In the Air!

In the Air!
400 feet above the ground in Orlando.

Florida

Florida
Taking my first step towards a new life.

Virginia

Virginia
Spending an afternoon at Marymount during my internship!

My rocks!

My rocks!
Wouldn't be where I am without my parents!

Graduation

Graduation
Walking for my Masters. An interesting book end as this all started when I graduated from undergrad!

Awesome Nurses!

Awesome Nurses!
After my port removal and saying goodbye to my chemo nurses before moving away from Michigan. Wouldn't be doing that without them!

Hair again!

Hair again!
Growing longer each day

Last Chemo

Last Chemo

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Silliness

Silliness
Something to remember and return to. A good day!

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Oddly Calm

While I know this will change, at the moment I am feeling oddly calm about chemo on Monday.  I keep telling myself that it can't be like surgery and therefor not as frightening.  Maybe not the most reasonable argument but one that is helping me. 

Sitting here watching The Bourne Legacy.  Tomorrow morning is my chemo class and then hopefully a ride on my brother's boat.  A time of fun and relaxing before Monday's chemo.  Hoping chemo starts on Monday.  I just want it over.

Just viewing it as something that has to be gotten done.  It won't last forever.  And hopefully when it is over that is all.  Not sure where this calm is coming from and not saying that I am completely calm.  But I am trying to leave it in God's hands and believe He will take care of me.  That helps in the calmer feeling.  Hoping it lasts through Monday!  lol!


Friday, June 28, 2013

Sisters


Yesterday we got a call from my sister Stephanie saying she was in the hospital and going to have an emergency gull bladder surgery.  It really stinks being so far away when things like that happen.  She lives in California :(.  I could tell my mom was wishing with everything she had to be able to be out there for my sister.  Right now we are relying on text messages, calls and FB messages to keep in touch.  The surgery went well but sadly they have to go back in sometime today for more surgery.  Steph called last night as she waited for an ambulance to transport her to another hospital for the second procedure.  She sounded a little groggy and loopy but it was good to hear her voice.  I was happy to get her slightly animated talking about the movie Voyage of the Dawn Treader.:)  To help lift her spirits mom and I went on a little shopping trip yesterday and filled a box with silly stuff to make her smile!

I have four sisters.  Stephanie is closest to me in age though and we spent many years sharing a room when we lived in Flint, before she went into the Air Force.  Things that made me want to never speak to her again as a child now make me smile and laugh to remember as an adult.  There was a string of nights where she felt it was her duty to make me scream as loud as possible by doing such things as hiding behind the bedroom door and jumping out at me.  Hiding under my bed and grabbing my ankles as I got into bed.  And then my favorite...pretending like she is talking in her sleep and as she screeched NO grabbing my feet and making my whole body levitate a good foot or two strait off my bed!!  At the time I was furious at her because not only was she laughing...but after dad burst in to see what was wrong, I noticed him trying not to laugh too!!  Now though, I just laugh.  And Steph hasn't changed a bit.  Only now she has two teenage kids to torture by jumping out at them:).    So glad to see things don't change:)

Pray for my sister please.  This is not a good time right now for her.

The picture I posted is of me, Stephanie and mom from last summer when she came to visit:).  Love you Steph and miss you so much!!!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

You try to hold your arm still for 2 weeks!

A week ago today I had my port, Oscar, put in.  I was told that for two weeks I could not use full range of motion on my left arm...the side my port was put in on.  this makes total sense as using that arm a lot could pull the catheter out of place in the vein.  I fully understand the concept behind not using that arm much and not using full range of motion.  But I would love the people who give those instructions to go through that difficulty at least once, just so they can understand how frustrating you are making the life of that person for two weeks...while they are going through chemo!!

This means you wash your hair with one hand.  For a guy, not that hard.  For a woman....almost impossible!!  It means you can't each around behind you to reach an itchy spot on your back.  It means you can't stretch when you wake up.  It means you can't put your arm behind your head when you sleep.  You can't reach up to something above your head.  In fact, the elbow can't go above your shoulder.  getting dressed can be a real treat!

It is amazing how you don't think about your arm...especially after the soreness of the surgery eases up.  The soreness made me remember, don't use that arm that much.  However, maybe I can use a new pain to remind me of that.  from not being able to move that arm all that much, nor stretch it and the muscles in it, my shoulder and the muscles around it have become rather tender...and annoyed with me from stopping them stretching and working all that much.

While I don't plan to go wild and crazy at the end of the two weeks, I will be grateful when they tell me everything is in the proper place and I can use both hands to wash my hair and I can stretch a little...at the very least, move those muscles around a little more!!  I know this is a rather complaining blog but you know what...patience will only go so far in all of this...and I am reaching my limit here I think!!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A few thoughts

As I sit here in my room, listening to my Celtic Women Pandora station, I am feeling a small sense of peace come over me.  It isn't wiping away all the fear and anxiety, but it is helping me relax some.  The walls are a deep, smokey blue and the trees outside the windows are letting in a filtered sunlight that helps give a softness to the room.  The fan is blowing cool air on me and the new pillow I got for my back is cradling my sore muscles in a comfortable way.

Few have been these moments.  But when they come, I appreciate them.  I think some of what has helped was being able to go to Mass yesterday for the first time in over a month.  And afterwards Father Dave gave me the Annotating of the Sick. The fear, anxiety, uncertainty and so on is still there, but I feel better equipped to deal with it all.

I'm slowly learning to take difficult news in stride.  realizing most of the time there is just nothing I can do about it so worrying over it won't do any good.  For example, I found out a test was done that shows I am predisposed genetically to have a reassurance of this cancer.  For a while this thought terrified me.  Then I realized, there is little I can do about that.  And it isn't even a certainty, just a higher probability.  I have to deal with the now.  Thinking of a possible future isn't in the cards right now.  Am I still scared of the possibility?  Absolutely!!!!  I would be an idiot not to be!  But that isn't my focus right now.

My focus right now is to get through chemo with no ER visits and no delays in treatment.  That is all I can do for now.  And that is what I will do.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Not Alone

Today started off with me feeling blah still and tired.  I had to go to the DHS office after lunch to apply for more medical coverage to cover my chemo.  As I sat at the table with one of the DHS workers filling out paper work and talking about the cancer.  A woman at the other end of the table joined in by looking at my stitches and asked me where I got my port.  She then proceeded to point out her port and we talked about it.  It felt pretty good to talk with a complete stranger and yet, in just a few minutes, feel like there is a bond there.  I'll probably never see that woman again but we will always be connected over that conversation as a shared experience.

Then, later in the afternoon I was at the Social Security office.  The woman I was sitting next to over heard mom and I talking about chemo.  She started talking to us and come to find out she makes adorable caps for chemo patients  and gives them away for free.  She gave me her name, number and FB page and told me to call her with the type of cap I would like!!

In two places today, after two days of feeling down, God sent me a little reminder today that I am not alone.  Then to end the day, I had to stop by the cancer center to drop off some paper work.  The nurse I talked with was very kind and understanding.  She said that you get to know the people going through treatment and often make life long friends.  While I am not looking forward  to having chemo, I am a little less anxious and am ready to have this over with.  Good to know that I really am not alone, it helps to pull me up out of the blues a little bit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cancer Catillion Idea

I had an idea today (and learned that it isn't the first time it has been had) of having a fund raiser and night for cancer patients and survivors...a Cancer Cotillion.  I want to give a fun time to people dealing with an unimaginable amount of stress.  A night for teenagers to have a beautiful dance and not have to worry about being bald because they aren't the only ones.  A night to raise money for uninsured cancer patients adn research.

The only reason I have any kind of medical coverage is because I am independent and have been in school for two years.  It gives a whole new meaning to being broke!   But there are a lot of families out there who do have jobs but no insurance or their insurance doesn't cover it all.  To be able to not only give those people a night of elegance and fun but also something to help ease the financial strain would be wonderful!

So anyone with ideas on how to move this forward, let me know!

Friday, June 21, 2013

No Twilight sleep...just lots of talking!

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I was once more reminded that in a hospital there is a lot of hurry up and wait!  And when you are anxious, waiting can be more than a little frightening.  There was a lot of waiting yesterday to get my port put in for my chemo treatments.  Even though I was so scared, I look back at it today and I have to laugh a little.  They must think I am more than a little crazy over at Covenant!

I was terrified getting my IV in...which left me with two glorious bruises, one on each arm.  Then as I waited in the prep room to go into the operating room, the nurse, Kevin, came in.  Kevin can best be described as Santa Clause in scrubs!!  He tried to sooth me in his way.  Very positive and assured me that he would come out as the person who was right in that it wasn't a big deal and I would in fact live through the procedure:).  I kept begging them to make me fall asleep...not enough to put a tube down my throat but enough to make me unaware of what they were doing.  Nothing doing!  Kevin and Dr. Channey were both very kind and understanding.  And Kevin kept assuring me everything would be fine.

I was wheeled into a very scaled down operating room.  No huge, round lights.  Kevin was correct in describing the operating table as a giant ironing board!  They put little plastic inserts on the sides for my arms to rest on.  Christy, who I think was the PA, was there to get me ready.  She started talking and we discovered a shared love for books!  I also introduced the whole crew to Celtic Women as Christy offered to play music from her IPod...thank goodness for Pandora!  Once I started talking, I didn't stop!!  Even when Kevin gave me my first dose of the medacine that was suppose to make me relax and be calm, I talked non stop through the whole procedure!!!  The only time I wasn't talking is when I was yelling and whimpering a bit when they were numbing the area they were working on.  That hurt quite a bit!  But fortunantly, I called Kevins name and held out my hand and he came right over and held it, letting me almost stop his circulation I was squeezing so hard!!!

I think a combination of fear and the drugs kept me talking all the way to X Ray (something they do after each procedure).  There was no one there when I arrived and I found myself humming, and then quietly singing (the song was Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof).  It was like I couldn't stop!!!!  Then the technician came in and we had a pleasant chat as he X rayed the area the port was in.  Then the transport girl and I talked all the way back to my room!  Fortunately there was a tray of food waiting for me and I was starving otherwise who knows what song I would have broken in to as I waited for my parents to come back to my room!!

I was high all day yesterday!  Now today I feel like I was run over by a MAC truck!  I am told by a nurse who called today to check on me that feeling is normal.  My shoulder is sore where the port is and where they cut in.  I was told I wouldn't feel the cathedar in my vein and I don't....but it is tender where they went into the vein.

What they do is they numb the whole area, cut it open, wiggle the port down under my skin, then thread the cathedar into my jugular vein and down towards the heart.  That way when the chemo goes in, it gets a good mix up into the blood and out through my body.  Amazing what they do to the human body to cure it!  I still don't feel good but I know in a few days I'll start to feel better.

And thus endith my story of getting my port.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The night before...ready but scared.

Well, tomorrow I get my port put in for my chemo.  While I logically know that the procedure is simple, and they do between 800 to 1000 a year at this place, and it will only make me a little sore, I'm still freaked out by it all.  Honestly, who wants to be cut in to?  But, I do know that I need this port.  Because I need it I will go through with it.  But that doesn't mean I can't be scared.

As scared as I am though, I am not physically freaking out tonight.  I had to watch my grandma go through a similar but more in depth procedure like mine.  She had to get a pace make put in and it is more involved.  She said she doesn't remember a thing and is just sore.  If my 89 year old grandmother can go through this procedure TWICE in a 24 hour period, I can do a simpler procedure without freaking out too bad.

I think what helps keep things calmer for me is focusing on other things.  Like a trip to the fabric store and finding some nice fabric and yarn.  Sitting and watching DVDs while knitting a shawl.  But also by repeating, it won't be that bad.  Scary but not that bad.  Staying active in any way and staying positive while acknowledging the fear I feel.

So, while I am saying I can do this and it will be over fast, let me also say....I'M SCARED!!!  But...I can do this.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How do you fight fear?

So, there is no reason I should be feeling blech still.  My last surgery was just over four weeks ago.  I understand I still feel the inside stitches since apparently they make them discolve over months now instead of weeks.  But this feeling I can't seem to shake is sticking with me.  The only thing I can figure it being is fear.

I suppose fear is natural in this case, I just never understood before how strong it can be...and how that can affect you physically.  The feeling that you aren't quite right...kinda sticks in your throat and head making you feel not so good...but at the same time not sick or anything.

But how do you make this go away when everything in front of you is more than enough cause for fear?  While I know the port procedure this coming Thursday isn't a very big deal in general...it is a huge deal to me!  Come on people!  They are taking a big needle, wiggeling it under my collar bone and then cutting open my skin!!!!  That is just not natural!!  While I agree that the port is the best way to go given how many times I will have to be stuck in the next 18 weeks, and given my absolute horror of needles, it still scares me!

And then the next week starts chemo.  I know it isn't going to be as bad as what my brother went through (which is my point of reference for everything when it comes to cancer and chemo) it isn't going to be a cake walk either!  So yes, fear is a bit all encompassing right now! 

How do I fight this fear?  I don't want to feel this way for 18 weeks! 

I'm trying to find ways.  I decided last night to view the affects of chemo as the worse morning sickness ever.  I know I will never really experience morning sickness but I have seen enough of it in friends to have an idea that I won't be too far off.  I'm hoping thinking of it that way will help some.  Not as scary I think.

As for the rest, I do pray a lot, and lean on the prayers of friends and family.  And I hug my parents A LOT!  For those few seconds, I can feel totally safe.  I don't care how old I am or how old I get, a parent's hug is still the safest place in the world.

I suppose I have to also just decide that this isn't going to get me.  I have to keep repeating that I am going to beat this thing and the port and chemo won't last forever.  That this is going to keep the cancer from coming back.  That I will live a long and happy life.  This is just a moment in time.  Maybe God is preparing me for something or maybe my life up to this point has been preparing me for this.  I do believe God doesn't give us anything we can't handle.  Which means He has faith in me that I can handle this...no matter how scared I am.  I hope this is how you fight the fear.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunshine, friends and family.

This weekend has been difficult with grandma in the hospital.  But I want to say there are two important things for getting through those hard times.  Sunshine, friends and family.  I have noticed that on days where it is over cast a dreery, I feel miserable.  Aches and soreness and icky feelings that had been gone seem to come back for no logical reason.  If curling up were something that was easier to do, I would curl up in bed all day.  Fortunately, while my ability to lay on my side and curl up a tiny bit is returning...it isn't comfortable to be in that position all day.  So I stay out of bed and fight through it.  But when the sun comes out, I feel a lot better.  Not like my old self by far but much better than when it is gloomy!  When the sun came out today and the clouds cleared away to reveal a beautiful blue sky and bright sunshine, I felt a small weight lift off of me.  And any amount of feeling better is a good thing.

Another important thing are friends.  Yesterday was not a happy day.  On top of being over cast all day, my grandma was going through a lot at the hospital and I couldn't be there to support her because I'm starting chemo and can't catch the pneumonia (and now plurosy)  that she has.  In fact my family members who spend time with her have to wear masks.  So while I was sitting at home yesterday, I found myself unable to keep my mind off of what was all going on.  It was starting to become overwhelming when I got a phone call from a friend.  I ended up crying over the phone to her about the frustration and fear I was feeling.  And sometimes, you just have to cry!  It is really great to have a friend who understands it all and lets you vent a little.  Holding it all in is probably one of the worse things you can do I'm learning.

Lastly, family is pretty important in holding me up.  My younger brother did something that meant a lot to me.  He had been talking about it but I wasn't sure if he would.  He came up for the weekend to be with grandma, and last night he went on some errands.  When he came back, he had gotten his head shaved bald, so that I wouldn't be bald alone when I loose my hair!!  Support like that means more than I can say!

Combine all three of these things, and all of this is a little bit easier to handle.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Never thought it would happen

Well, on the advice of my mom and my sister-on-law I'm trying to write about everything going on.  I thought my biggest hurdle was going to be graduating from college.  That seems like the easiest thing ever now!  And something I have accomplished.  I'm proud of that accomplishment but it feels so over shadowed by everything else. 
The week before graduation it felt like everything was coming unraveled and I had no way of stopping it.  I felt like I was on a raft being pushed all over the place with no way to guide, just hanging on for dear life.  I'm still hanging on, but now I feel like I have some ability to steer.
Having two surgeries in less than a month and being diagnosed with cancer in the midst of them is something I wasn't expecting to be dealing with.  But now I have to deal with it and am trying my best.
Not a lot of clear thought goes through my head when I think about this but what does go through I'm trying to express, hoping it helps.
On June 20 I get my port for chemo treatments put in.  It is a simple procedure I'm told.  I'm not knocked out but rather filled up with happy juice.  To be honest, it has me pretty scared but it is necessary for a smoother chemo.  I suppose it is best to not have to deal with IV's and repeated sticks in the veins in my arms...but the thought of being awake when they cut in and tuck a long cord into a vein and then sew over a little plastic thing just under my skin....yeap, pretty freaky. 
I have six treatments of chemo coming my way.   The plan is every three weeks I have one day of chemo, assuming my blood levels are at the proper places. 
I'm going to be loosing my hair from this chemo, although my grandma refuses to accept that and has told me numerous times the doctor doesn't know what he is talking about!  lol!  Doctors have learned to not argue with my grandma :)  Regardless, as much as I would like to believe grandma's words have the power to stop drugs from making my hair fall out all over, chances are they don't.  I'm going back and forth between freaking out and crying over the prospect and focusing on finding cute hats and scarves to wear and joke about crazy colored wigs.  It's like if I focus on hairloss being the worst thing that will happen, the nausea and crummy feeling that will follow each chemo treatment won't be so bad.
I've managed to find a cute, hot pink fedora and a multicolored scarf that works like a dew rag.  We'll see what else I find and how things go.