Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh boy!

Kristin insisted I post something about today so here it goes:
After about 7PM last night, Kristin called the Doctor's office with symptoms ranging from chills to a fever. I was able to grab a new antibiotic for her around 10PM and things seemed to be going okay. In the early morning hours, Bear and Bella started barking like mad. I assumed it was one of the neighbor's cats but got out of bed to take a look anyway. Just then, I heard a faint voice from the bathroom. Kristin had passed out...fainted. I rushed over and saw she had totally fallen on the stone floor, smashed the side of her cheek and was bleeding. Once we got her back to bed we kept a close eye on her fever....per doctor's rec. At dawn, Dianne came over and Kristin and I went to St. Joe's emergency for testing. Her white blood count was 0.3 ?!?!? Last Monday, it was at 25,000. She was instantly classified as neutropenic and everyone was wearing masks around us...pretty spooky and scary. However, I knew we were in the right place and in good hands. Dr. Wendt feels it might be a reaction to an early antibiotic she has been taking for last week's skin rash infection. It could also be due to the reconstruction— we'll see with the additional testing. Essentially, she will be staying in the hospital until Thursday receiving heavy intervenous antibiotic doses to knock out the infection and bring back the white blood cell count. I just left the hospital and am heading back first thing in the morning. When I left, she said this wasn't her idea of celebrating my 40th birthday...don't sweat it sweetie, they'll be plenty of time for that... let's call it a rain check!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ready or Not...

Ok, I think this is what you've been waiting for...YIKES!! But, at least I have company. Check out those high and tight cuts on the boys too. Tonight while Jenny-Jane and I were reading stories before bed, Nick and Fisher snuck away to create their own versions of my "do" with the dog shears in Fisher's bathroom. No, I'm not kidding. Nick said Fisher kept saying "do me, do me" as Nick was shaving his own head. So he did. The results are pretty darn good, better than the dogs looked after their Mother's Day shave. I'm beyond touched.

So how do I feel about my stubbly head? I'm surprisingly ok. Really. A lot has to do with the support I had from my team at the salon today. The bestest friend a girl could have, Jen Shenfeld, escaped from work to drive me to Scottsdale where we met Krista at Laurie's Salon for the big event. While I was definitely scared, I knew it was time. The part in my hair was about 1/2 inch thick from my hair falling out, gross. Jen held my hand the entire time, Krista was head cheerleader and provided constant humor, and Laurie just sheared away like she does this every day. Only a couple tears, but lots and lots of laughs.

Coming home to show the kids was one of my bigger fears. Fisher's first word was "cool" and Jenny-Jane looked puzzled then petted my head with love. They are fine, and so is Nick who says I look beautiful.

I've still got spotty stubble all over my head that will fall out in the next few days to make my head shiny bald. We'll see how I feel about that. I'm most comfortable in caps so far, as I felt pretty confident leaving the salon in my page-boy style cap and sunglasses. I have an appointment tomorrow morning at the Mac Cosmetics counter to learn how to best accentuate my features. Lord knows I can't hide behind my hair. This is crazy!

I'm going to end this post with a perfect sentiment passed along from Krista. Her mother gave it to her when she was battling her cancer, and it could not be more apropos for me today. "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly".


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I think the title of this post is pretty obvious. It's finally here, the day when my hair is coming out in clumps, lots and lots and lots of clumps. Good thing I've got lots of hair, so it does not look crazy horrible, yet. I washed it this morning and had to grab the handful of hair out of the drain. When I brushed it wet, so much came out it looked like a man's toupee. I put it in the potty and then my sister Diane came in and gasped "That's gonna clog your toilet!" So into the garbage it went. I actually left the house today without blow drying and went to physical therapy with wet hair because I was scared it would come out in even greater masses. It's all over the house, seriously, it's gross. I have an appointment tomorrow for "the big shave" and that's ok. What I'm dealing with now is icky, hair everywhere. Laurie, my dear hairdresser of over 15 years, is ready and waiting. She'll even trim "Shiloh" for me, so my alter ego will be sassy and ready to go for the weekend.

My sister Claudia claims that I highlight the brighter notes in my journey as I write, and sort of skim over the bad ones. Well, I'm not skimming on this bad one. It sucks, but it's time.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chemo Week, Pick on Someone Your Own Size, I Ain't Playin'

Hi Everyone!
I'm back!! But I'm going to make this super brief. I'm happy to say I'm feeling SO much better today than yesterday. Chemo day seems to be the worst. Still no throwing up, but feeling "SuperBad" and not able to sleep, even with a full Ambien in my system. I finally did get some zzzz's last night, with the help of Nick's cricket sound app from the iPad, of course, but not much rest today. Hence, I need to get my butt in bed asap.

It was awesome having Becka and Diane here to watch over me like mother hens the past two days. We had tons of laughs and some tears too, but I felt very loved every moment. Nick had a phenomenal day today in southern California meeting with clients, and he arrived home tonight beaming. The kids are doing great too. They had a happy day playing in their new "frog" pool (sorry, Claudia, the whale pool was harpooned) and lots of love from nanny Judy. They really seem to understand and respect that I need lots of private, rest time, alone in my room. They don't barge in, and stay for only as long as I can handle. Then they paddle away, happy as clams onto their next adventure. Nothing could make me happier than knowing they are seemingly unfazed.

Diane and I even ran to the wig shop this afternoon to pick up my alter ego "Shiloh". I'm talking sexy stripper Shiloh, not fatty, bad haircut Shiloh Jolie Pitt. I think I'll debut my Shiloh this weekend as we celebrate Nick's 40th birthday on Saturday night, his actual bday is Monday the 31st. Let's just say, it's not the exact one I posted a photo of earlier, but don't look for a blond mommy in future family photos!

Oh, and a shout out to the Flannery clan in Ireland! I got a comment on Becka's post from our friend Seamus and his wife Aileen who we visited six years ago in Limerick, Ireland. His comment said that all the Flannery's in Ireland wish me a speedy recover and read my blog everyday. Now that's awesome!!! (Sorry I didn't go blond Seamus!)

Quick health update: last Thursday my white blood cell count was very low, and on Monday, they were off the charts high, due to a probable infection in my right breast area. I am on super-mega antibiotics for that and it seems to be getting better. We are trying to avoid a trip to the hospital for intravenous IV of antibiotics. I'll find out this Thursday when we meet with my plastic surgeon if that is necessary. Strangely enough, today got my second Neulasta shot that ups my white blood cells after chemo. Nurse Lyndsay says it really was necessary- ok, I defer to them. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I have my first physical therapy session for my right arm which still ceases to straighten completely. Can you say annoying? I feel like a dinosaur with one stubby arm. And, I've discovered Pecid for after chemo "acid reflux". I told my nurse that my throat felt like it was going to throw up, and she said "silly, that's acid reflux". Easy cure. And my rocking bad headaches? "You need some Mountain Dew". Solved. If only all medicine were this simple.

Aaargh, I have so much more to say but have to cut myself off so I can get some hopeful sleep. Our family is happy and safe and sound tonight (including Diane in the back bedroom, Becka was there last night). Ok, my Ambien is kicking in, thank God. I thank you for your unrelenting care and concern to read my blog. I've forever astonished at who reads it daily. "Feeling heard" is a gift not everyone receives. While I may be alone at times in this battle, I feel undying support from the hundreds who hold me up.
I truly send my love to all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

my friend kiki

Hello all in kickitkiki land! This is Kristin's pal Becka coming to you from Verde Lane. After some question as to if Kiki would be able to have round 2 of chemo (fever over the weekend, low blood cell counts to name a couple) she was fortunately (or if you ask her right now, unfortunately) able to have the treatment. First of all may I say that Kristin is without a doubt the MOST positive and cute "c" patient EVER! At a time when things could fall apart this Hower household is running smoothly and FULL of love. They are so lucky to have such adoring care for the kiddies . And their love towards mom seems to keep her going. (By the way, I am able to write this quick note because we are taking an intermission from "Superbad" for Kiki to take a little rest. I mean, who watches young adult, super funny smut to take focus off hurling? We did have to fast forward the parts with booze or puking as to not give her any ideas. Which is actually a pretty large amount of the movie...isn't that what makes it sooo great?) I imagine it sounds pretty strange, but I am honored to be here. You WOULD NOT BELIEVE the amount of cards, emails, gifts, etc that have arrived here in the last month. I know Krisitn in truly grateful for every one of them. But the reason the postman and internet elves have been so very busy is because Kristin is a wonderful person who has brought joy to each one of our lives. In some way or another her blunt, funny, beautiful, big footed, generous, bacon eating, bad word saying and generally inappropriate self has entered our lives and we are better for it! On Halloween about 4 years ago my husband and I dressed as Kristin and Nick. It was a truly liberating experience right down to the pickle bottle of booze. May I suggest while you are thinking about Kiki and keeping her in your prayers, that you think about something that you love about her and try to be a little bit like my friend kiki.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Slippery slides....

Hey's Nick bloggin from Verde Lane. Kristin asked that I post a quick update while she is catching up on some rest. Here it goes:
While k stayed home, the kids and I played yesterday and today at two different houses— each with those awesome slippery wet banana slides. You pretty much know summer has started when those things come out! Per usual with a 4 year old, it's all fun until someone catches a skim board in the upper lip! Yes, Fisher got smacked hard, but no, he didn't need stitches this time. Everyone had a blast (including me) so thanks to our friends for the invitations and thinking of us.

Unfortunately, Kristin has had a minor slide of her own...last night, she had some chills and a fever. I have in my pesky chemo notes that this isn't entirely unexpected, but something we need to watch diligently. She started some prescribed antibiotics today and the fever is down, but still present. It sounds so backwards, but she is really, really hoping her white blood cell count is high enough for chemotherapy tomorrow. So, we're monitoring any fever activity and we will move forward as planned. The Brett Michaels frame is packed, SuperBad is loaded on the iPad and Becka and Diane will both be here in the AM. Keep your fingers crossed and we hope all goes as well as possible...stay tuned.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thank You Claudia!

Yesterday my sister Claudia left. As her taxi pulled away from my house, I stood on the front porch and cried and cried. So did nanny Judy who came to really love Claudia as they worked together to wrangle my brood and make sure everyone was fed and loved and cleaned and napped while I tried to rest as much as possible. This was the first long-term stint Claudia had spent in my home and she had the chance to really get to know and love my kids. Each morning she would wake up early with Fisher, let him paw through her beautiful jewelry, pick out her day's pieces and carefully put them on her. She endured Jenny-Jane's sassy smacks and "go! go!" when we were late for nap. She was never still. She was forever grocery shopping, picking up Fisher from school, preparing meals, cleaning the kitchen, clearing out the fridge, and doing whatever else she might have seen needing attention. That girl's a workhorse and we all could take a lesson from her. Thank you, dear sister, for spending so much time with us and loving us like you did and do. We adore you and are so very grateful for your time here.

But not to worry. We we are not lost, heaven's no. My wonderful sister Diane is still here living just a couple miles away. Diane has always been a constant force in our family's lives and has generously upped her time here since my diagnosis. She is sooo good with the kids, even in their naughtiest mode. She spoils Fisher, her godson, like crazy with WAY too many gifts. She bakes like a madwoman, and if she had her way, we would be eating food from her restaurant, Red Devil, every night of the week. She makes herself ridiculously available to us, and we are very lucky to have her. We love you so, Diane. And even though Fisher always chose Claudia for nighttime stories, he has yet to call you Grandma, once. Sorry about that, Claudia.

On tap this weekend are visits from my homies, my wild (emphasis on wild) and wonderful college pals. One of my very best friends Marcy, who now lives in San Francisco, is here and even baked us a delicious, bacon and calorie-filled dinner last night. One more descends on Monday from north Scottsdale. Rebecca will take me to chemo and stay the night. I've already warned Nurse Lyndsay to brace herself for the event. I can't wait.

You know, this whole cancer thing really sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. But you know what? Claudia never would have been here for 8 days, Diane would not normally be here almost every day of the week, Marcy wouldn't have made me dinner on a random Thursday night, and I haven't had a sleepover with my college gals in 20 years. I'm seeing so many silver linings and spots of color that I never would have experienced or noticed if I hadn't been diagnosed with cancer. I'm going to come out of this whole, and I'm going to be different. I'm going to be better, and that's pretty amazing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blonde or Brunette?

Let the voting begin!
(just kidding, no need to vote) Just wanted you to see some of the fun we had at the wig boutique today. I'll reveal my newest "do" when I get it in my hot little hands next week. I've been lucky to have minimal hair loss so far, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for another week or so.

Claudia leaves tomorrow eve and I'm heartbroken to see her go. We plan on taking Jenny-Jane for a haircut tomorrow so I'll show her new "do" too!
With love,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Can Feel The Love

Hi there!
It's Tuesday night and Nick, Claudia and I are winding down from our busy day with silly kids, doctor's appointments, amazing gifts, a new ailment, a Mexican Fiesta dinner and a long day for Nick at Kitchen Sink Studios. I'll start with the fun stuff. Tonight my loving friend Aimee dropped of a staggering gift from my parenting group moms. These are gals that I've been friends with from before Fisher was born. We attend class twice a month to learn about rearing our little wild ones and issue complaints and gain insight about things from potty training to stranger danger. Over the past few weeks, these moms have been dropping off dinners, calling, texting, emailing, taking my kids on outings and sending cards and special gifts non-stop. Tonight I was presented with a gorgeous card absolutely covered with loving notes and a Louis Vuitton box (my first). Seriously, a LV box. Inside was a stunning purple and pink scarf covered with the LV logo to wear once my hair is no longer. I was and still am in shock at their generosity and true compassion. Thank you girls, from the top and bottom of my heart. I love you all so very much.

Last night I was treated to very special visitors. Nick and I share a tad of incestry, but don't worry, it's all through the Greek system. His name is Pete Moser and his love for me is as big as he is. Let's just say his nickname has always been Big Pete. Pete, his dreamy wife Mellissa and their joyful son August were in town from New York and came over to have dinner with us. Nick and I both met Pete at UofA where Nick became Pete's big brother in the Sigma Chi fraternity, and I became his big sister at the fraternity. We've had this love triangle for about 20 years now and we could not care for each other more. Pete has always been my guardian and protector, and I know he now feels helpless. Holding this dear, dear friend as he sobbed on my shoulder was a scary but important reminder that I'm in this situation pretty deep. Pete has committed that he'll do the 40 mile Avon walk in an XXL pink t-shirt with me in two years, I can't wait. I have to make a shout out to Pete's whole family who I know is following my blog, I truly feel all your love and prayers.

I've had three doctor visits over the past two days. Yesterday was my oncologist for a check-up. I was surprised and a tad frightened to learn that my white blood cell count is pretty low. It needs to come up significantly before this Monday so that I can have my chemo treatment. My unwavering doctor confidently told me that he thinks I'm on an upswing and expects me to be in good shape by Monday. Of course, I'm worried. Then, last night, I started having significant lower back/tailbone pain. A morning call to Nurse Lyndsay confirmed that the shot of Neulasta that I got last Tuesday to raise my white blood cells is causing "bone pain" in large bone masses that are creating more white blood cells. My take is this, if it hurts, then the medicine is working and I'll get my counts up. I'm unfortunately back on pain killers which means I'm also back on prune juice. Ugg.

Today we saw the genetic counselor that I mentioned earlier. Claudia came with us, thank goodness, to help provide a little more family history. They took some blood and are sending it off to the genetic geniuses to help find where my cancer came from. This one test could tell us if my siblings and children will also be predestined for cancers. Heavy stuff.

We also saw Dr. Mossharafa, my plastic surgeon, who said all looks good. My chest expanders are still uncomfortable, but due to my $50 lacy but snug new Nordstrom bra, I feel much better. I even "slept" (maybe 3 hours last night) on my side for the first time last night. Sooo nice. My next appointment with him is in two weeks when we will start adding fluid to my expanders to start stretching my tissue in preparation for implants. The injection is done through a needle into my chest, but I don't have much feeling there anyway so the doc said it would not hurt. I'm looking forward to getting some boob shape back. I thought I was pretty flat before, you should see me now. Flat as a board.

Tomorrow Nick heads to Sedona on a client photo shoot, and my sisters are taking me wig shopping. I figure I'll get at least one to have if I want to feel sassy, but I'm pretty sure it won't get a lot of use. Who knows, I might love it. We'll take photos of some of the best and worst, I promise. I'm off to eat a big piece of chocolate cake that came with the fabulous Mexican Fiesta dinner from the loving Vanderhoff family and then try to sleep. Hasta manana!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Arranged Marriage Alert

This just in... photos from the dance recital Fisher went to today. Those gorgeous children are Thomas, Fisher, his future wife Georgia and beauty-queen Laney.

Can you stand it??

I can already see these photos being shown 20+
years from now during a slideshow at Fisher and Georgia's rehearsal dinner, and I get to be the one to tell the story of how they fell in love when they were four-years-old.

Thank you, my dear friend Krista, for making me truly believe I will be there to see this day.

My All Girl Gang

Here we are, those crazy Knotek girls (that's my maiden name if you didn't know- I got so lucky to marry an easy name like Hower!). From left to right, that's Claudia, Diane, Jennny-Jane and me. Poor Fisher and Nick have had to bear an estrogen-fest weekend with us four gals, but I think they kind of enjoyed it.

I did as promised and really took it easy these past few days. Every need was met from food, to dishes, to cleaning, to kid care and beyond. A true chance to heal. I'm feeling stronger every day and only took one nap today. One lingering side effect, my sleep is definitely weird. It always feels kind of twilight-like. I'm not sure if I'm sleeping or daydreaming most of the time, but then hours pass suddenly so I must be asleep. The dreams are odd beyond odd. I must have a VERY whacked out subconscious. I know you want details, but really, I can't. Just trust me.

Fisher had a super fun Disney-like day today which makes me so happy. First to Home Depot with Dad to help turn his sandbox (aka neighborhood litter box- sick!!) into a new vegetable garden. Nick worked all day on it and it's perfect. Then Fisher was whisked away by his best friend Thomas Evans and his mom Miss Andrea for lunch at Rainforest Cafe ("there were trees and monkeys and rain in the restaurant!"), then to see his girlfriends Georgia and Lane in a dance recital (the boys gave the girls flowers) and then a stop for frozen yogurt with the whole crew. Are you kidding me? A four year old's heaven.

This week we start in with doctor's appointments again, but happily, no chemo until Monday the 24th. One interesting meeting we have Tuesday is with a genetics counselor to help us figure out where this cancer came from, and to see if it may reappear. These tests are so important because my family has no trace of breast cancer that we know of, but if it is in my genes, we need to know to protect ourselves. I want to defend the girls in the photo above like a mama bear.

I'm over and out before my Tylenol PM kicks in and my looney tunes dreams begin. I may give you a taste of that insanity in a later blog. Just for fun.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Who's That Girl?

Finally, a quick shot of my new short "do"! We had a lovely evening walk and front yard play time tonight after the kids had dinner and Nick came home from work. Watching Fisher play kick ball with a huge grin on his face and his adoring sister Jenny-Jane trying to copy his every move was the highlight of my day.

I do have to admit that my physical limitations of not being able to lift, carry or move my upper body and arms very easily have put me in tears lately. It is so hard to go from being completely able to depending on others for so many basic needs, especially when it comes to caring for the kids. While our munchkins love the attention of their aunties, as their mama, I still want to be their everything. I'm making a commitment to start practicing more patience with myself. This is a marathon and not a sprint, I need to pace myself. I also understand that my current physical limitations are due more to the surgery than the chemo, and the surgery healing is underway. I'll just be a lot happier once can lift my little girl out of her crib in the morning, put her on my hip and start my day. I think I've got 2-3 more weeks before that can happen, sigh.

As a family, we are looking forward to a quiet and fun weekend with my sisters here, as my chemo symptoms lessen each day. I'm looking forward to the next week of feeling more like myself and continuing to heal. Next chemo is Monday the 24th, so I've got lots of time to play before then. Brace yourself, two of my wildest and craziest college roommates are my chemo buddies for the next round- things will definitely get interesting.
With love,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

All is Calm, All is Bright

Sisters, Sisters! My Sisters are here! Hugging my sister Claudia when she arrived at my house last night from Oregon around 8pm gave me a sense of safety that I haven't felt since my diagnosis. With both sisters including Diane, who lives here in Phoenix and is my constant companion, and Claudia here in my home, I have a special new energy. They whisked into my bedroom, put away all the piles of clean clothes (I can't reach my high hangars due to surgery), popped all the deflating mylar balloons, disposed of gift bags, cleaned out the refrigerator, cleared off the counters and just put me at ease that order can be maintained throughout this chaos.

Today was pleasant and easy. Claudia and I took Fisher to school, ran a couple quick errands and I was able to rest most of the day. Both kids napped and ate good dinners and went to bed. Kind of normal, wow. The kids are comfortable too. I can feel that they know that Diane and Claudia are part of me, and they feel a true mothering in our home, even when I'm resting or taking a time out. Knowing that my babes feel this love is my best medicine of all.

My sickie-feeling chemo symptoms seem to be lessoning, although my chest surgery incisions and internal expanders are a constant pain and nag- but that's ok, I'm only two weeks out from major surgery. I get pooped easily, but I have the freedom to rest as needed. Truly, I feel safe, and that's priceless.

Nick is having a much needed night out with two best friends Pete and Darren, and I'm about to settle in for the night. I know I promised a photo of my new cropped haircut, but we forgot to take one, oops. So, here's one of me with Fisher and Jenny-Jane helping the hairdresser. Fisher even got to make the first cut with the sharp scissors. Tomorrow I'll fluff myself up and get a photo of my new "do" which is actually pretty cute. I just wish I could keep it longer than about 10 more days- as what I've been told. I'm really, really not ready for that part!!

No appointments for tomorrow, another day to rest and recuperate. I once again have to say thank you to everyone for your cards, calls, texts, gifts, flowers and food. Is it possible to gain weight during chemo? I might just do that. The homemade food in my home is so filled with love and calories, it's perfect. I'm gonna go have a dish of frozen custard from my hometown and get ready for another good day with my sisters.
With love,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bye-Bye Wendy :(

Hi Everyone!
I know it's a random part of the night, but I seem to be sleeping in 3-hour increments this week (I was warned about this) so I thought I'd take this quiet hour to say Hello! First, some biz-ness. People keep telling me that they want to post comments to the blog, but when they try, they can't figure out how to become a Member, or whatever. So- I made some setting changes so I now think you can post a comment without having to sign up. When they ask you to "comment as" just pick Name/URL and put your name in both spots and it should post just fine. And I love hearing from you, so even if it's just a Hi, feel free to post me a note.

Of course, Fisher takes priority here, after his elbow karate chop through the glass pane of his bedroom french door. I can't believe what a stud he is- see photo! He has not complained once and thinks it's really pretty super cool to have a "cast" (aka, ace bandage) to take to school today to show his friends.

Ok, back to me, my favorite subject (I am very much kidding, I am soooo sick of me). As Wendy blogged, we actually had fun with Lyndsay, my chemo nurse (see photo, she is so cute!) and the actual infusions did not hurt a bit. That evening I had a huge headache and felt like ralphing, but I am a trooper and have yet to yack. Tuesday am was back to the oncologist for a shot of Neulasta that costs $2500- holy shit! We are pretty certain that we qualify for assistance so we only need to pay $50 for each of the four times I need it, thank goodness! The shot is very important because it boosts my white blood cell count by increasing production of bone marrow so I can continue on my "dose dense" treatment of every two weeks for 16 weeks. I was warned that the shot might make me feel like I have the flu, and I did and still do feel crappy, but definitely not terrible. Last night, Nick, Wendy and I stayed up way too late watching funny videos on YouTube. Can you believe she never saw "D*ck in a Box?" Come on, that's a new classic!

Also a word on my oncologist Dr. Wendt. He's great beyond great. He touches my knee when he talks to me, he never uses scary words to send me into hysterics, and he is an Arizona Wildcat. One day when he could tell Nick was feeling overwhelmed, he completely changed the subject to fly fishing for a good 10 minutes and the two of them bonded over one of their favorite shared subjects. He is one of the best oncologists in the state and specializes in breast cancer. I truly feel like he sees me as a daughter and will do everything in his power to get me back up and running. I trust him completely. Here we are together:

Saw my plastic surgeon yesterday and he seems happy with incision healing progress so far. I am still having a lot of discomfort in my chest area, but maybe that's because I have two hard plastic CD sized tissue expanders (but thicker like a shallow pot pie) inserted under the muscles in my chest cavity. Too much detail? Sorry, but it's sucky. I told his nurse that I hated my pressure bra so much that I was going to hit the doctor in the face with it and she said "hit him in the eye, then he won't see me taking nips from the bottle under my desk". Nurses rock.

Sadly, today is the changing of the guard again at home. Nick's sister Wendy is leaving us and we feel scared to see her go. She has been invaluable in every possible way. The way she fluffs my pillows, shaves my armpits, remembers my medicine schedule, wakes up with the kids and makes them gourmet breakfasts so I can sleep, fits me with multiple bras in the Macy's dressing room while politely avoiding my not so fresh body odor and nasty stitches across my chest, fills out our healthcare payment assistance forms, takes copious notes at every doctor's appointment, shampoos the dogs, picks up poops (dogs and diapers), cleans the bubble machine, retrieves lost binkies, and not to mention ruining her favorite pink shirt as Fisher bled and puked on her as she carried him to the car for his first hospital trip. She has been an angel and I love her soooo incredibly much. Thank you Wendy, I will never forget everything you have done for our family.

The good news here is that my big sister Claudia (she is 16 years older, but looks younger than me because of that moist Oregon air, damn it!) is flying in from Portland tonight and will be here for the week to slip into Wendy's shoes. When she arrives at 8pm, Wendy's got an hour to give her the full download before she heads to the airport back to her little family. And here's a shout out to Emma- who turns 10 today and mommy Wendy is here with us. Again, that's love. I hope that many of you will meet Claudia while she is here. She's pretty fricking perfect, and that's not just my opinion. Everyone who meets her falls in love with her, she's dreamy in the most dreamiest of ways. I can't wait to get my arms around her tonight.

I hope I'm on the upswing of the chemo drug effects, and each day will get a little easier. It's nice to know that I will have a week "off" between infusions to hopefully feel like a productive human again (who can't lift anything over 10 pounds). I'm still off diaper changing duty, which is kind of a bonus.

Oh, one more thing, today my beloved hairstylist Laurie for the past 15 years is coming over to the house to give me my new "bob" haircut this afternoon. We all thought that losing my hair might be easier if it came out in 12 inch strands instead of 20 inch strands. At some point I may just have to shave my head (Oh My God!!!), but for now, a new bob sounds like fun. Of course we'll have photos for you asap.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Hi everyone,

One chemo treatment down, seven to go!
Aunt Wendy here (Nick's sister) with an update on Kristin, who is resting.
But 4-year-old Fisher's story tops Kristin's first day of chemo: He's showing off eight stitches in his right arm.
At about 2:30 p.m., Kristin and I arrived home from chemo and a grocery shop. We snuck into the house to avoid interrupting Judy as she put Fisher down for his nap. We could hear Judy's sweet voice and some mild protesting from Fisher. Typical stuff from a kid who will probably give up his afternoon nap soon.
Then we heard a slam and the tinkling of shattered glass.
Fisher had slammed his elbow through a pane of glass in his bedroom door.
Then he threw up about five times.
Nick raced home and we were off to Phoenix Children's Hospital. Diane the Superauntie ditched work and arrived here in 10 minutes flat to take care of Kristin and Jenny-Jane.
The X-ray and stitches only took about five hours! Fisher was so very brave.
Still, the star of the day was Kristin.
She showed up at the doctor's office looking absolutely gorgeous in a cute new top and hair flair (headband with flower). She was armed with a Sonic Strawberry Limeade RT 44 Slush and "The Hangover" movie downloaded onto her iPad. And she had her secret weapon: Nurse Lyndsay. You could almost look forward to chemo because it means getting to hang out with Lyndsay. She is so calming and cool.
Before the treatment, Kristin sat reading pages and pages about her new best-friend drugs--literally from Adriamycin to Zofran. Lyndsay was careful to explain all of the possible side effects, starting with a certain type of steroid before chemo.
"It has a tendency to cause a stinging sensation in the anal area."
WHAT? Happily, Kristin did not experience that.
On the bulletin board in front of Kristin's brown pleather recliner, dozens of pictures of people's dogs, cats and other pets were strangely comforting. Another bulletin board features many quotes. The visiting husband of a chemo patient gave us his take on the rather modest surroundings: Some doctors put a lot of energy into their office decor, other doctors put all their energy into their patients. Kristin's dedicated and experienced Dr. Wendt certainly belongs in the second category.
All is quiet now. Jenny-Jane and Fisher are tucked in their beds. Bella is sleeping, Bear is standing sentry at Kristin's bedroom door with a stuffed fishie toy in his mouth. Kristin is watching "The Hangover" in bed and trying not to think about feeling like she has a serious Level 11 hangover of her own. Nick seems satisfied that his sweet little family is safe and calm. Good night, everyone, and thank you for the outpouring of good wishes and prayers. We feel your love wafting throughout the house.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Let's Get It Started!

In the words of my beloved sister-in-law Wendy who is spending (slaving) the week with us, "Today was Epic". I really don't know what it was, the pressure of Mother's Day, the day prior to my first chemo treatment or just the insane new life of a family dealing with the recent diagnosis of cancer, but everything was a tad off kilter. I first have to publicly apologize to my most adoring husband Nick for completely losing my chicken over the fact that when he returned from the bagel store this am, he walked in with 4 individual bagels smeared with cream cheese instead of the big bountiful bag of assorted bagels with a lovely selection of tubs cream cheeses as I had imagined. I think I may have even cried. Let's just say he dutifully sprinted out of the house and returned in a flash with my desires. Good husband.

The kids were beyond cranky and even Jenny-Jane had her first "cool-down" (aka "time out") in her crib today. I can't count how many times Fisher was on the naughty chair. To escape the insanity, I retired back to bed about 11am and woke at 2pm to find my dutiful sister Diane still here from breakfast scrubbing the kitchen, Nick shaving our dogs (that is what groomers are for!!!) with some new flow-bee devise, Fisher collecting armloads of dog fur for some future art project, Jenny-Jane napping and Wendy calling her loved ones back home in North Carolina- thank you Emma and Dylan for lending us your mommy on Mother's Day!!! We all sort of cooled down from there and even took an evening walk around our neighborhood. We enjoyed a gourmet dinner courtesy of one of my prayer warriors Monica McQueen, and at this moment, Nick and Wendy are lounging in the hot tub.

It seems surreal that tomorrow at 10:15am I'll be walking into my oncologist's office for my first chemotherapy treatment. I'll be armed with magazines, movies and shows on my iPad and of course Nick and Wendy by my side. I'll also be carrying a 48 ounce Sonic slushy to ward off "the red death". I'm not kidding, that's what one of my intravenous drugs is called. I've been warned that it's deep red like cherry Kool-Aid and makes you feel like your whole body is about to burst into flames. I'm psyched!

I know people like photos and I know have not included enough, so I'm going to do more as we move forward, especially while I still have hair. This one was taken before our walk today (post a double child melt-down and a minimum of 25 minutes to get ourselves organized and out the door for our 15 minute walk). Please notice a few things, I'm wearing a beautiful hand-made necklace Fisher made me for Mother's Day with the help of the talented Julia Winter, and my red cup next to cute Nick, usually filled with a yummy greyhound or bloody mary cocktail, today was prune juice. Oh, and that lovely tan cami peeking out of my dress is not a sexy underpinning, it is the nasty huge pressure bra I'm strapped into 23+ hours per day. Of course the kids are cute cute cute and still don't have a clue what's going on around them. While I do think they innately feel the new and unusual energy in the house, I have a strong feeling it will probably hit home more after my hair loss and probable puke fest as chemo progresses. Can you tell I'm starting to freak out a bit?

Ok, that's it for now. I hope to have enough energy to give you the low-down of tomorrow's festivities, but if not, Wendy or Nick will be blogging for me. Things are just getting good- I don't want you to miss a minute of this crazy drama as it unfolds. Wish me luck tomorrow and for the days following. I'm big and strong and I can do this. Much, much love, k

Friday, May 7, 2010

And The Hits Keep Coming

It's me and I'm typing from my "bed nest" of pillows on my super-cool iPad so please forgive my spelling and grammar errors. I just have to keep thanking everyone for their concern and generosity. The people I hear from from all around the country, the unbelievable gifts that arrive every day, it's completely flabbergasting. My mom keeps asking "how do know all these people?". Well, hell if I know, but I'm not complaining. The things that arrive on my doorstep daily would encompass a blog in itself. I just thought yesterday morning was particularly fabulous. Wendy and I were retuning from Target with the makings of my new bed-nest (my nurse says Thursday "oh shit, don't worry, no one can sleep the first few weeks after boob expander reconstruction surgery. Most people have to sleep in recliners. Up your Valium intake and go buy 10 pillows.") and there waiting on my doorstep by 10am are these items : a big jug of Titos vodka (highly recommended), two tupperwares of homemade queso fundito (that's spicy cheese dip for my gringos) and a certificate for a manicure/pedicure. Seriously, what more does a gal need? I'll fill you in more on the amazing things people have done soon - but the case of pints of my absolute favorite frozen custard from Milwaukee, Kopps, along with candied nuts and hot fudge? Seriously, things are silly around here. And what we opened from my brother pete's family today? I'm still peeing my pants. More tomorrow... My upped valium says nighty night. :)

Quick Addendum: Ok, it's me again on Sunday night, this is what was making me pee my pants. My brother and sister-in-law in somewhere random Wisconsin loved the fact that I was sharing a hospital floor with Brett Michaels. Their care package included a framed photo of Brett for me and a Best of Poison CD for Nick. I'm taking the photo to chemo with me on Monday, no kidding.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Master Plan

Ummm.... where am I? Who am I? Ok, I'm almost throw-up tired but have so much to report that I have to blog it baby! Let's start with yesterday, my big meeting with Dr. Mosharrafa, the plastic surgeon. It was the day of the big unveiling. I was pretty scared to see what was under my huge bandage, and guess what? It wasn't as elephant man as I expected. In fact, it was kind of a let down. As those who know me well, you are aware that I am (was) not a well-endowed woman. So when the bandages came off, I really didn't look that different. Yes, I have no nipples (yes, we have no bananas, everybody sing!) and have some pretty big scars across the middle of where my boobs were, but honestly it's not too freakish. The hardest part was removing the drains that were inserted about 12 inches into my chest cavity. I high-pitched screeched like a wussy as the doctor pulled out each tube and he said jokingly "the tea is ready". How funny is that? I now have to wear this nasty flesh colored mom-bra 23 hours a-day to keep hard pressure on my chest cavity as everything heals. It's pretty padded so I look kind of stacked, but unfortunately it hurts like a son of a bitch, especially when I'm laying down. Here's the kicker, I'll be in this thing for 18 months since I have to wait a year after radiation to have my "exchange surgery" meaning taking out my chest expanders and putting in my breast implants. Sleeping the first night in this new bra was torture and I've reconsidered staying on pain meds at night until I get some relief.

Today was the changing of the guard in our house. Nick's mom who was here for the past 9 days headed back East- thank you soooooo much for everything Virginia!!!- and Nick's sister Wendy joined us last night. Like Nick's mom, Wendy is fun, funny, wicked smart and great with the kids so I know we'll have a memorable week. Our first stop this am was scary westside Phoenix for a PETscan. I kept saying that I wanted a fish and Nick said he wanted a kitten, but I guess it wasn't that kind of place. This procedure is done at this point to evaluate my body for any evidence of cancer metastasizing in other areas. It's similar to an MRI in that they put you in a tube like thing and xray every inch of you. I was definitely freaking out about this one. Bad enough that I have breast cancer, but to learn that cancer might be in other places too? I just couldn't bear it. Especially since I have the 8 cancer infected lymph nodes, it wouldn't be out of the question. But here's the best news of the day... in the words of my sweet oncologist Dr. Wendt, "there is no metabolic activity to suggest metastatic disease". Meaning, the cancer has not spread beyond the lymph nodes that were removed during last week's surgery. YIPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

He then went on to describe, in detail, and I swear 85% of it was in some wild alien language, my planned 16 week regimen of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiation and then many years of hormone pill popping to keep things at bay. Thank God Wendy is a trained journalist and took copious notes and asked every right question to help us semi-understand what the doctor was saying. Here's the nutshell: I had "highly aggressive and high-grade" tumors which were removed during surgery, but what keeps them from coming back is the chemo, radiation and hormone therapy. Here's my schedule, get this, STARTING THIS MONDAY MAY 10TH, (holy shit!!!) I have chemo every two weeks for a total of 8 weeks (that means 4 infusions) of drugs called adriamycin and cytoxin. Seriously powerful stuff- they are throwing the big guns at me. Then the second round of chemo, again every two weeks for a total of 8 weeks (4 infusions) I get a drug called taxol. After those 16 total weeks, I do radiation for 6 weeks, which is 5 days a week, but only lasts for a few minutes each time. I hear radiation is like a walk in the park after chemo- let's hope so.

Now let's talk side effects. I can expect to lose my hair about 12-17 days after starting chemo. That puts us around May 23rd, crap. We stole the hysterical catalog from the oncologist's office of all the horrible wigs, scarves, hats and my personal favorite, the terry-cloth turbin with velcro front closure. I'm not quite sure what I'll be donning, but I'm guessing cute hats and scarves. Wigs in AZ summer heat? Shut up. Then there's the nausea, vomiting, head aches, mouth sores and all that other fun that will also ensue, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll have plenty of time for that roller coaster. Good news is that there are serious medications now available to help control the sick-feeling side effects and I'll be into those like Jenny-Jane on a pickle. Let's just say you should buy stock in Claussen NOW!

I have no appointments tomorrow (thursday) and just an easy ecocardiogram on Friday, so things are good in the hood. I plan on doing lots of laughing and trying not to freak out about chemo on Monday. We considered today a victory and I think that's a great place to end. :)