The story of the shell with a heart

Mar 28

The story of the shell with a heart

A few months ago, Maren came whirling in from the bus on a blustery cold day.  She was spewing hysterical tears and choking on her words. I, of course, am checking to see which limb is missing, or whether her backpack is on fire, or if she has been hit by a car. It was that kind of crying. She was finally able to splutter out, “I lost my shell!” I’m thinking, “Shell?  What shell?”  And then I remembered. Last summer she and I went on a beach walk together.  As we walked and talked, we looked for treasures.  We held hands, we leaped over and into the waves, we bent and examined creatures, we carried a bucket with our keepers.  By far, her favorite thing that we found that day, and maybe the only beach treasure she took home with her to Ohio, was a small shell with a heart carved into it by the waves.  You know how often a particular shape of seashell (I don’t know what they’re called) ends up with a hole at one end … perfect for stringing onto necklaces (tell me I’m not the only one who has done that)?  This shell, however, was pretty special in the way that a heart had been carved not in the tip of the shell, but right along the face of it.  There is no reason the water should crush across a shell to form that kind of shape.  The majesty and magic of the ocean is always overwhelming to me. I remember the look of awe and delight in Maren’s face as the wind swept across her face and she examined it.  “How does something like this happen?” she pondered. “I don’t know Maren.  Things like this are nuances that defy explanation.  It’s in those strange and magical things that I see God at work.” She grinned and cupped the shell in her hand.  A treasure for a little girl.  She took it home with her, and she tucked it into a little silver box that she carries in her school backpack.  She often writes wishes, prayers, thanksgivings, and hopes and tucks the notes into her little silver box.  She’s a steward of the...

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Perfectly…

Mar 27

My sisters and I often say things “out loud” to each other by way of making it happen.  We know that if we say it out loud, then we’re likely to be held accountable when the listener inevitably follows up. (We’re annoyingly good listeners and communicators about that stuff.  It’s our mom’s fault training.)  It’s a good system, and we are motivated to get taxes done, apply for a job, or get a workout in.  Today Chief Sister stopped by for something completely unrelated, and seeing her reminded me of goals that I have.  As she left, I said, “If I leave in the next five minutes I can squeeze a run in before chemo!  Ask me later if I did it!” So that is the story of how and why I went for my first run in at least six months.  By runner’s standards, it was statistically pitiful in every way… but one of the cool things about runners is that everyone runs their own race.  And everyone out there running wins just for being out there.  So, that’s what I’m focusing on today: I did it.  It was perfect weather, and I was perfectly — ahem — badass. My nurses — some of whom follow me on the MapMyRun app — were happily surprised to see me running.  My counts are pretty low so my blood chemistry is continuing to be borderline for lots of things, but is holding just above the line where interventions would be taken.  It’s good because it means fewer appointments for me which is logistically convenient.  It also means I am continuing to get the full dose of the cancer-killing chemotherapy.  Believe me when I say I want every drop of that stuff to kill as many cancer cells as possible.  On the last cycle I had some semi-significant abdominal pain, pseudo-similar to heartburn, so we talked about some strategies to mitigate that.  On the whole, this treatment is better than the last treatment, but the side effects are still there.  I seized the moment to go for a run this morning, in part, because I knew an hour away from my next chemo treatment is the best I’m going to feel all week:...

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Shenanigans

Mar 21

Shenanigans

Last week my darling littlest girl managed to wind a round hairbrush up in her hair. I spent at least ten minutes trying to untangle it, and got about ten single strands of hair out during that time. How she got it so wound up in two directions is beyond me. The brush was seriously stuck. Greta was not a fan of the yanking, and I told her we would have to cut it out if we couldn’t pull it out. My girls both love (LOVE) hearing stories about ‘when they were little’, and I told Greta to remember this night because this is going to be a story that we are going to tell for years to come. Greta was immediately onboard with cutting it out and giggling about the situation; she shed no tears. Maren, knowing the butchery that was going to come with the scissors, couldn’t even watch. She had to go to her room because she didn’t want to make cringing faces in front of Greta as we cut. In the end, Greta has lost some serious hair on the right side of her head. We have taken the round brush and put it in a ziplock bag so that Greta can save it and tell the story. (I was tempted to throw it away, so this is my compromise.) The next morning we cleverly did a hairdo that disguised the damage, but she took it out at school so she could show all her friends the real deal. That’s G, though. She’s all about a good story and she has the confidence to pull it off. Earlier this month she wanted ‘hair like Rapunzel’, so this is a serious setback! Our favorite local hair salon, Lunatic Fringe, took care of us again–I can’t recommend them highly enough. I called on Saturday, they let us come right over, and we walked out with an adorable sassy bob complete with two temporary-colored ‘mermaid streaks’ framing her face. (Sorry, I didn’t get a picture; G has been sick and down for the count for a few days since.) Greta walked out with extra bounce in her step, and we definitely made lemonade out of lemons with this...

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The order of the day

Mar 07

I’m sitting in the chemo room at my non-regular chemo office.  One of my nurses from my regular office is “subbing” here today, and I’m telling everyone I’m VIP and I travel with my own nurse.  (I really, really love my medical team.)  It’s making them laugh.  Laughter is a good thing with which to travel. This morning Dr. Wonderful sent me next door for a quick MRI of my brain after I told him I have had two migraines this month (I had many migraines through my 20s, but not many in my 30s, especially the last few years.)  The MRI showed that my brain is completely clear of any suspicious activity, so that is a nice layer of peace-of-mind.  I love those super short “everything looks good” medically boring reports.  I appreciate Dr. Wonderful’s attention to detail and the effort he personally makes to get as much information as possible to navigate the best treatment plan. Currently my pre-meds are dripping in and I’ll start the new chemo as soon as those finish.  Each time I start a new drug I pray for God to bless it: for it to kill the cancer effectively and efficiently.  I’m also staying on Herceptin; I will get that every week also. This office doesn’t keep their blanket warmers very hot, but the recliners themselves have heated seats, so it’s definitely cozy.  The warm blankets are most definitely one of the big cancer perks.  That and the machine that makes the good crunchy ice. Thanks for all the encouraging messages I’ve gotten over the past twenty-four hours; I really appreciate all the well wishes, prayers and love.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: since my people are my world, the world is a beautiful place from where I sit. Today is a great day in Greta’s world because it’s chicken nugget Tuesday in the cafeteria AND she doesn’t know it but her glass-blowing aunt is surprising her at school to have lunch with her.  Greta is a big fan of chicken nuggets and her aunts.  I got a e-reminder to put more money in Greta’s school account so I logged in from the chemo chair (with, you know, an...

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Prayers for lymph nodes, please

Mar 06

I had my quarterly PET scan this morning. Today’s scan result showed that I have stable lung tumors, and continue to have no cancer in my liver or bones.  It also revealed, however, that there has been progression in my lymph nodes.  My cancer, for whatever reason, is continuing to (slowly) progress and grow in my lymphatic system, but – thankfully — it is not leap-frogging into my vital organs.  My cell search test (the one that checks for errant cancer cells floating in my bloodstream) was again “zero”, another sign of almost-stability. Dr. Wonderful’s assessment of this report is that we can be grateful that I do not have rampant cancer in the vital organs; if I did, I would almost certainly be symptomatic and we would have a boatload of problems to mitigate.  The fact that cancer is growing my lymph system is bad, but it poises us with “problems for the long haul, rather than problems for the short haul” in Dr. Wonderful’s words.  Clearly, it is high-five-worthy to have my oncologist still talking about the long-haul.  My overall synopsis of today is that it is ‘good bad news.’ The obvious bummer of today is: progression.  Progression is never good, never what we pray for, never what we wish. The silver linings of today are twofold: One, cancer is active only in my lymph nodes.  I can live for a long, long, long time in this state with cancer confined to these nodes.  I do not have cancer symptoms from these metastases; no bone pain, no liver complications, no impact on my lung capacity. Two, I am changing drugs.  The last drug, which I started in July 2016, was becoming increasingly difficult for me to tolerate.  For the month of February, I was spending more time in bed than I was spending out living my life.  I am thankful for that drug’s role in breaking and braking the cancer for the season, but I am also leaving it behind today with a nod of ‘good riddance’.  (For those of you who know my usual affinity for my cancer-killing drugs, you know how bad I was feeling for me to have a “good riddance” attitude towards this...

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Chemistry

Feb 13

“Sheesh, we are making you quite anemic with this chemo juju, aren’t we?” said my nurse today as she handed me the printout of my bloodwork.  The team takes my blood and checks my counts each week before they start administering my drugs.  I usually don’t give it more than a passing glance; they always tell me if there is something of note. “Yes — I’ve asked before, but is there anything I can proactively do to help with that?” I ask (again). “Nope.  You just need to make sure you take naps!” There you go, folks.  My official prescription from today’s nurse: nap on, warrior. It’s a good reminder for me: my blood chemistry is fighting against my normal-ness, and I need to remember that my exhaustion from, for example, bringing in groceries is not due to being out-of-shape.  It’s due to the fact that my red blood cells aren’t re-oxygenating my blood when I expend energy.  My blood chemistry is weakened to the point that it’s not supporting daily tasks very well.  Imagine holding your breath while you jogged to the mailbox and back to get the mail.  That winded, shaky feeling is how I feel when I go up stairs or walk briskly from parking lot to store (as I do in wintertime!).  Reminding myself that this is not motivation/will/gumption issue, but rather a biological reality helps me to be okay with my limitations. It’s been a while since my last scan; my next one is next month for those of you who are wondering.  Please pray that my miracle would continue to grow, and that I would have regression (less cancer, smaller tumors)! This morning I woke up and found the girls snuggled together in Maren’s bed.  They both still had sleepy eyes, and I’m glad that they find each other when they wake up on the mornings they don’t track me down.  I gave them a taste of their own medicine and wriggled myself into the middle of them whilst making sure to leverage my knees and elbows into their squishy parts as they do to me when they climb in my bed in the early morn.  It’s good to start the day with giggles.  Much...

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