Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welcome Back Virginia

Tonight felt like a homecoming of sorts.  Nick's most amazing Mom, Virginia, flew in from Boston to spend a long weekend with us. Seeing her was wonderful, familiar, yet fuzzy.  You see, the last time she was here was late April, right before, during and after my double mastectomy (the real terminology is bilateral mastectomy, but I like mine better).  I was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 20th, and on April 28th, I had my surgery and Virginia was already here.  That means she jumped on a plane immediately upon hearing our news so she could acclimate with the family for a day or two before I went under the knife, and then she stayed for a total of nine days.  What do I remember from that time?  Not much.  


I think most of my memories are actually from the few photos taken during that time, including checking into the hospital with Nick, Virginia and Diane in tow (photo of me holding my urine specimen cup).  Waiting for a long time in pre-op before surgery (photo of Krista visiting to offer survivor support and giving me a foot rub). Me laying in my hospital room with my hair in braids post surgery (photo of Virginia giving me Reiki as I lay there unconscious).  And after that?  I really have no idea.  That's scary.


I kind of remember coming home and various people cleaning out the drains in my sides, and maybe a visit to the plastic surgeon. Things start getting clearer as I remember going for my post surgery Petscan with Nick, Virginia and Nick's sister Wendy.  That is the day Virginia left.  Just when I started coming out of the fog.  


My conversation with Virginia tonight about her time here back in April was startling because I was here, but I really wasn't.  She said I was fairly miserable and in a lot of pain.  She also said that the kids were totally whacked out, especially Jenny-Jane, who pretty much went off the deep end.  Nothing could make her happy.  Thank God I wasn't really aware of what was going on.  


All this seems poignant because my friend Gabbee had her surgery two weeks ago, and Pat had hers last week.  I thought I remembered more than I do, and I thought I kind of "sailed through".  I guess not. It was definitely rough and these gals are in the thick of it now. Good news is that kind of like childbirth (which I don't really know because I had C-Sections), you forget the worst of it.  I think that's the mind's way of sparing your sanity so you can move on with your life after traumatic events.  So gals, I am hopeful that you will forget the ugliest parts, like I did.


What I find amazing is how far I've come since Virginia's last visit. I've checked so many things off my cancer treatment to-do list: surgery-check, 4 months chemo-check, chest expander fills- check, started radiation-check, and most wonderfully, finally feeling more like myself-check!


I am looking forward to a special weekend where I can enjoy Virginia's company, and actually remember our time together.  From what Nick and she said tonight, I'm actually a little surprised she came back.  I guess I wasn't the sweetest of patients early on. Thank you to all my caregivers, especially Nick, Virginia, Diane, Wendy and Claudia, who endured my wrath.  Thank God you are family and have to still love me.  Don't you? (please say yes!)


Have a very happy weekend,
love
k

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cancer Girl

Man, it feels good to feel good.  Having weekends off from radiation is such a welcome break.  While I still napped every afternoon with the kids, this weekend I felt energized and strong enough to keep up with family activities.  Unfortunately, it's still 105 degrees here in Phoenix.  What the hell?  It's the end of September.  Seriously, we are so ready for a break in the heat.  Even the evenings aren't cooling down yet.  We tried a little family time in the front yard at dusk tonight but it was still impossibly hot.  It's one of the hardest parts of living in Arizona.  The summers are killers and when they extend past September, we all get a little edgy. (Yes, I'm preparing you for what's to come.)  


Fisher started soccer and had his first practice Friday evening and game Saturday morning.  It is amazing what a year's difference makes. Last season he and his best friend Thomas stood in the middle of the field picking their noses during games, but they are on it this year.  Not only did those two score most of the goals at the game, their team, "The Pirates," actually won!  We were completely shocked and proud.  


I'm a little embarrassed to say what I'm about to say, but here is my place to be honest about what it's like to have cancer.  On Saturday morning, when our little family went to Fisher's game, I totally felt like a freak.  Here we were, joining the 75+ other families on the St. Francis sports fields, and I'm the only bald girl there.  All the other moms are all cute with their pony tails and headbands, and I'm rocking the pale head peaking out from under my ball cap.  I could almost hear the other parents whispering to each other "Oh My God, did you see that mom?  She must have CANCER!"  Yuck.  Kids look at me weird and the parents who brave talking to me are all nicey-nicey.  "So glad you could be here."  "You look great."  "How are you feeling??"  I know in my heart of hearts, they are well intentioned. But it just feels condescending.  I HATE being cancer girl.  I hate it hate it hate it. 


So I know what you're thinking.  "What the hell do I say to her if I see her?  Complements don't seem to be going over well."  Honestly, I wish I could tell you.  I'm just a little whacked when it comes to my self image right now.  Maybe you could just not wash or comb your hair for a few days leading up to our conversation.  Yeah, that might help.


Back to more positive energy, which has really kept me afloat during this ordeal.  I saw my oncologist on Thursday and he said I'm doing perfectly.  I see him again in November and begin my five-year drug, Tamoxifen, which will keep me healthy and cancer free.  Tomorrow I resume my daily radiation and hope I've got another week of being spared any burns.  This Thursday, Nick's lovely Mom, Virginia, joins us from Boston for a long weekend.  And Nick and I are starting to plan our "thank God it's over" vacation in November.  I've truly got a lot to look forward to, especially growing my hair back.  I am NOT going to be cancer girl for long.


With love,
k

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Posse

Catherine, Conner and Hayden "Kicking It" in London
I've blogged about these gals before, but it's been awhile and I cannot say enough about them.  I'm talking about my posse of girlfriends through North Central Parenting Group.  There are about sixteen of us who have been together for nearly five years wading our way through motherhood.  We meet formally twice a month in a classroom setting to learn the practical information of developmental milestones and behavior correction techniques, but it's outside the classroom where our bonds have really solidified.  These are the girls who are endlessly bringing our family dinners and nudging me out of the house for laugh-athon girls dinners (like tonight).  You should see the emails that fly among us.  Someone needs a dog sitter?  Another will offer to take that dog camping with them for the weekend.  Someone having a baby?  Their meals are delivered before the baby is.  Someone knows of a spa deal?  You've got an instant gaggle starting their SUV's to meet you for a pedicure.  It's amazing.


These ladies have stood by my side from day one of my diagnosis, and six months later, they haven't faltered.  The list of things they have done for me is endless.  But sometimes, it's the silliest things that make the biggest impact, like the day Ashley left HUGE packages of paper towel and toilet paper on my front doorstep on her return home from Costco.  Who knew I'd be all gaga over toilet paper? But I really am. These wonderful women are always there for me, in any capacity, and I am so grateful.  


Several months ago, they even designed a special logo and t-shirt for me.  I love seeing my friends in their Kick it Kiki t-shirts all over town.  They even send me photos of themselves wearing them.  The photo above is the supermodel Catherine and her kids Connor and Hayden in their new home of London England.  I've gone international!


So please gals, accept this shout out for everything you do for my family.  We are beyond thankful for your friendship and support.  I feel incredibly blessed.


With love
k

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Others

I'm happy to report that radiation therapy is moving along smoothly. I've been warned that I might start seeing and feeling some burns under my right arm later this week, but for now it feels fine.  I have even been trying to spruce up the waiting area right outside the radiation room.  Every day I am admitted into the back part of the doctor's office where I change into one of those nasty-ugly way WAY oversized blue patterned hospital gowns, and then I have to wait for a few minutes in this tiny waiting area to be called into radiation.  On the wall in this room is a selection of about six of the blandest, mind numbing, outdated magazines...Country Home, National Geographic, ugg.  So I've been collecting mags from my girlfriends and have been quietly switching them out.  Now we have Oprah, Bon Appetite, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Real Simple and the like.  I mean really, why not make this six and a half weeks of drudgery a little more interesting for everyone?  The nurses say "I'm really shaking things up around here".  I'm not sure if that's good or bad.


I want to write a bit about the other people in my life who are also going through cancer treatment.  Man, there are a lot of us.  Pat, Wimberly, Krista, Gabbee, Mary, Carter, Kevin, Peg, and Stacey to name a few.  Not everyone is as public about their journeys as I am, but their stories are as equally important.  My new friend Gabbee had her double mastectomies this past Friday.  Pat has her major surgery this Friday.  Wimberly is just about to start her Taxol chemotherapy.  Mary is on the same schedule as me, slowly counting down the days of radiation. Krista is my survivor and has her two year check-up this week. Peg is good naturedly fighting her second round of cancer.  Stacey is successfully beating the cancer that spread to her brain.  Kevin is fighting another form of brain cancer, as is Carter.  As I write this, I can't help but feel physically sick from the anguish.  Why seems like such an obvious question, but I can't help it.  WHY??  


So please, if or when you say your prayers, include these wonderful people.  We've all been blindsided with this disease and welcome all the help we can get.  


And I want to say thank you to everyone who has committed to donate and/or participate in the Komen Walk here in Phoenix.  A quick check of our team shows that we have 116 people registered and have raised over $4,100.  That's nuts, I swear I checked it less than thirty minutes ago and we were at 109 people and $3,800! Again, the last day for team registration is tomorrow, Tuesday September 21st.  Individual registration is ongoing.  Click here to register for the "Oh Pat and Kiki" team.  We are going to have a really big and fun team walking with Pat and I on October 10th. Truly, thank you, everyone.


love
k

Sunday, September 19, 2010



"There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."  
-Leonard Cohen



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jenny-Jane = 2!

Jenny-Jane's special day with Aunt Diane and Mr. Steve
I'm officially four days (of thirty three, sigh) into radiation, and still so far so good.  No skin irritation or burns yet, and I do mean, yet.  Today's treatment was the fastest to date, and it's expected to continue this way.  No more x-rays to ensure that the lasers are coming in from the right angles.  The technicians seem to have it all dialed in now, so it's just point and shoot.  I receive three blasts of radiation each morning.  The huge machine rotates around my body while I lay very still on a table.  Each time, the machine makes a long buzzing sound, so it's weird to think of the radiation going into my body and burning out cells while I lay there.  Sometimes I actually imagine it hurts, but it really doesn't.  I kind of feel like a captive on an alien space ship with this super smart machine doing strange things to my body. Yeah, it's all as weird as it sounds.  


But enough about me, today was Jenny-Jane's second birthday!  She was in a great mood all day so we really had a blast.  The day started with balloons, cards and gifts, and ended the same way.  In-between she and I had a girls' outing to Nordstrom (where else?) where she received her big gift from Nick and me, a pair of super sparkly trendy shoes that she adores.  Then it was lunch with the whole family at the Biltmore.  Aunt Diane and Mr. Steve came over after dinner for presents and pink bday cake.  We sang Happy Birthday to her every chance we got, and each time she would sing along and then say "Me?" (in her tiny girly voice) when we said her name.  And she loved blowing out the candles.  Waaayyy too cute.  I think she really had a special day.  Perfect.


Oh, and I'm supposed to remind you that team registration for the Komen walk on 10/10/2010 here in Phoenix ends on September 21st.  After that, you can still register, but it will not count toward our team.  Currently, we have over 70 people registered, how cool is that?  Either way, we hope you can join us Sunday morning for the walk, and hopefully Saturday night too.  We have reserved a bar area at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale from 6-8pm.  Click here to register with our team. Once on the site, click "Register here" and "agree" to the terms, and click "join a team" and then find team "Oh Pat and Kiki".  Yikes, that sounds confusing and I know what I'm talking about!


We have plans to see lots of friends this weekend, and I'm looking forward to feeling good for all of it.  I know that radiation will soon make me tired and burned, but in the meantime, I'm really enjoying a chance to feel a bit more like myself.


With love,
k

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tis Nothing

Jenny-Jane and Helen in their Pull-Up "crowns"
I'm a pro.  Radiation?  Oh yeah, I've done that.  It's nothin'.


So today was my first day of radiation, and seriously, it was easy-peasy.  Ten minutes or so under the big machine, and I'm out of there.  The technicians make sure I'm in alignment, the machine makes a few noises and it's over.  There's no pain (yet) and it's fast.  I did feel strangely tired this afternoon, which is a normal side effect.  I didn't think it would happen so fast, so maybe I was creating my own destiny by thinking I should be tired, but who knows.  I also realize that my skin will start to feel and look burned in the next week or so, but for now, it's just fine.  


Sweet Nick accompanied me this morning to my appointment just in case I got that technician who made me feel like crying again, but I didn't get her and I had no need to cry today.  I actually got a lot of that crying out of the way Sunday night.  I went to my first yoga class in 5+ months and had tears running down my face during most of the session.  Thank goodness it was a "restorative" yoga class where it's mostly meditation, and everyone had their eyes closed.  It was cathartic.  Ok, so I just looked up "catharsis" to make sure I was using the word correctly, and the definition was "the purging of emotions or relieving of emotional tensions".  Holy moly that was the perfect word.  That's exactly what happened and it was wonderful, in an odd sort of way.


Tonight my lovely neighbor Amy and her perfect daughter Helen came over for an early birthday celebration for Jenny-Jane who turns two on Thursday.  They brought a truly beautiful and delicious pink bday cake from Barb's bakery (fit for a party of ten), a beyond cute homemade pink tu-tu and ballet slippers for the little lady.  How sweet is that??  My favorite part was when Helen put a pink pull-up diaper on her head like a crown and sang happy birthday to Jenny-Jane.  Of course Jenny-Jane had to run for a pull-up/crown for herself too.  Oh, and all three kids, including Fisher, had to take turns licking the cake after candles were blown out.  Why not?


So we are rollin'.  Radiation is underway.  Jenny-Jane's bday is this week and Fisher's in pre-school.  Nothing weird to see here, please move along.  Like I always say, "fake it till you make it".


love
k

Friday, September 10, 2010

Let The Radiation Begin

Since my last post was a bevy of health complaints, I should probably update on how everyone is doing.  Thank the good Lord that Jenny-Jane is finally feeling better and eating again.  She not completely out of the woods, but her mouth ulcers seem to be gone and she's only waking up about one time per night crying for me.  That's a serious improvement.  She chowed a big cotton candy flavored ice cream cone tonight so I think she's ok.  Nick's cold is in full swing but he's already tricked his doctor into antibiotics, Fisher's cold has officially begun and is just at the point where it's gonna be a rough weekend for him.  I'm still coughing up a lung but I am definitely feeling better than earlier in the week.  I just think I'm going to heal slower since my immune system is still compromised.  And our black cat Felix?  Oh, now there's a story.


I mentioned that Felix came home Wednesday night missing a huge chunk of his side fur and flesh.  Nick thinks it was from a dog, I'm betting it was a hit and run.  Whatever, he needed some medical attention. So Fisher and I took him to the vet Thursday morning.  The super cute blond female doctor winces and says "Oh my, that's really bad".  So she takes Felix in the back, gives him a good shave, and returns without the cat, but with a single piece of paper that totals how much his care will be.  The bottom line?  $880 for xrays, surgery and medication.  Oh yeah, $880.  So I then ask, how much for the other option?  You know what I mean.  So again she leaves the room and returns with another sheet of paper, bottom line, $200.  I had to call Nick.  His response was "we saved him once (we got him from a shelter) so we may as well do it again".  Thank you sweet husband.  I'm going through cancer treatment and my Dad died three weeks ago.  I was not going to be able to put down this cat without losing my mind.  So I told the doctor that the "governor" gave him a stay of execution and to go ahead with the surgery.  We picked him up last night and while he looks like a patchwork quilt, he's living the high life, literally, enjoying pain meds and luxuriating in our guest bedroom for two weeks.  Insane.  


Ok, change of topic.  That last one was just too weird.  Let's talk radiation.  Today I had my second "simulation" where I finally got to go into the room with the SUPER huge radiation machine.  This is a million plus dollar piece of equipment, at least.  For the first time that I can remember throughout my treatment, I actually felt like a number.  I laid under this thing for forty minutes, gown open, while three techs and my doctor drew on my chest with a green Sharpie and lined up the lasers.  They spoke in a language of coordinates and pretty much disregarded the fact that a lovely, fun girl, who happens to be bald, was laying there with tears in her eyes.  It felt so mechanical.  I regretted that I came to this appointment by myself.  The reason why I was there finally sunk in and I felt scared and alone.  I don't have too many of these moments, thank goodness, but they do hit even the toughest of fighters.


I'm not blaming the technicians.  They see patients every fifteen minutes throughout the week for radiation.  My time slot will be 8:15am for now, starting on Monday.  I'll be able to get up, run to treatment, fly home to get Fisher and take him to school, and then have my morning to play with Jenny-Jane or get a few things done.  I was told that I can't wear deodorant under my right arm for the entire six weeks of radiation.  I guess because of its ingredients, deodorant would magnify the radiation on my skin and burn me worse, yikes.  So please be kind and ignore any B.O. issues I may acquire, yes, it's still one hundred degrees here in Phoenix.   Really?  What an insult to injury.  


So my newest adventure of radiation starts next week, finally.  I'll keep you abreast (tee hee) of what it's all about, the good bad and ugly.  I'm getting closer to the finish line of this intense treatment plan that started in April.  Yes, I still have my implant surgery next fall, but I'll have a year between to hopefully be normal again.  I can't wait.


With wishes for a very happy weekend,
love
k

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gypped!

It's been a bit of a tough week, but nothing really cancer related so I guess it hasn't been all that bad.  My time between chemo and radiation were supposed to be my good weeks, my recovery weeks, but I should know better.  Isn't there some phrase like "we plan and God laughs"?  So my chest cold has turned into some sinus infection that has pulled a muscle under my left tissue expander from coughing so much.  I did see my general practitioner's PA today who gave me a Z-pack of antibiotics, thank goodness, I can feel them working already.  Of course I called my oncologist first because I was freaking out that my cancer spread to my lungs because I was coughing so much (breast cancer most often spreads to the bones, liver, brain and lungs).  Sandy, who answers the doctor's phones, said to me "It's not cancer, it's a cold.  Call your primary care physician."  Oh, right.  Sorry.


Nick now has the same creeping crud cold, and poor Jenny-Jane, the tiny soul, she is the worst of us all.  Her bad cold turned into fevers, which turned into ulcers in her mouth.  She can't sleep or eat and it's been over a week now.  Doctors assure me that it's just a virus and we need to keep her comfortable until it passes.  She wakes up several times a night saying "Mommy, owee!"  It breaks my heart and my sleep pattern.  I'm a tad zombie like, but like Sandy says, it's not cancer, so I can deal.  


Somehow Fisher has managed to escape all germs thus far, but this is his first week back at school.  He's now in Pre-K.  He'll have the "green elevens" soon enough.  That's Grandpa Larry's term for kids with two runny nostrils, gross but accurate, yes?  Oh, and poor black cat Felix, the newest member of our pet family, walked in the door tonight with some serious road rash.  It looks like he was scalped on the side of his flabby torso and had big hunks of gravel stuck in his belly fur.  Um, run over?  Who knows, but Nick treated him with is ancient Chinese secret, hydrogen peroxide, and we are hoping for the best.


I called the radiologist office in a huff yesterday wondering what is taking so long with the start of my treatment.  The somewhat annoyed nurse explained that its a LOT of work to figure out each person's radiation prescription and if I want it done right, I have to wait 7-10 days after my first simulation (which was last Wednesday).  Then I come in for a final go through on the big machine, and then I can start my daily treatments.  I'm still hoping that we can begin radiation next week.  The sooner I start, the sooner I can be done.  


Re-reading this post, I seem to be a tad surly, sorry.  Nick and I have been a bit tense with a sick babe and being sick ourselves.  We did manage a nice dinner date before Fisher's preschool orientation this evening, so I think civility is on the upswing.  I still feel a bit annoyed that I missed my window of health this week and last, but really, that's ok.  I'm all about big picture now, or at least I'm trying.  I've got dozens of years of feeling good ahead of me.


Love to all,
k



Friday, September 3, 2010

Do Unto Others

Today was a day that I had been looking forward to for weeks, and then again, in a way, I've been looking forward to it for months.  When I started my journey into this overwhelming world which is breast cancer, I had a special woman on my side who had been there, seen it and done it.  Krista was and still is my mentor as I move from diagnosis, to surgery to chemo and now into radiation.  She has been my cheerleader and my advisor on all things cancer, from prune juice and xanex to hair loss and mind loss.  I always wanted to do for another woman what Krista has done for me, which in a nutshell, she gave me hope.  Today I met Gabbee, who I aim to inspire and befriend as she too travels down this often dark and uncertain path.


Gabbee contacted me through my blog, as she had been referred to it by a friend of her husband.  After many emails we settled on a date to finally meet.  Gabbee, her sister and I met in a Tempe Starbucks, halfway between her home in Florence, AZ and mine in Phoenix.  We talked for almost two hours.  She asked me all the questions that I remember asking Krista in the early stage of my diagnosis.  I this time, was the one who had been there, done that.  


I know how she is feeling, and I know how scared she is.  Being diagnosed with breast cancer is absolutely terrifying.  It changes your whole life in a matter of minutes.  You go from living your every day reality to living your days trying to get back to that reality.  Your hopes for the future become hopes that you have a future.  If your mortality has ever been questioned you know and may understand, if not, it's impossible to fathom.  Especially for young wives and mothers like us.


So here's to my new friend.  May I offer you bit of peace during the storm, and a confidant who can honestly say "I know" and "I've been there too".  We are both going to come out on the other side of this thing stronger, wiser, and in a way, better. I am honored to know you and thank you for being open to my message of hope.


Very sincerely,
k


p.s.  You can meet my new friend Gabbee at her blogspot, and read the kindest and most heartfelt post she wrote about our meeting at www.gabbeebagby.blogspot.com  



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Simulation Let Down

I am more than happy to report that my children have backed off and have not driven me completely over the edge since Sunday's ugly debacle.  Last night I had a great grown-up night at home with my girlfriends.  Andrea brought over food from yummy Postino's (a gift from the Davy's on the East Coast- you guys rock!) and neighbor Amy joined us with a very good bottle of campaign.  We gabbed like crazy, ate and drank while trying to ignore our kids while they knocked each other senseless with my hot pink Everlast boxing gloves.  Nick came home from work to the big girls partying in the kitchen and kids everywhere.  He's a good sport and loves the girls, so he joined us.  A very fun night, indeed.

Jenny-Jane has generously shared her nasty cold with me which has settled in my chest, but I'm doing fine.  I'm glad this came on after chemo (and surgery for that matter) are officially over.  I can't imagine a hacking cough right after that chest surgery- yikes!

Today I had my radiation simulation, but it was truly anticlimactic.  I was there for less than an hour, laid in some kind of imaging machine, which I'm not even sure it was the radiation machine, while the doctor and technicians worked around me.  I know they taped some wires to my chest and looked at my insides on some kind of computer in the next room.  That's it?  Well, I guess now my super smart doctor does his calculating magic over the next few days to determine my radiation ray angles.  I then have to go in sometime next week for what they are calling a "practice" to make sure his calculations are correct.  Then I finally start actual radiation.  Looks like it won't start now until the week of September 13th.  This bums be out because it means I won't finish radiation until right before my bday the end of October.  I'll be burned for my birthday, sucky!

Oh, and those tattoos I was promised?  I can barely see them, and they were only a pin prick.  I received just three: one in the middle of my chest and one on each side of my rib cage.  I learned that they are not to show the technicians where to shoot the radiation, but instead to position me correctly on my back in the machine each day I come in for radiation.  Whatever, they are totally no big deal.  

Tomorrow it's haircuts for the kids and a visit from Fisher's pre-school teacher for the new school year.  Hi Teacher Clare!!  I have a pretty interesting meeting planned for Friday and I'm excited and nervous for it.  I'm meeting another young mom who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and she's been reading my blog.  I'm really hoping that I'm able to offer her hope and advise, and not just scare her with my big bald head.  More on that after Friday.   I'm off to eat a pound of cookies mysteriously delivered today from my sweet friend and former co-worker Valerie (thank you!!).

I send my love to all near and far,
k