get a tattoo. :) Unfortunately, it won't be anything cool, like a dragon or tramp stamp, just a couple of teeny-tiny green dots to help the radiation techs line me up in the machine each time. Boooorrrriiinnnnnggg!!!! Maybe I'll add to the collection sometime.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Every day is a Holy day

I don't think I truly understood the phrase "tears of joy" until this morning. While in the shower (of all places...) it really hit me that chemo is almost done. Like...REALLY hit me.

The whole summer came flooding back at once - the days hooked up to my drugs, visits with Dr. Johnson, countless needle sticks, seemingly endless stretches in bed, nausea, the horrible taste of food, piles of hair in my bed & the shower drain. All of that flashed in an instant.

What really permeated my memory was the kindness of strangers, the love of my family & friends, the words of encouragement, cards, flowers, help with everyday chores, the amazing ability of my kids to completely roll with the punches. These are the memories that will stick with me forever.

I know that I will never understand why cancer picked me. Not sure that I want to. But because of my diagnosis, I know these things: I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, my capacity for love and compassion has grown exponentially, and "Every day is a Holy day."

I put that last one in quotes because that simple phrase has become my mantra. I end each day with thanks to God for letting me have another day with my kids, another day to fight this cancer, another day to laugh, even another day to cry. Another day to say "I'm here, and I'm gonna LIVE!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Brave Whiner

I'm starting to come back out of the pit that was my 6th chemo treatment. This particular "cocktail" seems to really be good at kicking my butt. It's understandable, as a friend said today, "They ARE poisoning you." On the upside, I'm 75% done with chemo, only 2 more treatments to go! Woot!!

Not to sound pompous, but during this treatment I've thought a lot about bravery. A few weeks ago at the grocery store a friend stopped me and said I was "her hero" for the way I've fought cancer. I thanked her, but said "You'd do the same thing." And I think for most people, that's true. You fight, stay as strong as you can, but also start to feel very guilty when your strength wanes and vulnerability sets in. I know the guilt weighs on me terribly sometimes. When I'm at my lowest strength-wise is when I hit my lowest on an emotional level.

I don't think there's anything particularly brave about the way I've handled this. In fact, I think I'm kind of a whiner.

Boo hoo...I feel sore today. But I'm not in a coma.

Sniff...I couldn't keep food down. But I'm still here.

There are people all over the world going through much worse than I am. I hate to even think about it like that, like bargaining with God. "That sucks for them. Please don't give me that!" But that's what it is. I accept what I'm going through. I don't ask why. I thank God every night for the gift of another day, even if it's not a particularly good day. Today I was up and around, pretty good day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blogging...it's harder than it looks

Hello! Remember me? I didn't think so. I'm the girl who said she was going to update her blog often. Turns out, having a blog is harder than you think.

My goal was to update everyone on the progress of my fight against breast cancer (I'm winning, BTW!). With that goal in mind, whenever I thought to post something, I felt like I was whining about cancer, and that is NOT what I wanted to do. So I've decided to make this a blog about my life in general, with a dash of cancer stuff.

On the cancer front, counts are good & chemo sucks, but hasn't been as bad as I was anticipating. My doctor, who is awesome, changed my cocktail and I started a new treatment on June 29th. I felt good for 2 days then it kicked my ass. Seriously - felt like I had been hit by a truck and had to call in reinforcements - Mom & Dad. They were lifesavers! They watched my kids for 2 days, washed my dishes & did my laundry. I couldn't walk 20 ft. without getting winded and breaking out into a sweat. I was bad about taking my anti-nausea pills though, because I was good for 2 days - so......BAD MARJIE! I won't make that mistake again! The July 4th holiday was kind of a bummer since I didn't feel good, then Bob came to the rescue with 3 bags of fireworks for he & the kids. They did a great job of almost setting the neighbor's house on fire!

So, on to life stuff...I spent a great weekend playing golf with friends in Conway Springs. Bob and I played in the 2nd Annual Dilly's Place benefit tournament. It is a FUN event, hosted by some AWESOME people! The point of this is not to brag about my golf game...I sunk an 18 ft. putt on #8, then out-drove all the guys on #3..., but to tell you about Dilly's Place.

Dilly's Place is an organization that has one goal in mind...building a playground in Conway Springs that is accessible for kids of ALL-ABILITIES! The idea for this playground grew from a need for the disabled community to have a playground - because EVERY kid deserves to be a kid. The two ladies that spearhead this organization have a child/grandchild who is autistic and recognized this need first-hand. The need is great and the need for funds is even greater. Anyone who has put in a backyard playground knows they don't come cheap. Imagine trying to build and pay for a playground for an entire community.

If you are interested in helping to make this dream a reality, I encourage you to go to the Dilly's Place facebook page, find their address on the information section and send them a donation! If you are in the Conway Springs/Wichita area, give them a shout and ask how you can help.

To me, the best thing about this playground is that it will be designed to be non-exclusive, children of all abilities, big & small will have an area to play.

And that's all any of us want, an area to play. Right?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BLESSED!

So, I haven't written in a while. Not surprising though. I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to write or over-think when there are times of stress or reflection. I guess, its been a good week! Nothing pressing to write about. Except that I started loosing my hair. I'll post pics when I'm good & bald. It just looks patchy & gross now. ;)
I had my 2nd chemo treatment on Wednesday the 18th. Doc Johnson said my blood-work was "awesome" and that I'm taking to the treatment very well! I even asked him if I was getting enough...his response, "You want more?"  LOL, not exactly, I just want to make sure we're doing our damnedest to kick this cancer's ass! I don't plan on going though this again. He assured me that I'm not being under-medicated at all, in fact he's hitting with everything he has. Good.
Couldn't help but ask though, because I've been blessed with a lot of good days for a woman on chemo! I'm sure you've all heard the same stories, chemo patients constantly sick, nauseous, in pain. I was prepared to be one of those women, prepared to watch the summer go on by. I know that each treatment affects each patient differently, but I am truly amazed by how good I feel. Now that I'm through the 2nd dose, I have a pattern and know what to expect for the last 2 doses of these drugs. It could all change in July when I start a different "cocktail."
Its a good thing I'm feeling good, there are things to be done! There are kids to raise! There's work to do! There's golf to play! There are concerts to go to! (Seriously, George Clinton & Steve Martin both in Salina this summer! P-funk meets King Tut! Not the same day though, that would put the universe into chaos! Yes, yes, yes...I am a super eccentric music geek.)
And another good thing this week - today actually, my guy opened his new restaurant! Yeah!! If you're in or around Lindsborg, go check out The Brick House Grill!! I'm excited to have my appetite back in time for an awesome meal this week!
So, for this week, the word is BLESSED! I am blessed with a good attitude. I am blessed with awesome family & friends! I am blessed with an excellent medical team. I am blessed to be here, everyday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Where I'm supposed to be...

Not really sure how to start this thought, but I guess my feeling of late is "I'm where I'm supposed to be." How, you ask, can someone who has cancer be comfortable with where they are in life. It's horribly depressing to think about really. You start to feel the "why me's" coming on. Well...why not me?

For those that know me, I've had rough 2-3 years. I went through a divorce, changed jobs twice, moved 3 times and at one point was working 5 different part-time jobs to make ends meet, all while raising 2 boys. Last summer about this time my Mom starting to get very sick, eventually ending up in the hospital for weeks, then rehab, then staying at home while I worked full-time and left our shop in the care of high schoolers (who did a fabulous job!). It just seemed like none of us could catch a break. So we turn the calendar pages to February, everyone is feeling pretty good, although Mom is still on IV therapy for her infection. Cool.

Then...CANCER!  

WTF???? Where did that come from?

So, now that I've had some time to reflect on the whole thing, I firmly believe that things happen for a reason and that I'm where I'm supposed to be:

If I hadn't of gotten divorced, I probably would not of found the cancer until it was much more developed and possibly metastasized. What possible logic could I have for this? I found the tumor after I had my tubes tied, which I wouldn't have had done if I were still married.
If I hadn't of changed jobs twice I wouldn't have the outstanding boss & insurance that I have now. Mike Peterson, my boss, is wonderful, truly wonderful. He's allowed me to take care of my illness without having to stress about losing my job. That is trust & compassion I absolutely will not take for granted. If I'm feeling good, or even so-so...I'll be there for him.
If I hadn't of moved 3 times, I wouldn't be living in the great complex that I live in. Not only is it a nice place with wonderful neighbors & friends, it is income based. When the amount of hours I was able to work went down, the staff was willing to work with me.
Now, the last thing is much more difficult to accept, and I still struggle to understand the meaning or why's of my Mom's illnesses. Between lupus, kidney transplants, lung infections & blood clots, our family has had a long road, since about 1986. The only thing I can grasp is that by having witnessed the grace, humility & strength with which my mother has handled everything, I have a shining example of how to handle myself in my current predicament. And not only for myself, tons of people have been witness to my Mom's strength and hopefully it has inspired them as it has me.

So, are you where you're supposed to be?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dance Your Cares Away...

So...Yesterday was a GOOD day!!! All of my scans were clear, which means I am a Stage 2 cancer patient. Even though there was cancer in the nodes (which were all removed), my bone scan, CAT scan & all blood work came back clear. PRAISE GOD!!!  So, in celebration, I present a group of folks who can say it better than anyone:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7TTk_0XYn4

I honestly don't know who celebrates better than Fraggles, do you? ;)

Yesterday I had my first round of chemo. As far as the actual treatment goes - boooring! It's just me, with a little needle hooked up to Portia (what we named my infusaport). Over 2-1/2 hours I received an anti-nausea med, a steroid, and 2 separate chemo meds. After that, Mom & I headed to lunch, then to get all of my at-home meds - more anti-nausea, steroids & a sleeping pill.
I finally made it back to work at 2, and that lasted until 3:15 - I was wiped out and had a headache by this time. I headed to bed and basically stayed there, unless you count the 2 trips to the bathroom when the nausea meds didn't work. Blah.

Felling pretty good today, woke up about 9 when Bob came over to check on me & let Max, my super-duper dog, outside. Just been taking it slow. Dad took me back to the cancer center to get my Neulasta shot this afternoon. This shot boosts white blood cell production, to counter act the chemo, keeping me healthy as possible. Now I'm just relaxing a bit. It all wears you out pretty good, but from what the doctor & nurses say, the regimen that I'm on shouldn't be that bad. Since I'm doing chemo every 2 weeks for now, I might get lucky enough to have 1 good week in between. Hope so!

God Bless & love you all!!!!
Marjie

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm Fine. Really!

WARNING: Rant Ahead!

Is it wrong that I get annoyed by folks who ask me how I'm feeling while they have a horribly pained look on their face? It's not that I don't appreciate their thoughts, I do. Really, I do. But at the same time I want to say, "I'm not dying, I'm FIGHTING!!!"

Okay, that's out of the way. Sorry.

I know this makes me sound incredibly ungrateful. Cancer sucks and there's no debating that. It's just that I'm a 'glass is half-full' kinda gal. That's the one thing I do know about myself - I keep filling up everyone else's cups. Like that lovable waitress Flo from Mel's diner, I'm gonna fill up that cup and then give ya a sarcastic nugget straight outta my big mouth.

This fight is gonna be hard enough as it is, so if you see me wearing my mopey-pants, lift me up. Give me a little out of your cup and I'll do the same for you when you're running low.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just rollin' along...

What a week! Started out pretty low, having my 4th surgery since 2/25, but the week ended pretty well with some "unofficial" good news. So...let's get started!

Monday was a full day, beginning with a 2-D Echo-cardiogram at Lindsborg Hospital. This was not what I expected, having confused it with a EKG. Again I was suited up in a gown, and told to lay on my left side so the tech could essentially do a sonogram of my heart. Having long since passed the point of embarrassment, it didn't even bother me that the tech was trying to get around "my girls" in order to get the picture. They also recorded the sounds each of the 4 valves were making. I asked the tech if everything was okay, because to me it sounded like a drain backing up. She just laughed and said I sounded perfectly normal. So, Echo complete, I moved on to the Salina Surgical Hospital to have my chemotherapy infusaport placed.

Normal check-in procedures - I'm getting pretty adept at all this by now. For the actual surgery they decided to keep me "awake." Translation: "Yes, you will be awake, but we will pump you so full of drugs that we could amputate all 4 limbs and you wouldn't give a crap." That being said, this was supposed to be the easiest of the 4 surgeries I've had. I guess it was, it only took about 10-15 minutes for them to place the port. And as Dr. Macy was leaving the operating room he said he would see me later, to which I replied (in my drug induced stupor, "No offense, but I hope not."

So I'm wheeled out to recovery, which is a bank of recliners separated by curtains. I doze there for an hour or so...probably more. I'm able to eat some toast, drink so water and not feel nauseated, so I'm thinking this is great! Dad gets me all loaded up in the truck and off we go. We pick up the kids from school, go to the pharmacy then head for Dad's. When we get there I have a few crackers, take a pain pill and go to sleep for a while.

I should mention that I am SUPER sensitive to the narcotic pain meds & anesthesia, so I specially request pain killers that are non-narcotic. Fine. Great. SUPER! Right? WRONG!! Holy cow, from about 6 p.m. Monday night until 3 or 4 p.m. on Tuesday, I was one messed up chick. Nausea, headache, and eventually throwing up. I was supposed to go back to the hospital at 12:30 on Tuesday for a bone scan. Well I almost went to the hospital, but not for a bone scan. When the kids were at school on Tuesday I think my folks were ready to load me up and take me back in. Luckily after a few phone calls to the doctor, a dose of nausea meds & some heavy peach syrup, I was finally able to keep stuff down.

Handy tip: Syrup from cans of cling peaches helps nausea! Take a tablespoon every 20 minutes for an hour, then try some water or soda crackers an hour after your last sip of syrup. It works!!!

I finally got home around 6ish on Tuesday night. I was able to work most of the day Wednesday, all day Thursday, then back to testing on Friday when I finally had my bone scan. As far as tests go, the bone scan was the easiest. With the exception of getting another shot of radioactive isotopes, a bone scan is an excuse to nap for 20 minutes while a computer guided x-ray glides over my body. The tech for this test was one talkative lady! We discussed the Royal Wedding and eventually she asked my story. I gave her the Cliff's Notes version (should have given her a link to this blog!) and she agreed that I'm one lucky lady.

When the test was over, she looked it over and said I was "clean as a whistle!" while reminding me that she's not a doctor, but she did have 40 years experience in radiology & nuclear medicine. That was the first bit of good news I've gotten in weeks, so let's hope the doctors concur!

Wednesday I'll meet with Dr. Johnson, my oncologist, to discuss test results. Pray for clean results, please. That's all I can ask of each of you. As long as we don't find it anywhere else, I am in Stage 2, which the doctor said is completely treatable.

Also on Wednesday I begin my first chemotherapy treatment. I'm looking forward to getting more details on side effects for these particular drugs. We've all known someone who lost their hair, had nausea, but each drugs affects everyone differently. I shopped around for wigs on Friday and found a few styles I liked. I will probably be cutting my hair this week so it's not such a shock to me when the long stuff falls out. I've been growing my hair out for 2-1/2 years!!! Going bald is going to irritate me!!!! :)

To end the week, the boys, Bob & I took off for the Zoo with our friends the Orchards. It was a great, but cold, day! Shielah was right, I needed to get out and do something fun. Thanks girl, I appreciate it!!!

Thank you all for the prayers, well wishes, cards, flowers, etc. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful friends & family! I love you all.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Prayers for the South

No matter what each of us is struggling with in our lives, let us each take a moment and offer prayers for the folks down South who have been devastated by this week's weather.

I remember vividly the aftermath of the 1999 Haysville tornado. Leaving the Haysville city building, walking outside and seeing the destruction. I remember the smell, the horrible smell of earth, of natural gas, of people's livelihoods; all mixed together in a giant horrific blender then poured out for the world to see. And the sounds, an eerie stillness with the occasional shout of a name, the screaming of natural gas lines that hadn't been shut off yet. I remember what was left of the convenience store across the street, the parking lot filled with fire trucks, ambulances & police cars. Red lights lighting the splinters that were left.

Dear Lord, keep your loving arms wrapped around those whose lives have been torn apart by this terrible tragedy. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Down the 'Donut Hole'

All aboard! Today's tour stop was the Lindsborg Community Hospital for a CAT scan. Exciting, right???

I am pretty lucky to live in a small community that has a nice hospital. Most of my treatment will take place in Salina, but I am able to have a lot of my pre-treatment tests conducted in Lindsborg. It's so nice to leave 5 minutes before a scheduled appointment rather than 20-30 minutes.

I don't know if any of you have had a CAT scan, but to me, it was like sliding in & out of a giant donut. The Homer Simpson section of my brain kept thinking, "Mmmmm....sprinkles...", but sadly there was not a single sprinkle to be found. Prep for the procedure started the night before when I was lucky enough to drink 6 gallons of 'barium sulfate solution.' Sounds yummy, right? I know you're jealous.  What this stuff actually tastes like is the orange baby aspirin stuff we were subjected to as kids, before medical geniuses figured out how to make medicine taste like candy. A little bit of this tasty technology would be helpful right about NOW! I knew it was going to appetizing because the illustration on the bottle was of the digestive system...funky tummy and intestines strung all over that label. Gross.

So in the morning, I again, had to drink 6 gallons of the junk. Joy!  Okay, so it wasn't 6 gallons, probably about 20 oz. each time, but when something tastes like that, it seems like 6 gallons. I arrived at the hospital and was led to the giant donut room and had to change into a gown. By this time I'm thinking that I need to buy my own gown & have it personalized, save the hospital staff some laundry time.

I spend the next hour being poked with a needle for the 3rd time in 3 days & surfing back & forth through the donut, holding my breath when the polite computer voice tells me to. Between the sentinel node test 2 weeks ago, the barium & the contrast solution they injected into me today I am filled with enough radioactivity to be glowing, or at least sprouting a 3rd eye somewhere.

By the end of the CAT scan ended I was so starved that I went to the grocery store for  - coffee & DONUTS! And so that concludes the medical portion of our tour for today! Watch your step as you leave the train & step on to the platform.

I wanted to include a picture of something my youngest drew the other day:
This is a chalk drawing he did on the sidewalk in front of our house. He said it's our future - the three of us, a house of our own with a fire place & chimney, a playhouse & an apple tree. 
This is why I'm fighting. 

He's only 5 and doesn't understand the impact that drawing has on me. I had to take a picture of it before the rain washed it away. I'll probably frame it, so the three of us can remind ourselves each day why we're fighting. 

Have a good night & God Bless!
Marjie

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away!

Roll up, roll up for the magical mystery tour, step right this way.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up (AND) THAT'S AN INVITATION, roll up for the mystery tour.
Roll up TO MAKE A RESERVATION, roll up for the mystery tour.
The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away,
Waiting to take you away.


Great lyrics right? You can hear the song in your head as you read the words. Heck, maybe you even start to sing it a bit. Then you start to think about it and it becomes much more than just a fun Beatles song, its starts to have some meaning...we're all on a Magical Mystery Tour. Our reservations are made by a higher power and just by being born we're along for the ride. Well this blog is going to be about my ride. Good thing I always wear my seat belt, cause it's been bumpy and the road signs I've been reading all say "Caution! Curves Ahead!!"

On April 5, 2011, my life was turned upside town when I was told that I had breast cancer. At 35 with 2 small kids, this was an absolute nightmare. I put on a brave face and told everyone that "I was going to kick cancer's ass" but I was terrified.

I think my journey to diagnosis is very unusual, but a happy accident. Just over a month earlier, on Feb. 25th I had a laproscopic tubal ligation surgery. It was very routine, no big deal at all. I had the surgery on a Friday and by the next Tuesday my right armpit area was sore & tender. The soreness progressed until Thursday when it was painful. In the shower that morning I was feeling the area when I found a small lump in between my right breast & the armpit. I decided to call Dr. Bachamp, my OB/GYN, and have it checked, even though I had been there just a month earlier. She ordered a mammogram & sonogram, then referred me to a surgeon, Dr. Macy. He decided to remove the lump rather than do a needle biopsy. My lumpectomy was scheduled for March 31st. Neither doctors were worried about the lump, both believing that it would be benign.

The next Tuesday, April 5th my surgeon called and said the news was "Kind of a bummer, there was some cancer in the tumor."  Kind of a bummer......probably the biggest understatement I've ever heard. From that phone call, my parents and I were in his office just hours later to get a better understanding of what was going on and to schedule another surgery. (are you keeping track...this would be #3!) On the 7th I was back in the operating room, after a brief stop in radiology. Radiology did what they call a Sentinel Node dye test. Essentially they inject radioactive dye into the area where the tumor was removed, have me massage myself (yes, you're probably thinking the same inappropriate things that I am...), then use an x-ray to see if the dye worked itself into a particular lymph node. In my case, no such luck, which meant the removal of all the lymph nodes.

By this time I was comparing the radiology department to underground catacombs, or some complex bunker system. I was laying in a bed the whole time while my chauffeur, Justin wheeled me everywhere. It all started to blend in, I was thoroughly lost and they hadn't even given me drugs yet! After the x-ray, I was subjected to another 'procedure' where they inserted a metal wire into my breast area, marking where the tumor was previously removed. If it wasn't shocking enough to look down and see a wire/needle thingy sticking out of your boob, I was seriously unprepared for what came next. The techs covered the needle by taping a styrofoam cup over the needle, so I wouldn't bump it. Visions of Madonna & Lady Gaga were now in my head. I remarked to the techs that my bra cup size was now "8 oz."

A pause here to tell you, that if you don't know me, sarcastic, inappropriate & wickedly funny things sometimes come out of my mouth. I apologize if anyone is offended, but if you're that sensitive, you probably shouldn't be reading this!!! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Okay, so now I'm back at surgery waiting, showing of my new accessory to my parents & boyfriend, who didn't know whether to laugh, cry or be offended. Humor is my weapon, so I use it often. Just a short stop here so the lovely anesthesiologists can mercifully drug me before I am wheeled down yet another hall and into the operating room where, by the way, it is freezing. I remember the mask being over my mouth for about 7 1/2 seconds and then nothing until I wake up in recovery and my right side is on fire. I usually try to tough out the pain, but man, this was bad. I remember at least 2 shots of morphine, but there may have been a third, who knows at this point.

Now we're moving again, wheeling me up to my room. This surgery was a lot more invasive than the other two, so I get to be an over-night guest of Salina Regional Health Center. Good thing too, because I was seriously out of it. When the nurses had to get me up to move to the bed in my room I'm pretty sure I cried. My side was screaming, maybe I was too. So there I lay, drifting in and out, quite sure I was talking to myself at times, trying to figure out what they could have done to me to make it so painful. When I became more lucid I discovered that I had a new friend - a drain bag which was eventually named Herbie.

This is getting really, really long, isn't it? Sorry!

So, recovery @ hospital, then recovered 2 days at my parents house. Now fast forward to Tuesday, April 12th when I get another "bummer" from the surgeon - cancer found in 12 of the 29 lymph nodes they removed. I spent that afternoon in a puddle created by yours truly. The next day was better and by Thursday the 14th we were back in Dr. Macy's office to get the full lab report. Although the news is still bad, Dr. Macy believes that he got all of the cancer that was present and a lot of healthy tissue surrounding it, just to be sure. Surgically, there's nothing else he can do, so I get an appointment with an oncologist, Dr. Johnson, who is HIGHLY recommended. All of my doctors are wonderful people and talented physicians, all highly recommended by other patients & hospital staff.

Yesterday, the 20th I met Dr. Johnson and I have decided that I love him. He is very plain spoken, not a whole lot of "doc talk" with him. He mapped out a treatment plan, literally - he made me a diagram of what tests, treatments & how long they will take. What a wonderful resource! So now, we're moving along pretty well. Had blood drawn today, have a CAT scan tomorrow, 2-D echo on Monday, catheter for Chemo inserted on Monday & a bone scan on Tuesday.

Chemo should start around May 4th. Waiting is the hardest part, but looking at the calendar, we have wasted no time in getting on the road to recovery, starting the next leg of the Magical Mystery Tour.

More later, I don't want to bore you now. I promise to keep this updated. And I will REALLY TRY to not make posts this long ever again!
Feel free to comment, but keep it positive!!! I've no time for Negative Nellies on this journey!!

Buckle up & have a safe trip!
Marjie