Sunday, January 30, 2011

Smarty Pants

"Look, Mommy's ribbon!"
I am beyond happy to report that this weekend was just as fabulous as advertised. Lots of time with the kids and just enough time without them, praise the good Lord for nanny Judy. Lots of time with our overly generous friends, truly the Howers were spoiled rotten this weekend, and even a little time for just Nick and me. This glorious afternoon in between the knots in my neck being expertly manipulated and raising a Pina Colada to cheers my fabulous hostess, Jen Shenfeld, at the Camelback Inn Spa, I received this photo on my phone from Nick.  The caption said "Fisher made this today and said 'Look, Mommy's ribbon!'"

Remember, Fisher's four, almost five, and I kind of thought we pulled this whole cancer thing past him. Seriously, we got away with "Mommy has some germs in her boobies and needs to have an operation to remove them."  Then when my hair fell out and I wasn't able to get out of bed for days at a time, it was all just from "some strong medicine that is helping Mommy get better from her operation."

I should have given that bugger a little more credit.  He did notice all the pink ribbons on the "Kick it Kiki" shirts and just about everything else that entered our house for about six months.  It will be very interesting to see what he has to say about this time in our lives when he is ten, fifteen and then twenty.  What does he remember, if anything?  Did he have any clue what was really happening to his mommy?  I sure hope not.  It has been extremely important to Nick and me that we not scare the kids, they are so little for crumb sake. Yes, at some point I want them to know what occurred here (in broad strokes), but not for a very long time.  I'm not even sure when that will be.  But I did find out today that Fisher definitely has more of a clue than I originally thought.  That gets me worrying.

with love,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Magic Wands and Kittens

I've got two girlfriends in the thick of it right now, and I so want them to know that there really is calm after the storm.  Wimberly is recovering from her mastectomy surgery and Gabbee just had her first Taxol infusion this week.  I vividly remember those days, but it's not comfortable to do so.  It was just so miserable.  But, the very good news is that my lingering despair from that time is fading and I don't want to go back there in my mind anymore because it effects my today, and my todays are great.  Truly great.

My calendar is filling up, and not with doctor's appointments.  I'm walking Central Avenue with my favorite girlfriends, I'm gluing jewels on magic wands with the kids in Fisher's preschool class, and I'm giggling and petting the rescued kittens at Petsmart with Jenny-Jane. It's all good stuff.  

Last Friday I spent the sunny afternoon catching up with one the angels in my life, my dear friend Megan from Kansas.  This weekend, Nick and I have plans to eat a lot and laugh a lot with other couples who we adore.  Sunday I even get treated to a spa day with one of my best friends, Jen, while Nick plays a much deserved round of golf with the boys.  Is this what you call normal?  If so, normal is fantastic!

Yes, I still worry about recurrence every day, every hour.  And yes, the expanders in my chest will be uncomfortable until the day I have them removed, six months or so from now.  But feeling healthy has shifted my perception.  I find myself planning for my future, and I see myself in my children's futures.  Somethings that I haven't been able to do for quite some time.    

I think about my friends still in treatment, and know they are suffering. Where they are is so rough. It's physical, it's mental, and it really, really sucks. Like my friend Krista before me, I want to exemplify how beautiful life is again on the other side.  Please girls, keep charging through.  There is so much more than before.  You'll see.

with love,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Neurosurgeon

So why, you may ask, would a lovely young woman like myself be in the exam room of one of the top neurosurgeons in the world today? Well, this little story begins about six months ago.  Please, sit back, relax and enjoy knowing it has a happy ending.

Remember when I was suffering through chemotherapy last summer?  Well, I'm trying to forget the whole ordeal, but the scar on my left cheek is a painful reminder.  Five days after my second infusion of Adriamycin/Cytocin, aka The Red Death, my white cells dropped as hard as I did on the bathroom floor about 3am on the morning of Nick's 40th birthday.  I was deemed neutropenic, meaning I had NO white blood cells left, and was admitted to St. Joe's hospital for four days of antibiotics, potato chips and Millionaire Matchmaker. My fall left me with an ugly cut on my cheek and the need for a CT scan to make sure I didn't rattle my brain too hard. That first scan showed something unusual, which scared the shit out of me, so I had a second more indepth scan.  Here's how I found out what they discovered.

About 2am on my third day in the hospital, I was alone in my little room with just the light of the Bravo Network illuminating my bald head.  In walks this giant of a neurologist in a lab coat.  He stands over my bed and proceeds to tell me that my scan revealed a small 2mm aneurysm in my brain.  It was so flipping surreal, that I wasn't even sure it happened.  The next morning, my oncologist, Dr. Wendt, came to visit me and confirmed that yes, a huge brain doctor was in my room last night and he did tell me that I have an aneurysm. YIKES! But, he said, it truly was small and should be the least of my worries at the time.  Somehow, that was comforting.  And, that we wouldn't address it until after my cancer treatments were complete.

So, fast forward to my most recent visit to my oncologist.  I bring up, "um... should we be concerned about that brain aneurysm thing?" Oh yes, I am told.  It's time to see a neurosurgeon.  And not just any neurosurgeon.  He was getting me into see Dr. Spetzler, the Director of Barrow Neurological Institute.  This is the guy that kings and queens from around the world travel to see for any brain issues. Should I be worried or relieved that this guy is the best of the best?  

When I asked my oncologist as to what he thought Dr. Spetzler might recommend, I was told it could go either way.  He may say let's just keep an eye on it, or let's take care of it.  Take care of it?  Yes, brain surgery.  

So, to make a long story endless (one of Nick's favorite quotes), I met with Dr. Spetzler today and received the news we were praying for.  My 1-2mm aneurysm has a less than 1% chance of bursting so they want to leave it alone.  I'll be scanned annually to make sure it isn't growing, but it sounds like they don't expect it to do so.  I was told to stay away from cigarettes, crack cocaine (really!), child birth (glad I had C-Sections) and hypertension (high blood pressure).  For some reason I asked if roller coasters would be ok, and they are, but it kinda sounds like a logical question, doesn't it?

So why is this the first time I'm mentioning this aneurysm if we've known about it since June?  I guess it was a little denial and a lot of terror.  If we didn't talk about it, maybe it would really just be nothing. Looks like our insane plan worked.  Thank God!

So that's todays little story.  More than you bargained for, huh? Us too.  We are just so beyond relieved that all we have to worry about now is that pesky cancer.  Easy peasy.


Monday, January 17, 2011

My Social Network

Oh. My. God.  What did I just do?  

Deep breath...I succumbed to Facebook.  Just saying it makes me shrink in horror. Maybe it was the sweep of Social Network at the Golden Globes last night.  Maybe it was the undying peer pressure of my well intentioned friends and husband.  Or maybe, it was a calculated career move.  More on that later.

So my inbox is FULL of messages from people accepting my requests to "friend them".  I have no idea what any of that means and how any of it works.  So please, give me a few days to get acclimated.  I'm in a very strange new world.  And yes, I realize that the entire planet has been on Facebook for years and it's silly that I'm arriving so late to the party. But I was truly scared of it.  I was certain that my embracing this demon would definitely mean that my children would go unbathed, they'd be watching Curious George on a perpetual loop and we'd be eating frostbitten fish sticks from the depths of our freezer for weeks on end.  I was truly scared the fun of it would take over my life.  I guess this is yet to be seen.

So the first thing you do when setting up a Facebook page is to post a photo of yourself. Even that stumped me.  I mean, if I'm reconnecting with people from all aspects of my 40-year-long life, do I really want to look like the unintentional short, dark and sassy-haired gal I've become?  Or do I post an old photo with my former long blondish locks?  I don't like either option.  So for now, I've just got the Kick it Kiki logo up there.  Kind of lame, I know, I know.

So the real reason for my voyage into the land of the lost?  Total self promotion.  Exhibit A:  On my bedstand is the book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published.  Yes, I'm actually taking the first baby steps toward becoming a bona fide writer.  The experience of writing this blog, along with the encouragement I've received from so many friends, has put me on this path.  What do I want to write a book about you say?  Hmmm, well then, that's still up for discussion.  It will probably have something to do with my crazy cancer adventure, but it needs to be much more than that.  The world does not need yet another "you can overcome" cancer book, so I need to be clever and that's much harder than it sounds.  Oh, and yes, I am accepting advise so the suggestion box is now open.  

I just know that the more people I expose to my blog, the more momentum I will have for my book and/or books.  Thus, the Facebook decision.  And if I happen to reconnect with dozens or maybe hundreds of people along the way who I really didn't take the time to personally get to know over my lifetime (sorry, I've always said I'm more of a quality over quantity girl when it comes to friendships), well then, so be it.  

And if all this goes to pot and a book is never written, maybe there is still a big lesson in it all.  I hope that is a reminder to every woman, wife, sister, mother and daughter out there to do their self breast exams. The more people I reach, the more exposure my disease is given, and the faster a cure and a preventative measure can be found.  

In the meantime, I wonder where my college boyfriend is nowadays? (just kidding Nick!)

with love to my "friends"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tucson on My Mind

I just noticed that my last blog entry was my 100th post.  Wow, that seems like an awful lot, and quite a milestone.  Thank you so much to everyone who has followed my progress these past ten months. Knowing that I am being heard in a forum where I can truly be myself through this wild ride has been invaluable to my well being. Speaking of which, I've been feeling great.  As you may have noticed, I've been thinking and writing more about my mental state over the past few months.  This post treatment time is definitely the phase where I'm evaluating the big picture, which, as I'm learning, can be almost just as taxing as the physical recovery.

To help me in this endeavor, I've enlisted a real live therapist who I've been seeing on a weekly basis.  Me, in therapy.  I thought therapy was for the rich and/or crazy.  Looks like I may qualify for the latter.  So my therapist, Charlie, is a super great guy.  He helps me come back to the here and now, to this moment, when I start speculating and fearing future possibilities.  I keep getting hung up on things like "should I be writing letters to my children?" and "should I be cleaning out my jewelry drawer?"  Which, by the way I actually did today and it was so gratifying and somewhat horrifying.  But I digress.  I keep asking myself and Charlie if I should start preparing for the practical possibility of an early death.  Good ol' Charlie.  He keeps me on track by reminding me that everyone should be doing these things, because truly, no one's future is certain.  

Then this past Saturday's tragedy hit in Tucson.  Charlie was right. Who could have ever imagined that running to the grocery store on a weekend morning could result in six deaths and so many critically injured?  Here in Arizona, this story is suffocating.  Nick and I both lived in Tucson for five years of college and we shop on a weekly basis at Safeway, the grocery chain where the accident happened. And that horrible killer was brought to Phoenix today, just miles away from our home for arraignment.  

I'm not saying that we all need to be scared for our lives, but I am saying that sometimes it takes a therapist, or a tragedy, to remind us to appreciate the here and now.  And right now, I want to celebrate this 101st blog entry.  I'm so very happy to be here, right now, feeling well and doing one of my favorite things, writing.  

Enjoy this moment,

Monday, January 3, 2011


I had a little revelation last night.  I think I'm finally ready to start reading a few of the dozens of cancer books I've received over the past nine months.  I know that every book I was given from friends near and far was a loving and caring gesture, but at the time, earlier in my treatment, I was not ready for them.  Strangely, I think I was in denial.  Cancer books, why would I want these?  They were relegated to my closet in what I called my bag of random cancer crap.  Well, last week, I finally picked one up.  And you know what? It's pretty amazing.

I have a feeling I'll be quoting and referring to this book often in my blog over the next few months.  It's called Dancing in Limbo, Making Sense of Life after Cancer by Glenna Halvorson-Boyd and Lisa K. Hunter.  The gist is this, after the intense period of appointment after appointment during treatment, cancer survivors are often surprised at their feelings of loss, fear, anger, hope and grief.  No shit.  When treatment is complete and successful, all we can do is wait.  We now live our life in limbo.  We are on uncertain ground.

One of the most meaningful passages I have read so far goes something like this:  We cannot escape the fact that we know how vulnerable we are and that others know that truth as well.  I translate this to mean: Your life is forever changed after cancer.  You have seen and experienced what it means to come toe to toe with your immortality.  You understand that your life in particular is delicate, fragile.  And everyone else is aware of this too.

I hate that part.  Everyone who knows my story sees me differently now.  I am more fragile.  My life is more in the balance than most. This is especially hard for me because I've always been strong, physically and emotionally.  Now everyone thinks the opposite of me, at least physically.  And it's true, I can't deny it, but I don't have to like it.

So look at me, I'm finally becoming a little cerebral.  I'm ready to put down my series of TrueBlood dirty, violent vampire books that carried me through treatment.  I'm embarrassed to say that I'm finishing book #10 of the twelve book series.  Well, I've come this far, I may as well read the last two, don't you think? 

While I may not delve too deep into my library of cancer crap books, I think I'm ready to start skimming the cream off the top of a few of them.  There are millions of survivors out there and from what I've read so far, they can definitely teach me a thing or two.  At least a little more than my sexy vampires.

with love from limbo,