The Gang's All Here!

The Gang's All Here!

Friday, January 31, 2014


I'm sure by now that if you're reading this and don't live in the state of Georgia, you might be aware that we had a little "issue" here this week. And by issue, I mean a gigantic gridlock never before seen in our state (and we have an insane amount of traffic)! Given that you haven't been a on a complete media blackout, you know that Georgia, specifically the city of Atlanta and metro area, came to a complete standstill on Tuesday afternoon. While we were under a Winter Storm Warning, the forecasted snow wasn't supposed to begin until the afternoon. So, when I dropped the kids off at school around 9:30 and it had already started snowing, I had a bad feeling. Thank all that is holy, Steve decided to work from home that day. Turned out to be one of the best decisions he has ever made. I had planned on going to the gym and running a few errands while the kids were at school, but instead decided to head home and have another cup of coffee with Steve. It snowed hard for a couple of hours but it wasn't sticking. I put some hard labor into shoveling out more of the upstairs. About 12:30, Steve and I decided that we wanted Chick-Fil-A for lunch and that we'd grab some on the way to pick up the kids. I kid you not, in the 10 minutes that we made that decision and then left the house, the snow had started to stick. In a completely sane sense of judgment, we took Steve's rental car instead of my Sequoia. I will never be more thankful for that decision than I was on Tuesday. Yes, I have a big SUV and no, I don't have 4-Wheel drive. Call me crazy, but it's rarely needed down here. The rental car has front wheel drive and front wheel drive performs quite well in the snow (obviously there are limits to this, especially when snow is more than 6 inches deep). I'm not afraid to drive in the snow and have done my fair share of it, but not here. In fact, one Christmas Steve and I flew out to Colorado to see his parents and rented a Toyota Camry to drive through the Rocky Mountains in a blizzard because it was a $1,000 (yes, you read that correctly) cheaper than renting a 4 wheel drive. The Camry did great, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, as we reached the end of our neighborhood it became apparent very quickly that not only were we not going to make it to Chick-Fil-A, but we were going to be lucky to make it to pick the kids up in time. Our neighborhood sits on the side of a (small) mountain and the entrance is near the bottom. Cars had already spun out in ten places and people were sliding all over the place. We eventually reached the kids and immediately headed home. It took us 2+ hours to get home and we live less than 3 miles from the school. It was frustrating, scary and mind numbing. Stella and I actually hiked the last mile home because we had to pee so bad!

We were some of the lucky ones. The sticking snow quickly turned to sheets of ice and at that point, it doesn't matter whether you have front wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, you can't drive on ice. And that was the problem with the roads in Atlanta. I had so many friends stuck on the interstate for more than 12 hours, some close to 18 hours. I had friends that I taught with who spent the night at their schools to stay with kids who couldn't get home. Busses were still on the road at 3am. It was a terrifying and humbling experience for our city but you know what? I've never been so proud to be a resident here. The generosity, camaraderie and acts of kindness throughout the storm for those in need was a true demonstration of southern hospitality at it's finest. Yes, big mistakes were made by our leaders, but they've owned up to it (mostly). We'll learn from this and move on. I'm happy to call Atlanta home and to see how genuinely amazing the people here are.

January 31st is a huge milestone for me. Exactly two years ago today I received my cancer diagnosis. In some ways it's hard to believe that it's been two years and in other ways, an all-too close reminder of how quickly life can change. This year, I'm not dwelling on the past by reliving my story. I'm carrying on in my normal, out of control fashion and stopping just for a minute to thank my lucky stars that I'm still here and healthy with the ability to be out of control. The statistics would tell you that I should be dead by now, at least according to research done in the 1990's with being Her 2+. Thank god for Herceptin and the amazing scientists who discovered it. I do love proving those stupid numbers wrong! And that, my friends, is what living is all about :).

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Glitterbombing

I think this is the coldest winter I've experienced in my 9 years living in Georgia. I normally brag (to my friends in the north) that I can get by with just my fleece and maybe a scarf. Sometimes I go a little wild and break out my leather jacket if I'm feeling sassy that day. Well, not this winter. I've worn my puffy winter coat more this month than I have in the 6 years that I've owned it. And I bought it for the times that we're in Colorado... I even busted out my wool peacoat the other day and I haven't worn that since I lived in Virginia! So, damnnnnnn, it's cold outside! Although, not cold enough to prevent me from doing some shopping at one of my favorite outdoor malls yesterday. Walking around there was like walking through a wind tunnel, but desperate times and all that. And, I scored two pairs (2!) of boots for $40 at my favorite boutique. WINNING!! I also finally got around to getting my hair cut on Tuesday. It looks a thousand times better, especially without the mullet...

In other news, my children have decided to test what little sanity I have left. On Sunday evening, I made a quick trip to the grocery store (which is 5 minutes from our house) so I was gone a total of 15 minutes. In that 15 minutes, Stella managed to get her paint out of the cabinet in the office, paint most surfaces in that room and then paint Simon a lovely shade of Kelly green. I kid you not. You might be wondering what my husband was doing during the paint-a-thon and I cannot honestly tell you what he was thinking/ doing. But, surely by now he knows that with two toddlers running around when it suddenly gets quiet, major trouble is brewing. So, I arrived home to be greeted by Simon and his green hair...

On Monday night, Steve walked in the door and Stella disappeared. I swear she's part ninja. In the one (1!) minute that Steve and I exchanged greetings (how was your day, etc), Stella found two vials of glitter and proceeded to dump the first one over Simon's head (poor kid is going to have a real warped understanding of art supplies in a few years). The second one ended up on the floor of Simon's toy pirate ship. A neat factoid about glitter: it spreads to every imaginable surface and NEVER goes away. My first floor looks like a disco party gone bad and I'm still brushing glitter out of Simon's hair. That was fun explaining to both of their teachers, that yes, I do actually bathe my children and by the way, I'm really sorry about the glitter shower your classroom(s) are about to receive. I think being glitterbombed is an excellent way to push someone right over the edge. I'm sort of getting used to my sparkly dogs and glitter themed couch... We won't discuss the glitter that comes out of Simon's diapers...

On Wednesday, Simon was kind enough to shove a raisin up his nose. Yes, I was actually in the room and turned my head for one second to see what the damn dog was barking at. I have no idea if it came out or now. I called our nurse line for the pediatrician and she had me do a CPR-type move on him to try and get it out. Needless to say that didn't work (and Simon was not a fan at all) and I refuse to go sit in the ER for 6 hours. And of course, it happened in the 5 minutes before I needed to leave to pick up Stella from school. If the raisin is still up there buried in his nose, it hasn't bothered him in the slightest. I guess time will tell. Is it too early to send in my application for MOTY? I know it's only January, but I'm pretty sure I'm winning at best parenting ever. So, yes, I earned those boots after this week!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Fresh Start

It's Friday! Sometimes I feel almost (I said almost) guilty about saying that since I'm not working anymore, but I still love the weekends! It's been a busy week here. I managed to make it to the gym two times this week, which is the most I've been since I was pregnant with Stella. January is such a crazy time at the gym because you have all of the "New Years resolution" people, myself included. Although sometimes I feel like shouting, "I'm not actually new, I've been a member here for 7 years! I've kinda had a lot going on the past few years...". The good news is that my membership card still works and didn't immediately burst into flames when I used it. They also have the same treadmills (they were brand new 5 years ago) so I didn't have to worry about figuring out how to operate the damn thing without killing myself. Bonus!

I've also been going through a major purge: every mess/ disorganized/ pile of crap/ old broken toys (which, - we had at least 100 random, broken plastic pieces of god knows what). Steve and I started with the garage on Sunday, it's now relatively organized and decluttered/ junked. I also vacuumed out my car (which was desperately needed after two toddlers and several road trips). On Monday I tackled the land of broken/ outgrown toys. That little task was l-o-n-g overdue, but gosh, it felt good. The kids (meaning, me while they grabbed things out of sorted piles) and I organized and found a place for everything. Almost a week later, I'm happy to say that this little system seems to be working. We'll see how long it lasts...

On Tuesday, both kids were finally back in school, hooray! I reclaimed my kitchen and sorted through the never-ending pile of mail. I reorganized that room too! It's not quite Pottery Barn pretty, but it's much improved. Wednesday led me to the laundry room, aka: room of uncertain death. You literally cannot walk into that room without stepping a shoe, jacket, dog bone etc. So, I figured out a solution to that little issue, and now, the room is a damn work of art. I might even have to call Real Simple in on this one. So, yeah, I'm a little out of control in the cleaning/ organizing department, but I'm desperately trying to get my house into some sort of functioning order! I'll also add that I finally, FINALLY have the energy to do all of this and not feel like I ran 500 miles by 2pm. And that, my friends, is real progress :)

Speaking of progress, this week I have had some absolutely fantastic opportunities come my way. I can't wait to share them with you! I'll let you know more as I have more details. 2014 is really shaping up to be a phenomenal year for us, cheers to that!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bullet Dodging

I saw my dermatologist on Tuesday. She took one look at me and said, "That is definitely (some kind, I can't remember) a terrific case of eczema". She was so convinced it's a skin issue, she decided to not do a biopsy at this time. She wants to treat the eczema and then if it's not better in a couple of weeks, she'll do a biopsy. The dermatologist also thinks I have developed some kind of skin allergy/ sensitivity. That's not surprising given the amount of radiation I had and the types of drugs my body has been exposed to. Plus, throw in a few surgeries, outrageous weather (4 degrees in Georgia is just stupid, in my opinion) and it's no wonder my skin is royally pissed off. It was somewhat surreal chatting with my dermatologist as I hadn't seen her since the beginning of this journey. I know she was as excited to see me as I was to see her. If it hadn't been for her doing the original biopsy and trusting her instincts (not to mention her wheeling and dealing to get me into my breast surgeon in a New York minute), I would be willing to bet the farm that I wouldn't be sitting here typing this today. I brought the kids with me- is there any greater fun (and I mean that as sarcastically as possible) than dragging two toddlers to a doctors appointment that has nothing to do with them? Luckily for me, schools were closed on Tuesday due to the extreme temperatures. And no, I wasn't upset that schools were closed, I can't imagine kids waiting outside for the bus in those kinds of conditions. So, after begging the kids to behave and bribing them with a trip to Target afterwards (and a little help from my iPad, thank you modern technology!), the kids cooperated. Chatting with my dermatologist, we realized that our daughters were born on the same day and year, at the same hospital. How's that for fate working in the most amazing way?!?! It really was wonderful seeing her and having a chance to thank her again for playing a crucial role in saving my life.

As for my lovely rash, it has now spread everywhere. I just feel so damn glamorous... The dermatologist wrote me a prescription for a special kind of skin cream. That would be great except that the pharmacy had to special order it and won't arrive until Tuesday of next week. So, please excuse me as I itch myself to death... I do have some heavy duty lotion I'm using from a past incident with my skin and it's helping a little bit. I find wine to be the most helpful in this situation :)

I had a check-up with my oncologist yesterday, mostly so I could relay to her what the dermatologist said and for her to take a look at the rash. I was also cleared for treatment which was good since I had to miss last week. We both decided that I look like I'm suffering from some sort of tropical ailment and had a good laugh about it. And that's why I love my doctor's, they're not afraid to joke around with me or ask questions about how are family is doing. My oncologist routinely reminds me that she thinks I'm crazy for having two toddlers and a puppy...

I turned another year older this week. Can't say I'm particularly excited about that as I'm approaching my late 30's, GAH! I did get a Fitbit Flex for my birthday and have already developed a love/ hate relationship with it. I swear this morning it called me a fatass when I stepped on the scale. This week I'm not really changing anything in my routine, mostly just observing what things are like without making a point to exercise, eat right etc. I can tell you that I've already learned so much and I have a LOT of work to do. So, with that in mind, I'm off to burn some calories :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Deja Vu

It's been quite a month and that could, potentially, be the understatement of my year. The week after Thanksgiving, I received a call from my oncologist saying that she was concerned as my tumor makers had come back elevated. Anyone who's dealt with cancer knows that this is not good, but also, could mean many different things. What are tumor markers? Tumor markers are described here by the American Cancer Society. The specific one they measure for me is the CA 27.29 marker, commonly associated with breast cancer and some other cancers. All sources are quick to point out that tumor markers are not a guaranteed science and not always a reliable test. That said, my tumor markers have always been steady. They jumped and my doctor took notice. So, what happens when you do have an elevated marker? Most of the time it's a "wait and see" attitude for a few months. Markers are retested and trends are studied. Unless you're me, in which case, all hell breaks loose and all bets are off. My oncologist ordered an emergency PET scan which I had done on Monday, December 9. Why did they act so quickly? Given the very aggressive nature of my cancer, she didn't want to take any chances or waste any time in case my cancer had returned. To say that I have been out of my mind with worry is again, a really big understatement.

The turn around time for my PET scan left me having to choose another site to have the test done, since the main hospital was booked for the next two weeks. I ended up going to another branch of my hospital located about 20 miles north of where we live - it's pretty rural up there. So rural, in fact, that their PET scan machine was actually a mobile unit. Yup, exactly like it sounds, it's a machine in a tractor trailer that travels to the smaller branches in the metro area. Pretty cool, when you really think about it, which of course I did, because what else can you think about sitting outside in a trailer in December waiting for the radioactive dye to move through your body? It was freezing!! I was also nervous because I didn't have my normal PET scan techs working with me. I'm telling you, in the almost two years that I've been at this cancer thing, I've gotten to know most of the techs for the different tests and I like them. It was tough working with different people! Anyway, other than almost freezing to death, the test was uneventful. However, this hospital gave me a copy of my scan to take home. WHAT??? "For my personal records" they said. We all know damn well as soon as I got home, Steve and I pulled those bad boys up on the computer and did our best to navigate through them. Clearly, this was a poor choice and radiologists have advanced degrees for a reason. Worried? Why not freak yourself out even more by comparing your PET scan images to those on Dr. Google. Stupid, Stupid, STUPID!!

Three days can be a VERY long time to wait for results, as I'm sure many of you know. Add to that recovering from surgery (I'm doing great by the way, this has been a breeze compared to the last two) and sorting out the mess from Steve's car accident (he's also fine and we're so thankful for that), Steve and I were about to jump the next plane to Tahiti. We've always known that there's a chance my cancer can return, but I've been feeling great and other than my brief run-in with sciatica, have had no complaints or reason to think we should be concerned. Some of you might even be upset that I didn't mention anything in my blog last week about this, but I didn't want to worry anyone until there was a reason to do so. I HATE knowing that I am causing people to worry (and I KNOW some of you do!).

We met with my oncologist December 12th. When she asked me how I was feeling, I told her that I wanted to throw up, depending on what she told me. Good news, she said, your scans are clear! Cue the trumpets and streamers!! She went on to say that they are baffled as to why my numbers jumped, especially since my PET scan was clean and my bone scan showed nothing.

Fast Forward to Christmas Day. We spent this Christmas in South Carolina at the Hinman Family Beach Compound. I woke up Christmas morning to... a huge bright red rash on my right foob (by the way, a foob is a fake boob...). I literally laughed at first, because the deja vu was uncanny. Literally two years ago to the freaking day is when I discovered my original rash. Don't worry, I quickly moved from laughing to total panic mode. Merry "I'mgoing tohaveacompletebreakdown" Christmas!! So, I spent my vacation between scouring Dr. Google looking at images of rashes to drinking too much wine because that was the only way I could relax even a little. Luckily, I had an appointment scheduled with my oncologist yesterday. I knew she was going to be annoyed (I count on her for that, she never panics and I love that about her. She doesn't like any "hiccups" in our regularly scheduled program). She has no idea what's going on with me and the good news (if there is any) is that the rash has spread to other parts of my upper body. So, she's sending me to the dermatologist for a check-up and a biopsy. My oncologist did say that she really didn't think this was cancer, but we're going to rule it out for good with the biopsy. She also said that my tumor markers are back to normal and that the test I had in November had to be a fluke. Amen to that! So, stay tuned as the drama continues... here's to hoping the 2014 is off to a better start than this week...