Tag Archives: chemo

The New Year’s Blog – 2014 and cancer-free … for everyone?

I had thought this would be the year our family escaped the cloud of cancer. Unfortunately we enter with a diagnosis hanging over our doggie – thymoma – cancer of the thymus gland. However, it is operable, and we hope he will have a successful surgery and long and happy recovery. THANK GOODNESS. The best news possible given the situation.

The parallels between our diagnosis are striking to me. We had virtually no symptoms, had a chance scan, and discovered a massive lump. It makes me very thankful for modern technology, but also concerned in general -what else are we missing if we don’t pay attention?

Although … one major difference … I was not bounced for my scheduled CT scan because there was a zebra with an abdominal wound in need. Yes, a zebra, in College Station.

After the rollercoaster of emotions the past few days, we enter 2014 with profound relief and gratitude – that our dog has the capability to live long and happy – that we have the time and resources to tackle his cancer and my recovery. That we are surrounded by a loving and caring community who loves my “Nicky Minaj pink streaks” and our giant frog dog.

These are the times when I remember why 2012, and 2013 both didn’t suck.

  • I grew to a first name basis with my insurance company and reached my out of pocket maximum. Two years running. Cool thing is – nice tax break. Now that I’m working again, I can be so thankful for our cash flow and the fact that we had amazing insurance through IBM. $300K paid in total for me the last two years. Now that we are paying out of pocket for the dog, I realize the true magnitude of that gift.
  • I realized how amazing my husband is – that support I had planned to give him was returned a hundredfold as he took the reins of family control, family CEO, shrink, Mom and Dad. He was – and is – amazing.
  • I got to see what my body is capable of in terms of healing – and it’s pretty freaking awesome.
  • I’m no longer vain about my appearance. Not that I really ever was, and yes, I do wear makeup and earrings. But there are some bits here and there that aren’t what they used to be and hey, that’s OK. I mean, I’m also missing bits that should be there so I figure it all sorts out.
  • I get to have perky Barbie boobs – OF MY OWN CHOOSING! – for the rest of my life courtesy of insurance. Those of you without having nursed three children may not realize the importance of this. And yes, picking out a size is both weird and exhilarating. Then, there’s the tatooing process – something else I never would have imagined, and in some ways I feel empowered because I am now “edgier” – right?!
  • I’m a little less inclined to sweat the small stuff – or even the semi small stuff. This year’s Christmas cards were wonky, the presents were wrapped by my six year olds ( and yes, they bought me two pillow pets and a bathmat for Christmas), – and NO ONE CARES! And I’m happy with my pillow pet! It turns out that a lot of the stuff you thought was important just isn’t.

A friend asked me last night about resolutions. For the first time in many years, I don’t have any. I have hopes – that we get and stay cancer free. That my kids continue to be as happy and curious and excited as they have been. That our puppy continues to entertain, love and grow. That our family and friends have success and happiness and all the good things there are in 2014. I will try to walk a little more, eat a little better, (I did get a fit band for Christmas!) and take care of myself. But, all of that is gravy.

I resolve to live more in the moment than before. We have always been planners of the maximum variety and I think the edge has been dulled. Let’s go on that trip we put off (yes, I got to go to New York to see Christmas lights with JUST DAVIS  this year as a present!)

Our new motto: go with happy. And if that means three kids out at 37 degrees on their new scooters, then that’s just what it will be.

I wish everyone a happy HEALTHY prosperous new year, and joy every day.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

And now the dog has cancer

I am overwhelmed. The frivolity and happiness of the new puppy muted by the terrific disappointment and anguish of the dreaded C word again reappearing in our lives.

Like before, out of the blue. Like before, no real symptoms. Like before, fear and pain and sad.

Our 10 1/2 year old first “fur baby” Cameron didn’t eat his kibble the last day we were gone. When we came home, he was less than enthusiastic. But it could have been that we brought along a 10-week-old puppy. I mean, we knew he wouldn’t be thrilled by that addition in general, but this was downright weird. He is totally and completely food motivated.

We saw him breathing shallow, and thought – maybe there’s something in his mouth, on his neck.

Imagine our shock and surprise when we found out that based on the Xray, he had a “mass” – likely cancer.

The frenzy, the questions started anew. Where do we go for another opinion and soon? Where do we go to get the best care? What can we do? Will he die?

I cried more than when I was diagnosed. Somehow this felt worse – I was powerless. I have been a red ugly raw all weekend.

We still don’t know – a trip to the Texas A&M emergency room netted us a a 10am slot on Monday morning for a CT scan and diagnostic follow up with specialists – the best in the country. He will have a CT guided biopsy (eerily familiar to those of us who have undergone the X ray guided biopsy – at least he will be asleep!) The earliest we could do here in Austin – surprisingly – was the 15th of January.

It has been the longest and shortest two days in the last year. Going from ebullience at puppy cuteness – she chases her tail! she walks sideways! she has a white spot on her chest! To the recognition that our other dear dog, my therapy dog, might instead be lost this week.

We told the kids, this time avoiding the term cancer bugs – Davis was concerned that it would echo too much on their minds to my battle (cancer = death??) We told them there was a mass that wasn’t supposed to be there and there might be drugs to get it better. Dad and Cameron will go to the best doctors in the country on early Monday morning for the tests that will allow the doctors to see his body better. But, there might be a chance Cameron doesn’t come back. There might be a chance that he would die.

Henry said “Well, Mom, you’ve been through lots of surgeries and have been fine – I’m sure Cameron will be fine.” I am sure of it too, because this time around, like last time, the other option is unthinkable.

You may think me sappy or sentimental for being so attached to our dog, but I point you to my last two years and the net that was my constant support – Cameron amongst. And, now I am granted the glimpse into the world of those around the cancer patient – the frustration, the grief, the overwhelming sad. I feel what so many felt for me.

I guess the good news is that Cameron doesn’t know the fight he faces. But the rest of us do, and we see the end in sight. Much closer than we expected. As is always the case.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Because There’s Nothing to Complain About

I had a friend tell me during chemo that the zen-like attitude I had during treatment – I thought primarily induced through fatigue, sleep-laced anti nausea medicine and a general sense of heaviness – would stay with me. I didn’t believe her. BUT it’s true. I have mentioned it before, things don’t bother me as much. But I still complain – I just catch myself earlier. And I notice it in others.

Take this weekend. We had a fantastic weekend – jam packed with Texas traditions and silliness. On Friday night we attended a Chicken SH*&! Bingo party where you pay $1 to predict where the chicken will SH#@! We dressed as Texas trash. The hilarity was in me trying to not sound racially/economically/politically insensitive when trying to determine how to dress up. I ended up as Daisy Duke and Davis wore an A&M shirt with camo sweats. We had beers – I totally embarrassed myself by not knowing how to operate one – and banana pudding and NO we didn’t win but we ate lots of wings in retaliation.

I could have gotten uber upset when my amazing husband decided at 4.30 to go shopping for the next days campout. And took over an hour. Or when Emmy decided that she “couldn’t breathe” and it turned out she was making herself so upset she couldn’t catch her breath. And there was the rising tide of frustration. But, it went away. I realized my hubby is remarkable for pitching in on the cooking on the campout and Emmy inherited a super strong sense of empathy.

The next morning, we had soccer. At 8am. After beers and parties and Davis staying up late to make homemade sloppy joes. At what seemed an ungodly hour, I awoke and peered over to realize that it was already 7am. I was supposed to be at the soccer field at 7.30 to line them.

I could have gotten upset because HOW the BLEEP would we get out of the house in 15 minutes?? Even though Carter slept in his soccer uniform?? But I threw food at the kids, pushed them into their soccer clothes and texted the other coach. I got there and guess what – the field was already lined. With my mocha in hand, I coached my team to a hard fought awesomely close game with Davis in charge of the 5 minute subouts.

Wew came home to pack the swagger wagon to the gills for Davis and Henry’s first campout. The rest of us were going to spend the day at Cub O Ree swimming, playing, doing activities, etc. Of course we get there, no signage, wander around for what seems like 2 miles until we find the campsite. Carter immediately steps in a fire ant mound (I would later count 16 bites) and Davis had to set up the tent because there was imminent rain.

SO I took the three kids to the activities – which turned out to be a handful of amazing things – rock climbing! archery! BB guns! that had lines over an hour – and a handful of carnival type games that took 5 minutes. We traipsed all over, having forgotten water bottles – but the kids did great. I heard parent after parent snapping at their kids – go faster! stop complaining! Instead we laughed when it rained so hard it washed our sweat off and stole plastic cups from the archery range.

Oh, and then I go tthe car stuck in the mud. Hilarously, it was probably the best place on the planet to get stuck. All these adult boy scouts running around fighting over who was going to tow me out and teaching each other how to tie a bowlon tie with a fie hose – who has a pocket knife? You don’t? Then of course we had to take the car through the car wash while it was raining to get all the mud off. Did I mention it was Davis’ car?

I realize I’m not perfect, I’m going to lose my cool – and I do. But I realize it so much earlier, especially with the kids. And the fact that in comparison, the fact that I was able to hike 2 miles in 95 degree weather is astounding. The fact that I had enough hair to get wet and sweaty is awesome. There really is nothing to complain about.

POSTSCRIPT

I am raising money this month for the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Austin – home of my beloved Pink Ribbon Cowgirl friends and treatment buddies, as well as my amazing patient navigator Runi and the other amazing resources – wigs! tote bags! free yoga!

This month, you will have a lot of chances to give pink – but think about where you are giving your money. If you support BCRC 100% of the money goes to service their over 2600 clients in Central Texas. I am a client. And, in return, we have a few personal goals – I will dye my hair pink if I reach my first goal … Davis will wear a pink art bra if I reach my second goal … and he and I will walk the runway in matching bras Oct 29th if I reach my new goal. I am expecting big things. I get prizes for most supporters, most money raised, most unique donors, etc. Bring it on!

https://bcrc.fundly.com/team-ward-pink

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Survivorship is a Thing

Throughout my cancer fight of the past year there has been a defined task: stay strong until there are no more cancer bugs. Keep the family together and keep the family happy – go with happy. I have the distinct honor, and yet, challenge, of moving to the next phase: survivorship. When I heard the term I just thought it meant “the time after you beat cancer.” And it is that, but it is much more. And so hard to describe.

I had a meeting last week with my oncologist called a “survivorship seminar.” I was flippant and jocular about my journey and progress until I realized this was about the rest of my life. It hit me when I got home and I have been a psychic fugue for a week: I am never going to be the same physically or emotionally.

It’s not maudlin, it’s truthful. And, it’s also tricky.

In the cancer fight it was physical – survive, sleep, eat, heal. Now it’s more psychological. Watch for side effects that could signal that the cancer has come back (e.g. monthly self exams of my chest wall which actually makes me a little nauseous to even think about. Getting to know my scar tisssue? No thanks). Make follow up appointments with doctors, including regular three month checkups for the next three years.Don’t go to see a regular massage person because your body is in such a different state than normal. Only go to exercise class that is low impact because your muscles are weak and relearning. Oh, and did I mention scheduling the next round of surgeries because I still need permanent ladies? And, don’t plan on being back to any state of “normal” until at least six months (which for me is May 1st).

I am thrilled, don’t get me wrong … I am lucky to be in survivorship. And as I navigate the new normal I am so thankful for my friends and family and their love and support. And, yes, it needs to continue. Even though the care calendar is gone. 🙂

But a new normal is tricky when your most recent old normal was cancer and the normal before that was moving to Dubai. Navigation is slow as we rebuild what our family responsibilities are – who does this chore this time? Who is responsible for dinner tonight? What is your role? What is mine?

Now I am in the family most days all day – although some days I have to nap or don’t feel well. I am meal planning and shopping; picking up children and organizing play dates. But, every once in a while it catches up with me and I crash back down. I am not used to limitations on my time or my energy and yet I have to be patient. In PreK they learn to be a STAR – Stop, Take A breath. Relax.

Because I am no longer required to “just heal” I feel a sense of pressure to be more … and maybe that’s what this survivorship thing is about. This isn’t just the time after I beat cancer – it’s 2013, the year Davis turns 40, and the twins enter kindergarten. Integrating cancer into that year and that life is what I must do.

And to learn that watching an hour of America’s Funniest Home Videos with my three kids will make you laugh until you cry every time. And that laughter is the best weapon in survivorship. Especially when it is belly laughs at a puppy.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized