The Gang's All Here!

The Gang's All Here!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fighting Back Like a Girl

We had such a great Memorial Day weekend! Lots of time spent outside in gorgeous weather with friends, food and cold beer :). It doesn't get much better than that, right? I even managed to work in some time to get a mani/pedi, which I desperately needed. While getting said luxuries, I really got to thinking about my life over the past 16 months. This Saturday, June 1, marks my one year anniversary of completing chemo. It's hard to believe it's been a year, but even harder to believe that I could ever feel as good as I do now. I wore a pink bracelet that said, "Fight Like A Girl" which has been my mantra since the beginning of this mess. I took it off after I got my most recent results. Now, my mantra is: Fighting Back Like a Girl because I refuse to be defined by cancer or it's impact on my life.

I was extremely fortunate (and lucky, let's just call a spade, a spade) that I felt so "well" during my chemo and other treatments. I mean, I really pretty much breezed through it with only feeling a bit hungover and tired. Obviously, given a choice, I would have preferred to not have gone through chemo, but it saved my life, so who am I to complain? Why did I have such an "easy" time of it? Who knows, but I know others who have had a terrible time with chemo and side effects. Even my good friend Kate felt completely lousy after each chemo round. 

For all that my treatments were bearable and I refused to be sidelined by cancer, I did have some side effects. My hair falling out was an obvious one, but now it's a hot mess of thickness and semi-curls. Styling tips welcome, by the way! My eyelashes are finally coming back in and I can sort of weaar mascara. The first six months after chemo my joints ached something terrible. Glucosomine seems to have helped wipe away the aches and now I feel great. I gained weight on chemo, which was probably the biggest downer for me. Nothing like gaining weight after having a baby... But, I'm happy to say that the chemo weight is gone and I'm down almost another 20lbs. Go me! I'm hoping to continue the downward trend there ;). My toenails turned black after chemo and fell off (talk about gross) but now I'm back to "normal". I am so excited to be able to get pedicures again! My fingernails are still a complete mess, but I'm optimistic one day they'll start growing. I had silk wrap done for the meantime, to help them grow. My nails would split and peel and were so painful due to being so short. So, lots of progress being made!

Looking back to how I felt a year ago, I wasn't sure I would feel all the way human again. My oncologist told me on multiple occasions that it would take me up to a year to get the chemo drugs out of my system. She was speaking the truth! I feel better than I have in years! I swear, I will never take feeling awesome for granted again!!! Every morning I wake up and I'm so thankful to feel good enough to face the day and take on the world.

I did have a small setback yesterday (one step forward, two steps back...isn't that wha Paula Abdul said???). I met with the lymphedema specialist and I do indeed have lymphadema. While I thought it was mainly in my thumb, she determined that it's actually stemming from my shoulder. She did measurements and my right shoulder is measuring 4+cm larger than my right. Of course, I'd like to blame it on my bulging biceps (even I can't lie to myself about that one, stop laughing!!) but alas, no... So, given that I'm travelling to Ireland in 8 days (OMG!!), she's decided to put me in a glove and sleeve for the flight over and back (watch out MJ, you got nothing on my gloved look!). While my vanity is taking a huge hit and I know I'll be getting strange looks on the plane, I'm trying to make the best of it. Maybe no one will sit next to us ;) The therapist will reevaluate me upon our return and we'll go from there. Hopefully the sleeve/ glove will do the trick and I won't need therpay. Therapy involves a full cast for 3 weeks and treatment everyday. Ain't nobody got time for that in this house!!!! Can you imagine me running this circus with a cast on?!?! Go ahead and cry laughing, that's what I did. Oh, my glamorous life :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stormy Weaather

I've been trying not to watch too much of the Moore, OK tornado coverage, but it's almost impossible not to watch. My heart just goes out to all of the people there. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with everyone impacted by the storm. What a resilient community though! Since childhood, I've had a fascination with the weather, especially tornadoes and hurricanes. That's all well and good when you're safely watching from the TV. It seems as though in recent years, our country is experiencing more and more wild weather. I mean, when you really think about it, is there a safe place in our country from this wild and crazy weather? I never realized that the southeast (until I moved here, of course) has it's own "tornado alley" and is referred to as "dixie alley". How sweet... it runs from Alabama through Georgia. And yes, we've had multiple tornadoes rip through here since I've been a resident. I continue to be awed and horrified by the damage mother nature exudes when she's pissed off. I'd say right now, she's steaming mad. One of my favroites quotes from the movie Twister, "The finger of god" when talking about an EF 5 tornado. I would say that's a pretty accurate descritpion when you look at Moore, OK. I'm sure global warming has something to do with it, but I also wonder if the human population (meaning more and more people are moving into what was previously pasture/ famrland/ desert etc) is a contributing factor. Less room for these storms to roam unaffected. Of course, my thoughts are totally being influenced by Dan Brown's new book, Inferno. I!! Anyone want to spring for a ticket to Florence? Please?  Anyway , if you've read it, you totally know what I'm talking about. I love his books and I think this one is my favorite, next to The DaVinci Code.

So, it's day 3 of Stella's summer vacation and I'm already wondering what on earth we're going to do all summer... Totally different experience being on the other side of the school doors now. WOW. How do parents survive the summer??? Luckily we had a playdate at the park yesterday with her buddies from school which was fun. Fortunately it was only 500% humidity at 10am. Gross! Nothing like standing in the shade and sweating... We met with our fence man again last night and signed the contract - woohoo!! Yes, we are FINALLY fencing in our backyard in an attempt to keep the circus contained. Not that I can't handle it (and if nothing else, I'm certainly not handling it gracefully), but trying to walk two labs, one of which (guess who?) is continually trying to wrestle mania the other and watch two children running in opposite directions is not exactly a cakewalk. Nine times out of ten, one of the damn dogs has wrapped the leash around me and then does a full sprint across the yard while knocking over at least one of the kids. Good times at our house, really. I'm pretty sure Willie thinks his name is Goddammit at this point...We won't even touch on the fact that I have to tie Murphy's leash to the sunroom door (inside) while the kids are eating, otherwise she's on top (yes, I said that) of the table. So, in conclusion, this fence will hopefully solve all of our problems. I know I'm completely crazy, but my life makes the wine taste so much better in the evenings.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Medical Marvel

Somehow, it's already the middle of May. Not really sure how that happened, but apparently we'll just roll with it. I had a good appointment with my oncologist on Friday. She's pleased with everything and we'll be continuing on our regularly scheduled Herceptin treatments for another three months. Then, another PET scan to see how things are going. I did mention to her that I've started having some (very) random swelling in my right thumb. It doesn't bother me and I'm not sure I would even really have noticed except that next to my left thumb, it looks swollen. Her guess- lymphodema. Freaking A, I really don't have time for that nonsense, but she wants me to see a specialist to confirm. The funny (okay, let's use the word ironic, it's much more appropriate) about this was that she said lymphodema "typically" appears on the back of the hand or occasionally in the fingers. My oncologist has "never" seen it start in a thumb. She quickly added, with a smile, that, "nothing about me or my cancer has been "normal" so we shouldn't be surprised". Sigh... I know it sounds whiny and terrible, but sometimes I really wish I could just have a "normal" or typical cancer that is predictable. Why do I have to have the really strange, rare, cancer that no one has ever heard of? My breast surgeon, who's been in this game a long time, has only had 4 other patients with my "brand" of breast cancer. Whatever, I go back and forth between being fascinated by being a medical case in the making and irritated that I'm a living science experiment. Okay, off my soapbox, that's enough ranting for the day...

We had a very nice mother's day. My day started with Stella wishing me a "Happy Mother's Day!!" which was so awesome to hear her say. Steve and the kids took me out to breakfast and then shopping at Home Depot (trust me, not romantic, but so much more exciting for the kids!) to pick out flowers for our large flower bed by the mailbox. The weather was beautiful and we all enjoyed being outside. Steve spoiled me with king crab legs (otherwise known as a butter delivery vehicle and damn, so good!) and champagne on Saturday night and then steak on Sunday. Yes, this momma is feeling loved and appreciated this year!

Stella's last day of school is tomorrow (WHAT???) and I'm starting to panic. It could potentially be a very long summer with her not in school. Now I know how parents feel when summertime rolls around! We're planning a trip to the beach and a trip home to Virginia and I know before I realize it, August will be here and back to school she goes. Simon will also be going to preschool next year and I can't really talk about it... time is going way too fast!! I guess that means I have NO more excuses for not dragging my sorry butt to the gym!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Moving On!

Drumroll please! PET Scan results came back completely clean!!! We are so thrilled and excited to have good news. My oncologists PA called me with the results last Thursday which was fantastic because my appointment with the oncologist isn't until this Friday. That's a long time to wait! So, she called as we were leaving for Savannah and that certainly made for a much more celebratory trip! As they say in breast cancer land, I am continuing my dance with NED (no evidence of disease)! NED and I are having a great relationship and I hope to keep it that way! For the record, the word "cure" is rarely used with breast cancer, even those who have been free and clear for years.  Rather, you are considered NED or sometimes "in remission".

I had a follow-up visit with my radiation oncologist today and she (along with the entire staff) were so pleased with my progress. It's funny, I was probably the most frustrated/ exhausted with radiation out of all of my treatments and I loved that staff the most. They were so warm, friendly and genuinely cared about their patients. All of the techs I worked with came out to see me today and give hugs and meet the kids. The nurses came by to say hello and love on the kids as well. Due to my awesome progress, I have been officially released from treatment there, how fantastic is that?!?! While I am sad to say good-bye, it's a good thing. It's time for me to move on and get back to the circus. The show must go on and the acts need their ringmaster ;)

Steve and I had a great (probably too great, if we're being honest) time in Savannah. The kids had a blast with my parents and other than the absolutely horrendous weather, everyone survived! My house still looks like several tornadoes came through, but 5 days straight of rain will do that...

I have my official visit with the oncologist this Friday. I'm not worried about it, especially knowing that my PET scan looked great. However, it will be good to discuss with her our plan going forward (I'm 99% sure she's going to keep me on the Herceptin) and when I can schedule my next surgery. My next surgery should (from everything I've heard and read) be a piece of cake compared to the first one. It's bascially just to have my tissue expander taken out and replaced with an implant. I'm so ready to be done with that thing, it's like having a coconut shell instead of a boob - sorry boys, bear with me. The only thing that could potentially ruin my appointment on Friday is my port. That damn thing better cooperate - not that I can do anything about it, but still, work with me here!! So, please keep your fingers crossed for me (and the entire nursing staff) that all goes smoothly on Friday. Drinks on me!!!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ancient History

I have news!! No, I'm not pregnant - why does everyone assume that these days? As IF I could handle another addition to the already overflowing circus that I'm "supposedly" running. I think a more accurate account would be that the circus is running me right out of town... Anyway, Steve and I finally (FINALLY!) booked all of our accommodations for Ireland! I am so gosh durn excited! We'll be staying in several different B & B's throughout our travels and our last two nights will be spent at a castle that's family owned (read: NOT restored <--- should be an interesting experience!). It was (very) tempting to try and book a night at once of the 5 star castle hotels (hello Dromoland Castle and Adare Manor) but we just didn't feel that we could justify the cost. I'd much rather spend our pounds on Guiness and horse back riding on the beach! Plus, I'm really looking forward to chatting with our hosts at their respective B & B's to get a taste of authentic Ireland. The other thing we've decided (or maybe I should say attempt) to do is carry on and not check bags. Yes, one of the top 5 biggest challenges of my adult life, but I'm up to it. Mainly because we aren't staying anywhere with elevators or door men, so I need to be able to lug my own bag. Luckily, Ireland is a super casual country and we're not heading to Dublin, so hopefully we can get away with jeans and layers. Steve says I only need one pair of shoes...well, we just won't discuss that right now. In case you're curious, we'll be touring the South and West Counties (Limerick, Waterford, Cork, Kerry and Clare).

On sort of the same page, I've decided to tackle the Riley Family Tree. I'm not really sure what I was thinking, but I guess I had some fairy tale idea that I could trace our line back to the Ireland days and then visit the town while we're in Ireland. I'd pick up the Riley tartan and share a pint of Harp with some of my great- great cousins. All well and good except that my ancestors were LAME. I cannot find ANYTHING on them before 1795. They obviously existed or I wouldn't be here, but seriously, it's like we just appeared on American soil in Virginia sometime after the Revolutionary War. So, hours of internet research into this project and I find myself extremely annoyed at my great, great, great grandfather for not being as organized and OCD as me. I obviously didn't get those traits from his side of the family! So, the search continues...

In cancer-related news, I had my PET scan today. I won't have my results until next Friday when I see my oncologist. Normally I'm extremely anxious about that, but right now I have so much going on, that I'm just going to continue enjoying floating down Denial River until further notice. I feel great and that has to count for something. Steve and I are headed to Savannah this weekend for a work trip (there's really only about an hour of work involved, the rest is just playtime for everyone, so fun!). This will be our first weekend away from the kids. Ever. Yup, just call us the most exciting people you've ever met! Timing just hasn't been on our side since having kids (you know, cancer and all that) so we're looking forward to some "us" time. My parents are driving down (so sweet!) to take care of Stella and Simon. This will be a good test for us before the Ireland trip. Cheers everyone!