Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!


  What a week!  Last chemo, false eyelashes, weak muscles, new cravings, and amazing inspiration from fellow survivors.
                       (Photo: Chemo nurse Doug, me, and my husband Kent)
  Yes, we celebrated my last chemo treatment, but the side effects came on a bit stronger than last time.  I kept busy on the weekend with volleyball and baseball tournaments, and the fuzzy, icky feelings started kicking in Sunday evening.  Monday was a lump-on-the-couch crummy day, and Tuesday was similar, except added a light-headedness to the mix.  I got to feeling partially human Tuesday night, so decided work would be okay Wednesday, bright and early at 3am!
  False eyelashes now add about ten minutes to my getting ready time.  I have about six lashes on each eye, and since I've been using Latisse for several months, they are long...but look pretty skimpy, even with mascara.  No eyelashes is almost as big of a visual shock as no hair.  I thought I looked like an old man with no I look like a turtle!   I asked our beautiful lifestyle correspondent, Amanda Chamberlain to hook me up with eyelash advice, and her friend MaryAnn did a segment on the morning show to show me how to make the best of the four dollar fake lashes from the drug store.  If I could see close-up (weird chemo vision changes) and get my fingers to be a bit more steady, I bet I could get good at this.  Hopefully I won't have to do it for long!
  I have always looked at chemo and cancer as something I will deal with TEMPORARILY.  And it is!  My hair is starting to grow fuzzy, little, white strands.  Makes me think of a tufty, baby bald eagle, or the ugly duckling!  You think- no way will that thing grow into a pretty bird!  The jury's still out on what will happen in the weeks to come, but I know whatever happens, it's chemo's fault!  No one has to know that my hair was mostly white before.  It's coming in solid white, and it's because of chemo, got it?
  I've been told that it helps to stay active with walking or some kind of workout while you go through chemo, but I haven't followed that advice.  Busy, napping, just didn't make the time to do it...and now I'm feeling the effects.  My muscles feel like I just worked out, but don't look like it!  It seems like stretching gets my circulation pumping and I'm hoping that will give me a boost as I try to get back in shape to coach volleyball this summer.  (Long road ahead, girls!)
                           (Photo: Ringing the bell to celebrate final chemo!)
  As for the weird eating habits of chemo...I'm still pretty ticked that I've gained weight!  When the taste-buds are weak, I seem to need more food to fill the gap!  Mexican food has been at the top of the list all four months of chemo, but lemon is a new craving!  I've always liked lemon desserts, because of the strong flavor, and it's not too sweet...but I've never craved it like I have this week.  I had a scoop of lemon sorbet covered in fruit loops the other night.  Last night, a slice of lemon meringue pie.  Big flavor, big calories, bigger Mary!  (But it's temporary!!!)
  My Mother's day weekend has been fantastic and more than memorable!  When you kick things off on Saturday morning with a gathering of thousands to support the fight against breast cancer, you can't go wrong!  We got my son to baseball, then my husband, daughter and I attended the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Salt Lake City.  As we hung out in the Survivor's Cafe, the organizers asked me to carry the "Newly Diagnosed" sign in the Survivor's March to the stage.  I was humbled, and honored to carry the sign for other women who are less than a year from diagnosis.  A few of these beautiful ladies I got to meet were diagnosed while they were still breastfeeding little babies.  Young moms going through this like another week of carpool duty!  Amazing strength, and showing that there is something so valuable to fight for.  Others diagnosed at Stage 4, and fighting for their lives.  All of us know the percentages, and know there is hope.
               (Photo from Komen's facebook: Survivors March)
  I also got to meet some friends in person for the first time!  Facebook, email, and blog friends I've come to know personally, but hadn't met face to face!  And my chemo-buddy Nancy came up to say hello.  Her team of 70 did the race, and pushed her in a wheelchair because she had a pretty rough week after her chemo #5.  She helped me carry the sign to lead the march, and her strength gave me more support!
   So many incredible ladies... our neighbors, teachers, sisters, moms and daughters... with amazing stories of power and support.  They inspire and energize me to push, and keep fighting.  Not only fight cancer, but fight to spread the word about early detection, and help raise money to find a cure.  Ten years from now, we should still gather for support, but hopefully we will have a cure.  Our goal should then be to increase early detection, raise money to pay for treatment, and maybe find a vaccine to prevent it!
   To top off the Mother's Day weekend, my kids and hubby took me to see The Avengers!  It was incredible if you love action and humor...which is exactly what I love at the theater! And it makes you wonder if we can invent a cancer killing super hero that doesn't cause as much collateral damage.  Let's get busy!  And Happy Mother's Day!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Excited for chemo?

  My last chemo treatment is tomorrow, and I am excited and eager, like it's a birthday party or something!  Yes, I will still be hooked up to an IV drip of poison for three hours...and it will make me feel crappy for a few days...and it will make my feet a bit more numb, and my taste-buds funny...but for the last time!  During my fifth treatment three weeks ago, I saw my first "last timer."  It was emotional to see the nurse give her a special bottle of sparkling cider...then all eyes and smiles followed her to the big brass bell on the wall.  She beamed as she tugged on the rope a few times, and the solid ringing symbolized her victory.  Most of us teared up with happiness for her.  She is a survivor!
  This really isn't the last of the battle, just one segment.  Diagnosis is a big hit to deal with, so I consider that the first challenge.  For me, the next hurdle was the surgery, and for that, my trust is in the doctors to get everything out, and for my body to heal.  I was lucky to not have big scars or too much recovery pain, and I felt better quickly.  Chemo has been the longest, toughest part of this ordeal, and the end is in sight!
  I started chemo more than four months ago, and I will be feeling the effects for another month or more.  My amazing husband reminds me that when I tell people I feel "great," I am deceiving them, because I really feel some effects all of the time.  Great to me on chemo is about 90% of the normal Mary.  (Not that this Mary is ever really normal!)  There is numbness in my feet and toes that doesn't affect how I do my job, so I wiggle my toes a lot and deal with it.  There is vision change, that could affect my job, but it is fleeting and adjusts back quickly.  The taste-bud thing is just irritating, and this last round it lingered longer and still is a bit odd.  Other body aches and head fog I can ignore, but it does start to be a pain in the butt to always be hurting a little bit.
  I've only had a couple of pity parties, that thankfully took less than an hour to get out of my system.  If you find me shaking my head in disgust, it's that little nagging voice inside, saying, "Is it over yet?"  That's why I'm excited!  That voice will be gone soon, and my body will start recovering.  My hair will slowly grow back, and I might start to feel like normal Mary some day.
  As I start getting the residual effects of chemo out of my body, I will begin radiation treatments.  That is yet another segment of this battle against cancer.  Chemo kills any roaming cells that might have gotten loose in my body, and radiation will zap any tiny clusters that might have stuck around near the tumor site.  It's something that has to be done.
  These battles haven't changed me, and they have changed me.  So far, I think I'm still the happy, caring, stubborn, smart-aleck of a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and co-worker I've always been...but I'm also stronger, wiser, and more appreciative of everything around me.  I am a survivor too, and will strive to keep that label for a long time!