Lucky Thirteen

May 30

Today I sat in Chair 13 in the Chemo Room.  My chemo friend Spunky was there; she is twenty-seven and was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma cancer in January after she felt a lump near her collarbone.  She has a two-year-old and a wonderful husband and family.  We get each other; she is only other person under fifty I have met in the Chemo Room.  She–miraculously–still has her hair, but Hairy would be a pretty terrible nickname for her.  We both have a kick-some-cancer-ass attitude: thankful for the technology, the doctors, the treatment.  Chemo is our friend; we clink IV poles and talk about how this is the most expensive girls day out we’ll ever do.  Ha! We met Newbie when she sat down near us; she is a 52-year-old woman who had a normal mammogram in December, and then felt a swollen lymph node in her armpit two weeks ago.  Now she has Stage III breast cancer.  She walked in today, with her husband, with her brave smile, and I was drawn to talk to her: she reminded me of myself nine weeks ago, on my first chemo treatment.  We chatted for an hour; she has eight chemo treatments in her schedule, and she is dedicating one chemo to each of her children and grandchildren.  She is writing a letter to each of them on their day while she sits in her recliner.  Spunky and I debriefed her.  She calls us “you young ‘uns.” Spunky, Newbie, and I all have positive attitudes about life, and life with cancer.  If the three of us were in school, we would be the ones that the poor teacher would be pleading with us to pay attention and stop making such a ruckus.  I hope our laughter is contagious; I hope our Wednesday drip party continues to grow. When I was diagnosed, I knew right away, thanks to Dr. Awesome, that surgery was not an option for me.  As in, there is too much cancer; the cancer is too large to cut.  (Yikes.)  Surgeons strive for, they need, clean margins when they cut.  There is no point in cutting out some cancer if you know you are leaving cancer behind.  My early...

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May 29

Ahhh.  Summer. I know there’s the whole equinox thing that happens in mid-June, but, to me, the awesomeness that is summer is defined by the opening and closing of the pool.  On Saturday, I told Maren, “It’s summer!  The pool is open.” She frowned at me, “No, it’s not summer Mom.” Me, spluttering, “What?” “Miss Fun hasn’t changed the season board at school from spring to summer.”  She fixes me with her steady, knowing gaze, “So it’s spring.”  If I have learned anything over the past year, it is that Miss Fun is the authority over these matters. I debated going into the whole equinox explanation, but decided that should be a job for Chief Sister.  I just reminded her that preschool is done for the year now, and poor Mommy is hot, and canwejustgotothepoolalready?  So we did.  We actually went to the pool Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of opening weekend.  It’s probably the first time that happened since I was eleven or so.  Maren, for the first time ever, picked up where she left off last year.  She can swim from one side of the pool to the other.  It’s not pretty (at all) but she does it.  I am both proud and terrified that I am not her security blanket when she is in the water. Greta does not know what to make of it.  She’s happy in our bathtub at home, but between the sunscreen, the swimsuit, the rash guard, the hat, and the Coast Guard certified floatie, she is not happy about the pool.  I guess I can’t blame her.  I remember detesting life jackets as a small child.  She will let me hold her on my hip while I stand in the water, but that is about it.  I’m not worried; she’ll be a water baby by August.  Last year, she was usually asleep in the stroller with a battery fan blowing on her; she’s grown so much. A neighborhood reunion of sorts always takes place at the pool.  Everyone who has been waving from their cars all winter can finally catch up on real life happenings.  I always enjoy seeing kids nine months older and new babies and new families.  We have changed...

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May 24

*Updated: The Nail Protocol is at the bottom of this post. The nail thing is not just a vanity issue.  This new chemo drug is going to make my fingernails and toenails die; it won’t be pretty.  Eventually new ones will grow in.  I am okay with this; chemo is killing the cancer, so chemo can have my hair and my nails and whatever else necessary!  The problem with the whole weakened nail situation is if my nails fall off before the new ones grow in, I am vulnerable to infection.  My immune system is compromised, so I am to avoid infection.  Can you see the cycle?  So, I feel a need to do what I can to protect my nails. Today I went to a beauty supply store.  I was looking for a product that said “this will help your nails be strong if you are chemo patient.”  Not surprisingly, after scouring the nails section, I did not find any bottles or potions with that phrase emblazoned on the front.  I resorted to asking the sales clerk for some assistance.  She walked me back to the aforementioned nail section and gestured at the bottles and potions saying that all of these would be good.  With a wave of her hand, she recommended about seventy products.  (Sigh.) I was about to give up and leave when the young woman standing next to me side-stepped closer and said, “I am a Nail Technician, and here is the protocol I recommend for my clients who are chemo patients.”  She then launched into a specific, multi-step process, and recommended three specific products that have yielded her clients good results.  Wow.  I thanked her profusely, I bought the products she recommended, and I now have a plan to execute.  I really felt like that woman was there, today, for me.  She side-stepped into my world and helped me in a very real way.  She problem-solved for me.  She could have overheard my conversation with the clerk and ignored it.  She could have come into the store ten minutes earlier, or ten minutes later, and we never would have met.  While we were talking, she mentioned the salon that she works for; it is...

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From Chair 18

May 23

I’m thumb-typing on my phone from the chemo room; the wifi is down again. But I have a warm blanket, a friendly gal in Chair 17, and some hot tea so I am happy! I do get to have my chemo today; Dr. Wonderful gave me the all clear. In his words, “I don’t want to give the cancer a break.” Right on! Today I am switching to a new chemotherapy protocol. I am sad to be finished with the two drugs I have been on over the past eight weeks: they have made the cancer smaller; they have served me well. Dr. Wonderful thinks I’m a bit nutty to be nostalgic about the old drugs because they are some of the harshest chemo drugs and have “severe” side effects. I tolerated them pretty well though; in fact, after my first dose I told him he could hit me harder because I was prepared for much worse. One milestone is passed, I am on to the next leg. Today I get my first dose of a new chemotherapy drug. Overall, the side effects are supposed to be less. Except that it can be very rough on fingernails and toenails. Is it weird to ask you to pray for my nails? That they would stay on? I will receive this drug every week for twelve weeks. In addition, I also start receiving a new biological drug (not a chemo drug). It is going to inhibit the growth of the tumor by blocking its growth mechanism. Early in the process, Dr. Awesome predicted that this drug would make my tumor “melt like butter.” Isn’t that the best description? I’m all snuggled up under my warm blanket and feel cozy knowing that right now the cancer is being strangled. I love knowing that! I will receive this drug weekly as well, and then will continue to receive it for years. Maybe it is me, but I love having something on the calendar for years to come! Chemo is hitting my veins in a couple of minutes. (First I have to finish my pre-meds: anti-nausea, steroids, saline, etc.) It might be weird, but I totally feel like raising a glass (or my IV...

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May 22

Sorry, I have no link for the news story about breast cancer awareness.  Apparently, I am to remain visually anonymous for a while longer.  The sentiment was that we are hopeful, optimistic, and relying on God as we navigate this journey. It’s been a busy couple of days.  Maren had her end of year recital; it was adorable and I laughed so hard I cried.  We had great time with friends.  We had a great time with family, and celebrated another anniversary of my mom’s twenty-ninth birthday.  Brad and I went on an honest-to-goodness date; I love him.  My kids have bounced between our team of caregivers and are thriving and growing.  Maren has about sixteen new freckles on her nose.  Greta’s hair is noticably getting longer–edging past that baby baldness. I’ve gotten a lot of quality time in with loved ones: Maren and I created some pretty spectacular art on the patio with sidewalk chalk.  Greta and I read a bunch of new books; her intonations could make the phone book seem thrilling.  Brad and I are feeling more connected and in sync.  Face time with friends and family has been awesome.  All of these meaningful experiences are happening because there are so many hands lifting us up: Phenom, Shine (our fabulous new babysitter), and NanaWoz are loving our kids, our fridge and freezer are full, and our date was free thanks to gift cards from lovely, generous people.  Tonight my house is spotless and I feel like Cinderella because my very own Fairy God Mother cleaned my house today.  Ahhhhh.  It just feels good to soak in these blessings. Last night I came down with a random cold, and am feeling run down.  The “good” news is that I am at the “strong” point regarding my immune system.  If I’d gotten this cold last week, I might have landed myself in the hospital because my body might not have been able to cope alone.  Tomorrow is supposed to be Chemo Day #5.  I’ll see Dr. Wonderful first and he’ll decide whether to delay chemo due to my cold.  Obviously, I’ll defer to his judgment.  However, I do hope I get to stay on schedule with my chemo....

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