Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Done Done Super Done!

Today was my official last day of radiation treatment, yay!  It's been six and a half weeks, a total of thirty three sessions, every weekday for a month and a half.  Honestly, it was pretty simple.  I got to know the nurses and technicians well, they scooted me in and out pretty quickly, my "burning" reaction was pretty mild as was my fatigue.  Every Wednesday I met with my radiologist, Dr. Brackman, and he monitored my progress and reactions.  Nick came with me today for my last session.  He got to see the ginormous radiation machine that I laid under every day, and sat in on my last evaluation with the doc.  I have full permission to enjoy our "thank God it's over trip" in Mexico in two weeks, as long as I wear a t-shirt in the sun.  While I am scheduled to see Dr. Brackman again in six weeks, it's just an office visit, to see how I'm feeling.  Sounds good.

Nick kept pressing the doctor to give us "symptoms" to watch out for in the coming weeks, months and years.  The doctor really couldn't give us anything definitive, which made Nick a bit crazy.  So finally, the doctor said, if you have a new symptom that you cannot identify it's source, give it three days and then call me.  If it's something major like dragging your leg behind you, call me the same day.  Comforting?  I'm not so sure.

I brought flowers for my technicians, my nurse, Lupe who also finished treatment today, the front desk gal and even the valet woman who's been surprisingly one of my biggest cheerleaders, her name is Sylvia.  It's been pretty humbling the women I've met through this journey.  From the gals I've been seeing every day in the treatment waiting rooms, to women I meet at the grocery stores.  First a shout out to the cute blond I saw daily getting treatment for ovarian cancer. She had to stand on hands and knees on the table that I got to lie on, while they attached cords from inside her private areas into the radiation machine.  Really?  Is there no dignity?  You would not believe what some people have to endure through their treatment.  I hope hers is over soon.

Then there are the grocery store angels.  One I met at AJ's.  I was with Fisher and saw this older woman kind of stalking me.  I knew right then that she also was going through cancer treatment and wanted to talk to me.  I see people like this every day.  We kind of have homing devices.  So- at check out, she asked me if I'm going through treatment and said she is too.  She gives me a big hug and a metal angel coin to keep in my pocket.  Her name was Bonnie.

Just yesterday, I was checking out of Trader Joe's with all the shades of pink gerber daisies that I was bringing as gifts to radiation today, and a woman commented "aren't those the most beautiful flowers!  What are you doing with them?"  I answer that I am giving them to my radiation nurses to celebrate the end of my treatment.  She stopped, hugged me, blessed me and asked about my family and how we are all doing.  She said she would pray for me and keep me in her heart.  Her name was Paula.

And tomorrow, my MOM arrives first thing in the morning.  Let the weekend of family celebration begin! Four of my favorite things:  family, birthday, ending treatment and Halloween, all at once!  I'd better get to bed to prepare for all the fun ahead.  I'm feeling truly happy, loved and almost peaceful.

with love

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daddy-O In The House!

Fisher and Grandpa Larry "fishing" not "catching"

Before bed cuddle with Grandpa Larry
Escaping the heat of the pumpkin patch
Fish on!
Cyndy has 3 daughters and 8 grandkids, she knows how to soothe the
savage beast
Continuing on our wonderfully busy month of October, we spent the past weekend with Nick's Super-Dad Larry (I call him Daddy-o) and his lovely fiance Cyndy here in Phoenix. Since they live in Rhode Island and we had not seen either of them since my diagnosis, it was a very special reunion.  I know it was really hard for them to be so far away during all our turmoil.  I think they really needed to see us in person, to hug and kiss us to make sure we are really ok, which surprisingly, we are.  

Nick and his Dad are the bestest of best friends.  They are happiest when they are together.  And they are even happier when they are fishing.  So as you can imagine, they managed to fit in three fishing opportunities with Fisher over the past four days.  The first was after Fisher's soccer practice on the day of their arrival in a local park pond (several small fish caught), the second was Saturday on a day-long adventure at Roosevelt Lake (not a single bite) and the third was just this morning at McCormick Ranch pond in Scottsdale (one carp and one catfish successfully reeled in, thank goodness).

Among fishing outings, we had a fairly painfully hot and dusty pumpkin patch excursion, a very special grown-up dinner out at Tuck Shop in downtown Phoenix, and even a shopping trip to Last Chance (Nordstrom's scary yet fantastic return depot) for the girls.  

Fisher was on his best behavior all weekend, and Jenny-Jane was on her sassiest.  Grandpa Larry is still relishing the few super big hugs she gave him.  Most often she'd dismiss anyone who got near her with a "bad daddy," "bad fish-fish" or "bad grandpa".  Oh my.  What a hot little tamale she is.

They left for the airport this afternoon.  I think they took comfort in the fact that our family is highly functioning, we still enjoy a cocktail, and we are really still the same kids beneath this veil of weird cancer drama.  We love you and miss you already Cyndy and Daddy-o!

Get ready for this week's adventure... my family is coming to be with me for my 40th birthday weekend!!! My mom arrives Thursday from Milwaukee, my sister Claudia arrives Friday morning from Portland and my brother Michael and his girlfriend Genny arrive Friday from Milwaukee.  Michael's birthday is also Thursday (I was born on his thirteenth birthday, true!).  We are celebrating not only birthdays, but also my end to treatment with my last radiation on Wednesday.  Oh, I can't wait!  Of course I have an itinerary of family activities already sent to their in-boxes.  My mom kept asking me, "don't you want to have a party with your friends?"  And truly, I don't (sorry friends, you know I still love you).  I want to be with my family most of all.  Our time together in September during my Dad's passing was so emotionally overwhelming, yet we reformed our connections to each other.  I want to be with them again, but in celebration this time.  

So expect me to have plenty to say about this upcoming week-o-fun.  Oh, and did you notice my new hair in the above photo?  Yes, I do have a "do".  Plus eyebrows and eyelashes too!  It's at the stage where I could be a cancer patient, or I could be a stylin' gal who chose to have SUPER short hair.  I prefer to think of myself as the latter.

Much more to come soon!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Give Me A Boost!

"If I smell cookies on your feet, you are in big trouble!"  
- Said this weekend by Nick Hower in actual angered frustration to son Fisher when we encountered the cookie massacre on the red couch in the sunroom. tee hee

So it's late and I'm trying to hose down the guestroom in preparation for Nick's Dad and fiance Cyndy arriving on Friday for the weekend. Our aforementioned, multi- surgeried, black cat Felix has been recuperating and vacationing back there for the past five weeks. Let's just say we are all happy he is living mostly outside again, definitely where he belongs.

But I can't miss mentioning that today was a special milestone. Today I finished my 28th radiation treatment, which means that I am through with the first phase of radiation.  Yay!  The first phase did the big work, meaning I was hit with three blasts of twenty second radiation each day.  It was aimed at the lymph nodes on the right side of my collarbone, my breast area and my underarm lymph node area.  My skin held up phenomenally, until this week.  It's now red, sore and bumpy but that's fine because it will not get worse from here, only better.  A sweet woman doing breast treatment on the same schedule as me, Lupe, showed me her terrible reaction to radiation.  Her skin was peeling and oozing in many areas.  I was very lucky.

So all I have left is a five day "boost".  It is a supplement to my all over breast radiation, just aimed at the mastectomy scar on my right breast.  It sounds odd, but my doctor said that cancer cells could have escaped into the tissue the doctor was sewing up when I had my surgery and they want to give it a "boost" of radiation to ensure nothing grows there.  It kind of makes sense.  So for my last five days of treatment, I just have one twenty second blast of radiation and I'm out of there.  

My last day of radiation is scheduled for October 27th, one day before my 40th birthday on the 28th.  That's one hell of a good birthday gift.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Farewell Vee-Dub!

Fisher saying his goodbyes at the collision center
It's official, my car has been totaled.  This is the car we bought in February 2006, the month before Fisher was born.  I needed a "grocery getter," a mom-car, and this VW saw us through one kiddo and then the second.  It was actually my third Volkswagen.  My used blue Jetta was the first car I ever bought.  I was a senior at UofA.  It met a very scary end as I flipped it on a mountain pass in Tucson.  I actually had to climb out of the drivers window in my bikini and flip flops.  Those were the days, yikes.  My second VW was probably my favorite.  While I was trying to get pregnant the first time, I bought a new cream colored convertible bug with a black top.  I even put a vanity plate on it "DREAMEE".  It sure was.  I loved driving that cute little convertible with my big belly.  As my due date approached, I knew that a more practical car was in order, thus the Touareg.  

When I received word from the insurance company Friday that they were not going to repair the thing, I tossed the kids in the white shark (my rental Malibu) and off we drove to the collision center.  I knew Fisher would love seeing the damage to the car and I needed to collect my personal stuff from inside.  It's pretty amazing how they can scrap a whole car just because the front is messed up.  So we took some photos and said a sad farewell to our faithful auto.  

I'm mad about the accident and all the headaches it's caused us, but like everything else in our lives, there has to be a reason for it.  I have eight more radiation sessions and then I'm done with my treatments in two weeks.  Maybe a fresh start includes a new (used) car.  I'll look at it that way.

And yes, I know you've noticed the pink and green "Kick it Kiki" bumper sticker on the back.  Isn't it fab?  Rebecca had them made early in my treatment and I've ordered more.  So if you're willing to deface your auto or any other large object (and I am NOT asking you to do so), please let me know and I'll happily put one in the mail to you.  I love driving on the highway and seeing one on the car in front of me or hearing from people in other states who see them on the road.  

The hunt for my next car is underway.  Nick's Dad, Larry, and his fiance Cyndy arrive from Rhode Island (by way of a Sedona/Flagstaff vacation) on Friday for the weekend, so I hope to have my new ride by then. Wish me luck car shopping.  I think it's on the list of one of the most dreaded tasks that people have to endure.  I do think my semi-bald head may give me a bit of an advantage.  I am NOT afraid to pull out the C-card again and wave it around the dealerships like a beacon.  "I have cancer, don't you dare try to screw me over!"  I think the expiration date on my card is nearing, as my hair is starting to grow fast.  And no, I don't think I'm taking advantage of the situation. I just like to think of it as making lemonade out of lemons.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Folate = Margaritas!

Nick's Mom Virginia and me, truly happy together
Last weekend was so crazy busy and fantastic with all our friends visiting for the Komen festivities, but I feel like I've got some catch up to do.  First, let's go way back to early October when Nick's Mom, Virginia, was here.  That's us to the left outside Mojo Yogurt at the Biltmore.  Yes, she is super lovely in her Kick it Kiki shirt, love that.  And yes, she and Nick are pretty much identical twins, in a non-creepy kind of way.  Her visit was way too short, but so very therapeutic.  Sometimes you just need a little "Mom" time to feel whole again. She always does a great job of that for all of us.  Nick and I have been married for eleven years, and we dated for seven years before that, so Virginia and I have a long history together.  I'd say we are pretty tight.  I'm so lucky to have an amazing mother-in-law and I'm very aware that not everyone can say the same.  

Next quick subject, my friend Gabbee.  Please add her to your nightly prayers.  She had a bizarre mishap with one of her expanders and had to have emergency surgery last week.  She's doing fine, but it's a real emotional and physical setback for her.  She needs to regain her spiritual strength to keep up the fight.  I know she can do it, and she's big on prayers, so let's all send her some.  Hell, it can't hurt (is that wrong to say?).  You can read more about her surgery on her blog, click here.

Moving on... let's talk my car accident.  It's truly a miracle (thanks Dad, I know you were at work here) that I was not more seriously injured.  The bruise on my arm is big and ugly, I've got another on my back, and my neck is a bit tweaked, but all in all, nothing big.  We are still waiting to hear if my car is going to be totaled.  "Bob" the nice guy at the repair shop who is reviewing the damage, and praying for me by the way, said "it's under review".  Which means it's probably going to be totaled.  Everyone says that if a car is seriously damaged in an accident, it's never the same after a major repair job.  So we'll see.  I'm thinking maybe a gently used Volvo SUV would be nice.  Safety is my top priority after that insane collision last Wednesday.

Lastly, I had a funny meeting with the hospital nutritionist last week.  She poked her head into my radiation session and said she'd like to meet to see if I had any questions.  Well, I'm versed on the eat more grains, fruits and veggies schpeel, so I got down to the nitty gritty.  Is it really bad to drink alcohol after a breast cancer diagnosis?  Most things I've read said to stay away from most everything alcohol related.  So this sweet little lady ran to her office and brought me back the best article ever.  Through extensive studies, it has been proven that if I up my folate (folic acid) intake, I can have 3.2 drinks a day with NO adverse effects.  Jeez!  I don't want that much, but isn't that good to know?  So I immediately ran to Walgreen's and stocked up on prenatal vitamins.  Not that I'm expecting to get pregnant, but they've got a healthy dose of folate in those little suckers.  So don't exclude me from your next happy hour festivities, I'll be right there with my 3.2 drinks in hand!  (seriously, I'm kidding, I don't need an intervention)


Sunday, October 10, 2010

What a Weekend!!

The gigantic "Oh Pat and Kiki" Komen Team
What an unbelievable weekend we just had.  Truly, it was four days of love and support like I've never known possible.  It all culminated with the Komen Walk for a Cure early this morning in downtown Phoenix.  I really don't know how many people we had there in support of Pat and me, but just check out the above photo.  Isn't that just nuts?  Everyone on our team wore their grey "Oh Pat and Kiki" t-shirts and were easy to spot all over the walk route.  Oh, and don't look for me, Nick, the kids or about 10 of my close friends in this photo, we had a little parking mishap and missed the group photo, oops.  I know, that's ridiculous.  And, a big group of us totally cheated and only walked about one of the five K's.  It was hot, I have cancer and Jenny-Jane was a screaming mess.  I pulled my C-card and we jumped a few barriers. Who cares, it was still a great success.  I totally have to say a huge I'm sorry to everyone who I didn't get to see nor chat with this morning because of our tardiness and the crazy mass of grey shirted people surrounding us. I know you were all there and I am SO very, very grateful.

The night before was Saturday night, and I have to say, it was my favorite part of the weekend.  Our team captain Marcy organized a get together at the swanky Valley Ho hotel.  Everyone was invited, but she especially targeted the UofA Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters to reunite for Pat and my support.  I am still in awe at the huge turnout.  Girls and their families traveled from all over the country to be with us.  Thank goodness I had found a dress that I really loved so actually felt comfortable attending without any head covering, which is a big deal for me.  I caked on the make-up and honestly, I actually felt pretty as a bald girl for the first time.  Kind of like a high fashion model, or call girl, take your pick.

I would compare the night to a wedding and I got to be the bride (again).  I think Pat felt the same way.  Every time I turned around, I'd see another old friend who embraced me so tightly I thought I might pop. I would have to excuse myself every few minutes so that I could make my rounds saying hello and thank you to everyone.  Names of girls I had not seen in eighteen years would pop back into my head like magic.  Old friends would come around the corner or enter the room and my heart would just pound out of my chest (yes, especially you Jen U'ren Short).  There was SO much love for us.  It was awesome.

So that night we ended up eating pizza until close to midnight with a small group of crazy gals and laughing like lunatics.  The night before, Friday night, Marcy organized a dual 40th bday bash (mine is later this month) for Rebecca and me at AZ88 restaurant.  We drank martini's (espresso martini for me- yippee!) and ended up karaoke singing until 1am at the Scottsdale dive bar The Grape Vine.  Marcy blew up bad college photos of Rebecca and me and put them on popsicle sticks so that everyone in the bar was singing while holding our big faces in front of their own. It was nuts and a wild fun time.

Ok, I'm going backwards on my time line, so we are now at Thursday.  Thursday evening a very special group of gals gathered at Marcy's mom's house in central Phoenix for a quick pre-weekend reunion.  My senior year in college, there were five of us (Marcy, Rebecca, Andi, Liz and me) who lived in a great house on Seneca in Tucson.  If those walls could talk...OH boy.  Anyhoo, all five of us and most of our kids were able to have a couple hours together before the weekend whirlwind whisked us away.  

One thing I heard over and over this weekend was how popular my blog is.  Now I know some people read it regularly, and some people check in from time to time, but I truly didn't expect the reactions I received.  Obviously, I'm no Maya Angelou and my grammar and sentence structure (not to mention profanity and often gruesome medical details) are far from poetic, but I'm finding that people are really connecting with my writing.  I always thought my honesty and bluntness were character flaws, but people are actually finding it endearing.  Isn't that a kick in the pants?  I received so much encouragement to continue writing and follow this new passion of mine that I just may have to do so.  In what form I will do this, I'm not sure, but thanks for the inspiration and giving me the confidence to possibly move forward on this path.  Again, one of those unforeseen blessings that come along with cancer.  

As you can imagine, I'm insanely tired from this non-stop weekend.  It's time I retired for the night, but I have to give one more BIG thank you to Marcy for her organization of every detail this weekend, and all our friends who traveled from near and far to be with us.  I honestly never fathomed how powerful the events of these past few days would be.   I knew I was loved, but could never have imagined how much.  Thank you friends, thank you.

With my heart overflowing,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

YAY for Airbags!

What is my problem?  Stop smiling already!
Well... I was quite prepared to share some photos from our visit with Nick's Mom this past weekend, but this pesky car accident kind of derailed my day.  Yes, that is me to the left, smiling at the fireman who came to my rescue after I had a pretty serious collision with another car on 7th Street after dropping Fisher off from school this morning.  THANK GOD I did not have the kids in the car.  As to how it happened, and who's fault it is, that is still being worked out, so for all those insurance and cop spies our there (paranoid? me?), I'm not able to give details.  But, as you can see, I'm ok, the other driver is ok, and his car got the worst of it.  I was hit on the front drivers side, which I think saved me serious injury.  If he had hit my door, things could have been much worse.  

The super nice firemen and paramedics who came to the scene kept saying "you are handling this so well".  My blood pressure was pretty normal and even my pulse wasn't that elevated.  While I know I was in shock, I was seriously happy to be alive and not seriously hurt.  Can you imagine if after all I've been through, I get taken out by a car accident?  Come on, that would be seriously cruel.

Of course Nick was on his way to the airport for a client meeting in San Jose, so he drove like a bat out of hell to be by my side.  Upon making sure I was really ok, he left again for the airport, and my sweet friend Andrea (who I was heading to meet for coffee at the time of the accident) scooped me up and drove me to radiation.  My radiologist checked me out and gave me a go ahead for treatment.  He said "I worked in ER.  Nobody comes in the day of an accident.  They always come in the next day because that's when all the bruising and muscle aches appear."  So, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.  I've got a cut and big bruise on my right arm (unfortunately the arm I'm not supposed to injure since they took all the lymph nodes from that side), a sore neck and random other spots of bruising.  I've been icing, adviling and valuiming all day. That reminds me, it's valium time- yay!

My car is at some tow yard waiting to be picked up from the body shop.  I drive a VW Touareg and that thing took a serious hit and kept me quite safe (airbag did employ) so a shout out to the safety of VW.  Thank you, you German carmakers!  I don't expect them to total it, but I'm sure I'll be in a rental for quite a few weeks.  I'll be ok as long as it's not some PT Cruiser.  Insulting!

I'll let you know how I'm feeling after a nights sleep.  I'm really hoping the bruising does not get worse overnight.  Then maybe I can show a few photos from last weekend, and then get prepared for our big Komen weekend.  I'm super excited to see everyone as people are already trickling into town.  

Oh, and a very happy birthday to my friend Rebecca today.  She's the big 30 (ok- add 10 years) but you'd never know it.  She's lovely inside and out and I'm proud to call her one of my very best friends.

Let's hope tomorrow is a little less exciting, jeez!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Komen Scoop

Hi Everyone!
We had such a lovely weekend with Nick's mom, Virginia, here.  It was much different and a hell of a lot better (for all of us) than her visit five months ago when I'd just had surgery.  I've got some photos to post and a few revelations to share, but first, I need to provide some important Komen Race for the Cure information.  I promise to get back to the nit and grit in a day or so.

I am astonished to announce that our team "Oh Pat and Kiki" has raised over $5,400 and we have nearly 150 people signed up to join us race day.  Are you kidding me?  This is way beyond what we expected.  Thank you everyone!!  Please know that you can still sign up for the race on-line through Tuesday, October 5th at noon.  Or, you can always register on race day at the race itself in downtown Phoenix.

The following information was provided by our dedicated team captain, Marcy Mills.  She's one of the bestest friends a gal could ever have.  We love you Marcy!

Team "Oh Pat and Kiki" ---Komen Race is this Sunday, 10.10.10! 

Here is some information about team t-shirts and where/when the team will meet.  Get this, beyond exceeding our fundraising and participation goals, we also won a team award for most "Kids for the Cure".  Cool!

Team T-Shirts!
Andy Mersiowsky’s (Pat's husband) company - Prime Lending - very generously sponsored our team t-shirts! We’ll hand them out at the Valley Ho gathering on Saturday evening, or we can give it to you Sunday morning at the meeting spot. If instead you’d like to pick up your shirt on Saturday sometime, you may e-mail me and we can arrange a time (they’ll be near Central/Northern). If you registered your kids, we did order youth sizes too.  My email:

Sunday Meet Place/Time
Meet at the "Teams Area" by 7:45a.m. This area will be arranged alphabetically, so look for "O." Our team is doing the 5K walk at 8:40am, but will meet earlier so that we can take a team photo, and make sure we’re all assembled before the walk start time. Other race day activities, such as the Survivors Parade, start early at 6:30am, then other races follow ... so please allow enough time for parking and shuttles to the race area. The registration site has specific information about the available nearby parking lots.  Click here for race day maps, parking and shuttle details.  If you live near the light rail, that is a good option and there are Komen shuttles from downtown to the race area.

Saturday Evening at the Valley Ho 6pm-8pm
We’re getting together for cocktails at the Valley Ho on Saturday evening.  Click here for Valley Ho location information.  Kristin and Pat will both be here, so it’s a great chance to connect with them before all the race hoopla on Sunday morning. When you walk into the lobby, the bar is straight ahead, and we have an area reserved to the immediate right. For UA fans, fear not because the bar has a TV and you can check the Cats score. Also, if you didn’t sign up for the team or for whatever reason can’t come to the race on Sunday, please join us Saturday evening anyway - the more the merrier!

Team Donations
Many people have e-mailed saying they were unable to be part of the race day, but wondered how they could participate and help the team. If you’d like, you can donate any amount of money via the Komen registration web page by clicking on "sponsor a participant" in the "Visitors" portion. Click here to do that.  You can type Pat or Kristin’s name, or you can make a general team donation. Thanks!

Hi- it's me again, did you miss me?  Yes, it's been a lot of work to organize this event and we are so grateful to sweet Marcy.  She's been doing all this finagling from San Francisco and arrives on Wednesday.  I can't wait to give that lady a big big hug.  

I can't say enough to thank everyone who donated and/or is participating in the race on Sunday.  In addition to the financial support to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in helping find a cure for this insipid disease, you are giving Pat and me emotional support that is over the moon.  Knowing that all you care enough to spend your money, brave the crowds and just show up to show your love, is an inspiration without comparison.  From the tops and bottoms of our hearts, thank you.