Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Struggle

Well, as you know, my auntie in Canada is facing breast cancer right now. That would be a hard thing for me regardless, but it is harder since I know firsthand exactly what she is going to go through. Once you have heard someone tell you that you have cancer, you feel it in your gut when you find out that someone that you know has also had to hear that.

Last week, in a meeting (the curse of having a Blackberry) I found out that one of my fellow contra dancers lost his battle with cancer. I had only heard that he was sick a couple of weeks ago and now he is gone.

Then, this weekend, the daughter of our closest friends in the world called to tell us that her father has a brain tumor. I am devastated to know that these people that I love so much are going through this. It helps that I've been through it because I really do understand any reaction they will have to the fear, confusion, and shock of it. But it hurts me all the more because I so vividly know what they are feeling and what they are facing.

I will be there with them every step of the way, and I will use the knowledge that I've gained to help them as much as I can. But in the meantime, I am drowning in a sea of emotion right along with them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Making Strides and All

The local breast cancer walk is coming up.

I can't participate this year, I will be in Seattle for work. I'm not sure I feel bad about that. I think I'm more happy that my life is so busy that I just can't fit that walk in. I did not participate last year because I was just too sick.

I'll be interested to see how I handle October this year. Last year, having Breast Cancer month come while I was doing radiation just felt so personal. I was exhausted and scared and everywhere I looked was a big pink sign that said breast cancer. Some things pissed me off. Breast cancer shampoo at over $20 a bottle and when you read the fine print you found out they only donated a dime for each bottle sold. I was irate because breast cancer should not be a markteting ploy. I was irate because they raise a lot of money to fight this disease, but when you go through it you face your medical bills alone. I have pretty good insurance, but treatment still cost me plenty. Breast cancer tic tacs, breast cancer yogurt. Where does all that money go I wonder? Does anyone keep track? Do these companies really give a crap or have they just figured out that if sales go up by 20% when the wrapper is pink - then they can afford to donate 5% and take a tax write off on the donation? Is the whole thing a racket?

On the health front, I am doing pretty well. My energy is good. Appetite is too good thank to Tamoxifen. I am worried about my mobility. The arthritis in my knees is not letting up. One is worse than the other and that one is sore and stiff to some degree pretty much all the time.

I'm not doing much to help myself. I have exercises to do daily. I don't do them. I'm too tired by the end of the day to think about it, and too rushed during the morning. I'm trying to get them back into my routine. I have orthotics for my shoes. I like those, but don't wear them all the time because I wear so many shoes that are open like mules and flip flops. I'm sure I will wear them more in the winter when I change to closed shoes. I take glucosamine. I ice them after dancing. Geez, that's fun. Makes me feel like a granny. Getting up and down stairs is still a big problem. I have to go slow, and I feel unsteady. My knees sound like I'm popping popcorn. There is another series of shots I could go for - but I'm not willing to try it. Cortisone made me worse not better and was fabulously expensive. Made me very reluctant to let them inject anything else.

I still dance whenever I can - and it is still a source of joy for me. I don't compromise on that. Nothing stops me from going to contra, nothing stops me from going to Zumba or Jamz if I am in town for it.

I was in Texas for work last week. It was interesting to teach a class on site after treatment. I had to struggle to get my stupid bags up and down the stairs at my two story hotel since they didn't have an elevator. Going up and down the stairs was hard enough, doing it while dragging my computer bag twice a day was harder. I found it harder to skip meals or wait long hours between meals - I was more sensitive to how bad I felt if I had not eaten in hours. My knees hurt all the time. I had to wait for the elevator when the client took the stairs because we were talking four floors and I just didn't think I could make it. Twelve hour days in front of the customer make anybody tired, I'm sure. But I felt just that little bit more exhausted than I used to.

I am learning how to deal with normal stress again. New job is a total whirlwind. I'm traveling more than I used to. I'm behind on the contra event that I am organizing - I don't have the time to dedicate to getting the committees formed. My eldest son needs help to visit colleges, fill out applications, and fill out his FAFSA form. I have zero personal time. I read for about ten minutes at night before I pass out, that is my relaxation. Eating well and exercising have totally gone by the wayside.

I recognize that I can't let my needs take the back seat in my own life anymore, but damn, it is hard to make the time for myself.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes

I had two big events to celebrate this week.

Wednesday was my one year anniversary of my last chemo treatment. By this time last year, I was exhausted, bald, scared out of my wits, ten pounds lighter, plagued by hot flashes and seriously sleep deprived.

To celebrate this important anniversay, I had lunch with a good friend who just so happens to also be a survivor. We went to an all you can eat sushi buffet. And we ate until we were both in pain. Ah - that glorious engorged tick feeling! And I spent the whole day relishing how good I felt. I thought about all the good people and things that have come into my life in the last year. And of course, I hugged my kids a little longer and a little tighter that evening when I came home.

In some ways, I can't believe a whole year has passed, and in other ways, it feels like all that misery was a very long time ago.

Thursday brought another reason to celebrate - I was offered a new job. I applied for the position in March, and it has been a long process to get to this offer. But I got it! I'll start in a couple of weeks. It is a huge promotion and I am so excited about the whole thing. I'm excited about the new team I'll be working with, I'm excited about all my new responsiblities, and I'm excited to work for my new boss. Over the past few weeks, as I have had a chance to get to know her better, she has said and done some things that really impressed me. For me this is the best of both worlds - I get a whole new job but I still get to stay at the same great company.

I am proud of myself for applying for and getting the position; I am proud of my company for promoting from within and I am so very grateful to all the people who supported me and recommended me. During the interview process, I had to meet with a number of stakeholders and it was such a positive experience. It should have probably been scary, but it wasn't. I enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone was so enthusiastic and said so many great things about my work and the contributions that I've made.

And this promotion is only made sweeter by the contrast to where I was this time last year.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Back From Canada and knees

We are back from a family reunion in Canada. The little town that both my parents come from is a bit hard to get to, so the travel days were long and the first one was especially frustrating since we missed a connecting flight, had an unexpected 10 hour lay over and got finally into town at 1 a.m. to discover that they had given away our rental car. It all worked out in the end and I had a great time seeing every one. We were only there for three days, but we managed to see both sides of the family. It was hard to leave.

When I got back, things were a whirlwind. I had to get both sons to their schools to pay their fees and pick up their schedules. They start next Wednesday and they are both at different schools. My youngest is at a new school now since he is in the sixth grade, so we have some learning and adjusting to do there. Then I took a sick day and crammed in as many doctors appointments as I could. Eyes for all of us. So our eyes were dialated. Ordered new glasses and lenses for the boys. I held off on mine. I need to choose new frames and I was in too much of a hurry to get to my next appointment to do any looking right then.

I dropped everybody else off at home and headed off to see an orthopedic doctor for my knees. I've had crunchy knees for about a decade now, but they have become much worse in the last few months. I suspect both chemo and tamoxifen are playing a part in that. When it became very difficult to climb steps and I found out that I could not longer squat or do lunges, I decided it was finally time to look into it. I have osteo arthritis in my knee caps.

I like a couple of the treatments. On Monday I go back for a single physical therapy session where they will give me a list of dos and don'ts and teach me an exercise routine that I can do on my own. I will also get fitted for orthotics for my gym shoes, turns out that I suppinate slightly and the inserts will help to line my knees up properly. The next options I don't like so much. I let them give me cortisone injections in both knees. They said side effects would be minimal. Wrong. By that evening, I could barely walk. My knees were so swollen and stiff that I could not bend them. And they were painful up to mid thigh - very painful. They were a bit better the next day, at least I could walk, but they still hurt and were very swollen. I wore a long skirt to work to hide them.

Today they are still sore, but the swelling is way down and I think I will be able to dance tonight. At least I hope so. I also have prescription strength Aleve. I'm supposed to take one every 12 hours, being stubborn about such things, I'm taking one every 24. They also want me to consider lubricant injections directly into my knees. I don't know about that. I think I will give the inserts and the exercises a while to work before I consider any more injections.

Then I rushed from that appointment to my annual OB exam. I was more than tired of being messed with by the time I saw her as you can imagine.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ah, Summer

Oh, how I am reveling in this summer.

Time outdoors. Walks. Bike rides. Salad from the garden. Nectarines. Watermelon. Kids having squirt gun fights. Church festivals. Fireflies. Long lazy evenings when the sun just seems to hang there low in the sky, as reluctant to go to bed as we are.

So this is what I did this weekend.

I started Saturday with a Pilates Reformer class. Then I came home and worked at weeding our organic veggie beds. They were pretty neglected so the weeds were healthier and more vigorous than the cucumbers, jalapenos, tomatoes and basil. My husband and kids came out and so did a good friend, so we all sat outside and weeded for an hour or so. Being out in the garden with friends and family is one of my favorite activities, so I had a ball.

Then I did a few chores and went out to see the new Hellboy movie. I liked the first one, and I enjoyed this one too. I also really enjoyed watching my kids watch it - they loved it and sat on the edges of their seats a few times.

Then we all went to contra. It was second Saturday, so we danced from 8 until 11. It was miserable kind of humid so we were all sweating buckets, and crowding around the fans to enjoy a cool breeze between dances. But even with the heat, it was the usual great time listening to music and dancing with friends.

Sunday started with Zumba class with my favorite instructor, Chet. I have gone enough that this time I was able to relax and really dance a couple of the dances instead of still fumbling and learning. Boy, that was fun.

Then I came home and did more chores and paid bills. My husband helped me install a new HP print/scan/fax/copy station that I bought (coupon at Costco made me finally get off the stick and buy one after looking at them for the last couple of years). It took a while, but once we got it set up and tested, I fell in love with it. I got my pesky FSA paperwork out in a flash since I could make the copies here and fax it out using speed dial! It rocks. So much better than lugging all the paperwork into work, staying late and using the old and slow fax machine that we have there. I am on a real kick to streamline as much of my chores as possible - I find myself less willing to toil, and more willing to find ways to make time for fun. That's not natural for me. My old way was just buckling down and making do with whatever the circumstance was. Not any more. I ask myself what I want to do and how I want to do it. And if I have to do things I don't enjoy, I find a way to make it more fun (if nothing else, I crank up some tunes), and I consider what I can do to streamline it so I can spend less time on necessary things and more time on fun and family. Duh. I really should have thought about that before!

After all the chores, we walked (about a mile and a half stroll, very pleasant in the evening both ways, I can't remember the last time I walked home in the dusk - the sky was so pretty) to a local church festival. I had a frozen margarita that tasted quite a bit like spiked urinal cake. Needless to say, I only had one. I also got onion rings. I don't feel like I have really experienced a festival if I don't eat something totally greasy.

We saw a few friends there. My eldest won his brother a goldfish, we won a honey baked ham raffle, a DVD raffle, and I won an item at the silent auction. It was a pretty funny walk home. I had my purse, water bottle, goldfish in a bag and the basket that I won. My husband and I took turns holding the stuff, but we both had our hands full the whole way home. The kids stayed later than we did, and rode their bikes home with friends.

At the festival, I saw a woman going through chemo. She wore a pink shirt and flip flops, and a pink scarf covered with a baseball cap. She looked about my age too. And it looks like she decided to skip wearing a wig just like I did. I debated going over to give her some encouragement (you know - hey, I did what you are doing this same time last year, and look at me now kind of thing), but in the end, I decided to respect her privacy and let her enjoy the festival without some stranger bringing up what she is going through.

And I learned that one of my aunties was just diagnosed too. I'm doing what I can to offer encouragement and support and I will get to see her soon when we go to our family reunion.

I guess no matter how far you get away from treatment, you never really do get away from it do you? There will always be reminders. If you don't think of it when you see yourself in the mirror with totally different hair, a scar or two and some extra pounds, then you will be reminded because there are just so many other people going through the same thing.

I'm glad my totally crazy life is back in full swing now, and I'm glad I have a new appreciation for every little bit of it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

So what does it feel like to have a lumpectomy?

I found this entry on another blog that I have. I never published it.

I wrote it on May 15, the day after my lumpectomy.

I'm publishing it here in case it can help anyone else who need to go through it:

I really did not think I would blog about this. It's very personal. But, since I found out that I have breast cancer (just a little over a week ago), I have been doing non-stop research into what I have and all my options. What was missing was a personal narrative from someone who has gone through it. I could find plenty of factual information, and I have a great workbook that they gave me when I was diagnosed. And there are plenty of quotes from survivors. But no real story from someone going through it. So in hopes that this helps someone, and maybe helps me too, I'm going to describe what I have experienced so far.

First, I got a phone call from the Breast Center after a routine mammogram. I had the mammogram on April 21st, and I got the call on April 26. They have never called me before, I usually get a letter. They told me that it was probably nothing to worry about, but they did see something that they should take a closer look at. I needed a special view mammogram and an ultrasound. I called my OB to make sure that she agreed and to see if she had any other recommendations. She is wonderful woman whom I trust and respect. I have known her for over ten years. She said to go ahead and have the tests as soon as I could. I scheduled them for April 30.

The lump is very close to my chest wall, so they had a hard time getting a good picture of it on this newest mammogram. They even tried turning the machine upside down. One time, they stuck both of my breasts on the platform with me facing forward, I called that the "Baywatch" view. I still wasn't worried. After getting the phone call, I went searching for a lump and I did find one, so I was able to point the ultrasound lady right to it. I still wasn't worried. She left the room to give the results to the radiologist. He sent her back in to look at my lymph nodes. That is when I knew that they thought I had cancer.

The radiologist came and and said that he didn't tell people very often that he thought they had cancer until he had a biopsy to prove it, but in my case, he was very worried that this lump was cancerous.

They scheduled me for an ultrasound guided core needle biopsy for the next day. He numbed the area (lidocaine), made a small incision, then stuck this thick needle with a big plastic cassette on it into the lump. That part did not hurt at all. Then, he pulled a trigger that snaps a sheath down over the needle to take and seal the sample. That part hurt. It felt like getting your ear pierced over and over again, except that was not my ear. I cried through the whole thing. Not from the pain. I was sad and scared because I could have cancer. My Mom had breast cancer. She got through that very well. Years later, she got lung cancer and that was a long sad fight until she died. Knowing that I could have cancer now just brought all of those memories flooding back.

I got my diagnosis two days later, on April 4th. It is a T1 invasive ductal carcinoma. The most common kind of breast cancer. Even with all the tests and preparation, I was truly shocked to hear that I have cancer. How could I? I'm young, I feel fine, I had no warning.

Now I had to decide who to tell. I told my niece, my kids, and my brother and sister, of course. I told my youngest son's principal and asked her to tell his teachers. I told his cub scout den leader. My oldest son wanted to tell people himself, so I didn't call anyone at his school. My rule at work is this: if I come into frequent contact with someone, or they rely on my to respond to meeting requests and e-mails, well then, they need to know. It was very hard to stop by people's cubes and tell them. I did not want to do it via e-mail. I didn't think that was fair. I told people because I thought that there is no way they can be supportive and patient with me if they don't know what is going on. I told all my neighbors too, for the same reason. People have responded with courage, affection, encouragement, kinds thoughts, prayers and support. It has made all the difference. While I know that to a certain extent, I have to face this alone, I do not feel alone at all. I feel loved and supported.

I called my OB again for her advice, and she recommended the same surgeon that I had seen ten years ago when I found a lump that turned out to be nothing.

I got an appointment to see her on May 8th. This all happened so fast. And I am grateful. The waiting and not knowing were excrutiating. My surgeon sees her cancer patients after hours so she can take more time with them. I showed up with a page of questions and she patiently answered each one. She also treated me like a person; we talked about other things and joked around too. She said that I needed a lumpectomy, radiation and hormone therapy for sure. Chemotherapy would be required if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, or if I failed a genetic test that is an excellent predictor for recurrence.

I saw her on Tuesday, and my surgery was scheduled for the following Monday, yesterday, May 14. I am not a big fan of any kind of pill or drug. I rarely even take vitamins. But, I told her that I was having trouble with basic things like eating, sleeping and not crying. I thought I needed something to help me through. She gave me a prescription for Xanax. I still resist taking it, but she recommended that I take one six hours before my surgery to help me deal with anxiety and the fact that I could not eat and drink for such a long time. I have a lot of trouble with that. I'm one of those people who snacks every couple of hours and always has a cup of tea or glass of water in my hand.

So, yesterday morning, I made sure my bag was packed. Ugly bra that hooks in the front. I needed one since I will have a sore arm where they take some lymph nodes. I tried Target and Dick's Sporting Goods first, no luck. Then I went to Dillard's. A very nice lady helped me choose one without an underwire so that couldn't press against my bandage, and a bigger size so it wouldn't squeeze my side too much either. Then my husband said, "let's go look at the patio dresses." I had a hard time with this. He was thinking practical, I was thinking that only little old ladies wear those. I did pick one with a sixty's looking flower for the zipper pull. It reminds me of Scoobie Doo. I hated buying it, so I went right to Victoria's Secret and bought a nice black lace thong to counteract the dowdy dress. The dress bugged me so much that my kids tell me "Mom, get over the dress already."

Also in the bag was a pillow to put between me and the seat belt on my ride home, some funny books (Woody Allen and Nora Ephron), a cliff bar and a bottle of water.

After I was packed and the house was a little straightened up, I took the Xanax. Then I made myself stay awake to pay some bills and do other chores. I finally went down for an hour's nap before we had to leave. That helped.

I had my surgery at a plastic surgery center, not a hospital. I was a little worried that they would not be as well equipped. But, they were terrific. I waited in the waiting room for about 20 minutes (we were early too). Then a funny, kind, warm lady took me back to get prepared. They wanted a urine sample for some reason. A pretty sick request to make at 2 in the afternoon after I was not allowed to eat or drink since midnight. I managed somehow. Then I changed into a hospital johnnie and some socks to keep my feet warm. She covered me with warm blankets too. She asked me a bunch of questions and had me write "yes" and my initials on the breast with the tumor. She gave me an I.V. She asked me to take a Zantac (for stomach acid) and some Celebrex. I asked her about both drugs since I had never taken them. She said Celebrex is good for pain, so they wanted to give it to me before the surgery. I was pretty excited about the two sips of water.

Then the anesthesiologist came in and asked some questions, and my surgeon came in to talk to me. She needed to listen to my heart and lungs, so I had to sit forward. She snapped my new thong and said it was cute and she wanted to know where I got it. That made me laugh, not an easy thing to do at this point. Then the nurses came to get me. They wheeled me down a short hall and into the operating room. I got pretty scared. I am very good at denial, and have made some pretty good use of it since I've faced this, but looking up at the surgical lights, and having your arms placed on those two little boards out to the side makes it very hard to deny that you are about to have an operation.

My sister recommended that I see "The Secret" before my surgery. I didn't have time. But I did get the book and read some of it. It was a good reminder about how important your attitude is. So, before my surgery, I visualized myself waking up easily afterwards, happy and refreshed.

They put a gas mask over my face. Oxygen first, then something that smelled like medicine. The people in the operating room chatted with me until I fell asleep. It really helped to make me feel calm.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room. My husband said that I had woken up before and the surgeon had talked with me. I have no memory of that. The nurse asked if I was in pain, and I was uncomfortable, so she gave me a pain pill. My husband says that all I could talk about was how nice everyone was. I guess that made a huge impression on me. It still does.

And so, they let him drive me home. We had a flat tire on the way! So, we waited for the tow truck, and my niece waited for me at the tire place so she could take me home while my husband could take care of the tire and get my prescriptions filled.

Here is what it feels like now. I have a bandage under my arm, and a drainage tube attached to a bulb. The kids and I call the bulb my "grenade" because it looks a little like one. That part is pretty sensitive, and it hurts when I move my arm. I have another bandage over the place where they took the lump. Every once in a while that has a deep, dull ache. What really hurts is my nipple. I had what is called a sentinal node biopsy. They insert blue dye that travels to the first lymph nodes that the cancer would travel to. So they know which ones to remove. Judging from the blue dots around my aureola, and the one right through my nipple, I think that is where they injected the dye. I am amazed that that hurts more than my incisions. The bandages are covered in plastic, so I can take a shower today. And I get to take them off tomorrow.
I have antibiotics and pain pills. I can take a pain pill every four hours. I try to stretch it out by an extra half hour or hour so I don't take so much, but I get pretty uncomfortable when I do that.

So, I guess my advice for anyone else who is going through this would be, do your homework so you know your options, find a team of people that make you feel comfortable and cared for, don't be afraid to ask for help with the emotional side of it, and do what you can to be grateful for all the little blessings that come your way as you go through this.

Encouragement

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I rode our bikes over to the local (very local - this was a pretty slacker bike ride I assure you) mall. I had not been on that bike for SEVENTEEN years! Uh, so I guess it was high time.

We had dinner (my husband met us there – his bike had a flat) and we went to Borders. I stumbled upon this book called “Younger Next Year”. I leafed through it and liked it so I bought it and boy am I glad I did!

The book provides six rules to live by and says that if you follow them faithfully then you will find that 70% of aging is optional and you will be in great shape until the end of your days. The book is written by an internist and his patient who is in his seventies and skiing, biking, rowing and generally having more active fun than I’ve ever had. Age is just not an issue for this guy and I admire him greatly.

Their tone is realistic optimism, and I found it very encouraging. Their rules are backed up by both science and experience and they sound true to me. I’ve always felt that the rules were “Use it or lose it” and “Great circulation is key” and their findings back those rules.

What they gave me was motivation to buy a heart monitor, buy their journal, and get out there and move every single day, not just a couple of days a week. They recommend that you work out six days a week – four cardio and two weight bearing sessions. They give you guidelines that are easy to follow for how long and how hard you should be working. And they freely acknowledge that at the start all that you can do may not be very impressive – heck you may never get to an impressive level. But what you will be doing is daily sending your body the right messages so it stays in growth and repair mode and doesn’t lapse into energy conserving decay mode.

I’ve read plenty of fitness books and they were all too hard core or too time consuming and/or complicated to get me to make long term changes. Not this book. What it gave me was the encouragement, organization, and motivation to make a daily change – so far I’m sore, I look like a spaz in class at the gym – and I’m loving it.

In my new found quest for cardio, I found a class at the gym that is my absolute favorite – it is called “Zumba”. It is a mix of salsa and hip hop. If the instructor is good, it is an hour of heart pumping hilarity. You know you are working hard, but you are too busy laughing and shaking it to care. I’m also hearing new music. My favorite instructor – this totally amazing and jubilant fellow named Chet – does creative choreography and plays songs like “Apple Bottom Jeans”. I would not have heard that song and I definitely would not be out there strutting my stuff to that song were it not for Chet. I get all depressed if I have to miss one of his classes now. Yes, you heard me, I am pretty much scheduling my life around a hip hop class!

Oh yes, I still dance contra and I still do Pilates Reformer classes, I just added a bunch of new activities to the mix.

Another thing that I've been enjoying is MBT shoes. I found some at an outlet and got a pair for me, one of my sons (the other one wasn't with us and there is no way I'm paying that much for shoes he did not try on and we can't return), and my husband. I go for walks with them and my Nordic Walking poles. I'm sure I'm quite a sight. Tell you what, you can tell those shoes are working - the muscles in your legs and - ahem - hind quarters will let you know! I recommend that you search high and low for a sale on these little gems though - they are expensive.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Post Treatment Mammogram

I had my first post treatment mammogram today.

I managed to keep a lid on my anxiety until we actually got in the car and headed up to the doctor’s office. I started to get nervous then. Uncomfortably, constantly feel like you have to pee kind of nervous. We drove the twenty minutes to the doctor’s office (during the drive, the song that I listened to on the way to my mammogram last year randomly came up on my iPod, we both superstitiously reached over to change it to a new song as fast as we could - spooky), and I filled out all the paperwork and gave my co-pay and waited in the lobby. I brought a book on chanting with me in hopes that I would find it soothing. I did.

After I was all checked in, I had to walk across the hall to the imaging center. Everything in there was pink. I bought $5 worth of pink ribbon temporary tattoos. I’ll wear some of course, but I wanted to have some to give out to my friends too.

Getting the mammogram was as uncomfortable as I anticipated. The breast that was radiated is sensitive (my surgeon says that it will always be that way) so smushing it was pretty unpleasant. Clearly, I’ve been through worse though! The lady who took the films was really terrific and the one time that I said it really was too uncomfortable, she made adjustments that made it much easier to tolerate.

The hardest part was sitting alone in the little waiting room with my exam gown still on waiting for them to check the films. That about had me on the ceiling. My purse and stuff was all locked up in a little locker, so I had nothing to do but thumb through the pile of magazines and breast cancer support literature. Ugh.

Then they led me back to my surgeon’s office for my exam and results (yes they read the results right away – I’m so relieved that I didn’t have to wait for days). The mammogram looked GREAT, my breast exam was also great! She does not want to see me for another year! I still have to see chemo guy every three months because someone needs to keep an eye on me, but I don’t need another mammogram for a year.

I’m so relieved that I want to dance around, drink some wine and take a nap all at the same time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Anniversaries

I was diagnosed last year, on May 4. I celebrated Mother's Day in a fog of fear since I was having a lumpectomy the next day. By the end of the month, I had a portacath installed and had my first chemo scheduled.

So, I am a year away from the start of going through breast cancer.

What does it feel like? Well, mentally, I still think of it often. Daily. Probably many times a day. When I think of it, I usually start with a mental wince and I begin to remember just how scary and miserable it was. I'm not happy with my attitude though, so I try to pretty quickly take control of my thoughts and steer them toward gratitude for the treatments that saved my life, and a feeling of victory since I faced all that and I'm still here. But it is hard, it takes mental discipline on my part to concentrate on the positives. I wish I was better at that. I think it would be more healthy for me if my memories of it were fiesty, or grateful, not sad and scared.

Physically, I still have a fair amount going on. My legs bruise very easily. I pretty much have a bruise or two all the time. My legs also hurt. Tamoxifen can cause you to retain water and I'm guessing that is the problem because my legs often feel "inflated" and like the skin is going to split. It is a very uncomfortable sensation. There are times when I can't sit still because of it.

I have put on 10 pounds. I have confidence that I will either lose it, or accept it, one or the other. But for now it is an annoying reality because my clothes don't fit right and I feel pudgy.

I still have hot and cold flashes. Often. This week, I was training in a very hot classroom in a hospital in Montreal. So hot that on the coolest day, the chocolate bar that was on my desk was completely liquified by 10 in the morning. When I hot flashed, I pretty much felt like a Phoenix - I was going up in flames for sure. It is also difficult to be in front of a class, thinking on your feet, responding to questions and ideas, talking and teaching for hours while you break into a wave of sweat from time to time. It is distracting, exasperating and embarrassing.

They still wake me up too. While I am undoubtedly sleeping much better than I was at this time last year, I still wake up many times a night. Usually due to either a hot flash or a cold flash.

I think my continued physical discomfort and lack of sleep it also a contributing factor to the darkness of my attitude. I am not the sunny person that I was before this. I don't break into song and dance like I once did, I don't joke and laugh as much. On the upside, I also don't get as worried about many things. I used to be afraid to fly. Now I'm not. Compared to what I've been through, getting on a plane is a piece of cake. I used to get very nervous before a class that I was going to teach and before big projects. Now I don't. I just show up and do what I'm supposed to do - I don't waste mental energy worrying about it before hand.

I have a big milestone coming up. My first post treatment mammogram. I am unsuccessfully trying not to dread it. I dread it for the obvious reason - what a reminder and what if they find something? But I'm also dreading it because the affected breast is still tender. The thought of squishing it between two sheets of glass literally makes me feel ill.

My portacath scar is still very evident. Many of my tops and dresses show it. I don't make any effort to hide it. It has not faded much yet - my other scars look much less obvious. I didn't have my portacath removed until late October, so I'm sure this scar will fade and become less noticeable in time too. I try to see it as a badge of courage, or a milestone, much like the scar my mother had at the base of her throat from having a thyroid tumor removed. But mostly, I have to admit, I still see it as a grim reminder.

My hair is about three inches long. It looks shorter, of course because it is still so curly. The curl is starting to relax some. My hair is also much darker than it used to be. I am letting it grow out, and I'm very interested to see what it does as it gets longer.

I am starting to be able to dance much like I used to. I went to the last Second Saturday dance and danced all but one dance, and I only missed that one because I volunteered to work the cash box at the door. I danced for pretty much three hours straight at high intensity. I kept up with everyone - mentally in terms of being able to remember the combinations for each dance, and physically. That was wonderful!

So, yes, I have much to celebrate since a year has come and gone. The problem is that I just can't feel like celebrating.

I've heard that Tamoxifen can affect your mood and I need to take this stuff for 4 more years. I am trying to be understanding and patient with myself.

Sometimes, I am truly tempted to stop taking it. I have to remind myself that I went through the hell of chemo for only a 4% increase in my survival chances. Tamoxifen increases my chances by more like 4o%. So while it is difficult, uncomfortable and long term, it is still worth it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Brake

No, that’s not a typo. I called it “Spring Brake” because I don’t seem to have enough sense to step on the brakes when I should!

Here is how I spent the last week or so.

Friday – brutal day at work, arrived home exhausted and dispirited. Since it was the first day of our big annual dance weekend (that’s the Pig Town Fling), we dragged and I do mean dragged ourselves out to dance. My husband danced the whole time. I danced something like every other dance, worked the registration table, and helped out in the kitchen. I probably danced for about two hours.

Saturday – I went to the creative contra workshop. Danced at that for an hour or two. We did something called a “Sicilian Circle”. For that dance, you were still in groups of two couples, but all of us also formed a huge circle instead of the lines that we usually dance in. The dance did a lot of weaving around the circle and it was a blast.

I tried to check out another workshop, but it was up five flights of steps. By the time I was on the fourth flight, I just could not go any further, so I went home for a rest and my husband did the clogging workshop.

We headed back out for the dance floor at 8. The band for Saturday and Sunday was a local one, Brittany Bay. Some of my friends play in it. They were terrific. One of the keys to a good contra dance band is that they know to start out relatively quiet and slow until the dancers have done the combination about three times, then they kick up the speed and volume and add percussion. You can hear dancers whooping up and down the line when they kick up the pace.

We danced til midnight or so, then went to the after party and ate and danced until 2 a.m. One of the dancers (she is also a fabulous caller) holds this event at her three story house in the gaslight district of Clifton. The house has such gorgeous wood floors, original stained glass lights and built in shelves. The third floor is not furnished, so she uses it as a dance floor. What a marvelous thing to have your own dance floor so you can have a couple hundred friends over! The floor was not that large, I’d say only about twenty people danced at any one time, but her house was full to the rafters since so many people came. I had no idea how tired I was until I looked at my watch and realized it was the wee hours. Then I just pooped out and we went home. I had to take a Tylenol PM to sleep, since it hurt even to lay down.

Sunday – Danced from noon until three, then attended the after dinner because they needed to crown my husband and I “King and Queen Pig” meaning that we are the coordinators for next year’s event. It’s a big job, but it does come with a tiara. Seriously, I have a tiara with cloth pink ears sewn on it!

This annual three day dance weekend is attended by around 450 dancers. I’m pretty happy that I can do this to contribute to our dance community. I NEVER would have guessed that I would feel up to the challenge so soon!

The dinner was held at Pompilio’s. It’s an Italian restaurant that has been here since the 30’s and it was in the film “Rainman”. There were enough of us that we took up a whole room there, and I really enjoyed having dinner with my friends that I usually only see at a dance. I loved looking out along the tables and seeing so many people that I enjoy, and having time to converse with everyone since there is sometimes very little time to catch up with each other while we are dancing. It was also nice that they invited my kids to attend, so my kids had some time to mix with my friends too.

One of the dancers wore a pedometer for the weekend and clocked more than 20 miles on it.

Monday – ran errands. Went to regular Monday night dance. It was pretty funny. We were all shuffling around like zombies.

Tuesday – drove out to Asheville, NC for spring break. I used the GPS navigation system in my car for the first time and it worked great. We stayed a few days and didn’t pull a map out once. It found every attraction, hotel, and restaurant that we wanted to get to. We used AAA books to pick our restaurants and we were impressed with pretty much every place that we ate.

Wednesday – Hiked Chimney Rock park for 5 hours. Here is where I was just plain stupid. I had been there before and only done the lower trails which are quite easy. Well, this time, we hiked the skyline trail. Lots and lots of vertical, lots and lots of steps. There is an easier way down from it, the cliff trail, but that was closed for the winter. So I spent an hour or so doing all that climbing, then I had to go back the same way for another hour or so. I was quite shaky by the time we finished. We did the lower trail too. By that night, I was in so much pain from sore muscles that I could not sleep. The weather was perfect by the way, we were hiking in shorts and t-shirts! That was a real pleasure since it is still too cold to do that at home.

Thursday – Toured the Biltmore house and gardens. More steps, about 4 hours of walking. I only limped a little. I really love that place. Touring the house is fun, but my true love will always be the gardens and the garden shop. I bought a nice sun hat while we were there this time. My husband bought me an “Extreme Badger” set of Badger Balms. I have been rubbing the Sore Muscle Rub into my legs for days now. I can’t be sure if it helped or not, but at least I felt like I was trying to do something about it.

The tulips were not in full bloom, but they were up enough that we could see their colors. It was raining so we spend most of our garden time indoors in the Conservatory. You gotta love seeing a green house that is bigger than my entire house! I could spend hours in there.

Then we went to the contra dance held that the local college. The average age of the dancers was probably 19. It was like dancing with Mexican jumping beans, these guys were so full of energy. The band was flat out fabulous. I dance about every other dance.

We also went to the Grove Arcade. A fabulous building that was built to be a shopping arcade. The architecture was beautiful. Now they have shops, offices and housing there. I day dreamed about living there. They had some great shops. There was a yarn shop, so I got some mohair yarn to make a wrap for myself. That will be the first project that I’ve done that I get to keep. I haven’t started on it yet, but the yarn is in a bag by my bed, just reminding me to get to it. There was also a shop called Bath Junkie. My husband got a very nice scrub there, and I got a thing or two as well. They gave my youngest son a small yellow rubber ducky on a surfboard while we were there and he want totally enchanted since he collects rubber duckies. When I was going through all my treatments last summer, he lined up a good thirty ducks on a bookshelf in my bedroom so they could keep me company. We also bought a big bag of books at the local bookstore, Malaprops. What a great place! They had an extensive selection of books of local interest, so I got a biography of Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt. I also got a signed hard cover edition of Neil Gaiman’s “StarDust”. I collect signed books. I usually stand in line and meet the author, but this time I was willing to buy it already signed.

Friday – Farmer’s market and the drive home. At the Farmer’s market, we kept seeing leafy bunches of something called “Ramps”. I finally asked what they were. The lady said they are wild garlic and they are the first signs of spring for local cooks. So we bought a bunch and I roasted them with fingerling potatoes and pearl onions. I still have a few left. Gotta find something to do with those. They had a milder taste then I expected. A milder form of green onion is the best way I can describe it. They are very fragrant, so I expected them to taste much stronger than they do.

I drove about half of the way home and the hardest part was that my leg muscles were so sore to the touch that I could not stand it when the back of my calves would rub against the seat. It’s a good kind of pain though, it reminds me of all the fun I had getting to this point, and it reminds me that I am finally once again physically active and doing everything that I want to do.

We all hated to leave. The kids had a great time. My husband really enjoyed the atmosphere there, and I just did not want to go indoors. The weather was great and spring is in full swing there. I saw so many redbuds, pears, forsythia, and cherry trees in bloom. Of course there were scores of daffodils too. The restaurants were spectacular (our favorite was the Early Girl café), every place we went served organic and vegetarian, if not vegan items. Even the two Japanese restaurants that we went to had a ton of vegetarian choices. There is art everywhere. Plenty of public sculptures, galleries, pictures for sale on the walls of restaurants. Tons of music and dancing events. It has a thriving college town atmosphere that often reminded me a little of Italy and Laguna Beach.

Saturday – ran errands, did chores.

Sunday – spent over TEN HOURS in the garden. My friend from work came down and worked with me. We edged beds, mulched, preened, fertilized, trimmed… did almost all of the chores to get the garden ready for summer. I have a technicolor bump on my knee from when the wheelbarrow brazenly attacked me. (That may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I set the fully loaded wheelbarrow sideways. On an incline. Huh.) I could see how the plants thrived where my brother installed the drip irrigation system. We had a horrible, prolonged drought last summer, but thanks to my brother, most of my plants thrived. The knock out roses should be spectacular this year. I still have about twenty hours of work left, so my friend will come out for another day before the end of the month so we can finish up. I have trays of seedlings downstairs under a grow light in the basement, and I can hear birdsong when I wake up in the morning so all is right with the world!!

My husband was not feeling well, so he was not out in the garden much, but he did prepare an amazing feast for us. We had lasagna, sauted mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus, a spectacular salad, chianti, garlic bread, so much great food that it took two plates just to get a single serving of everything. That's a wonderful thing to sit down to after you have been working so hard outside all day. My husband did not feel good enough to eat with us, that was the only downside.

Monday – went to work. Had about 200 e-mails to plow through. It was like moving through molasses since I was so tired. I had logged in and done e-mail a couple of times during vacation just to try to keep that number down. Oof.

Tuesday – Hardly sore at all any more. It amazes me how quickly our bodies can recover. I’m still fairly exhausted, but I’m so happy that I can hardly tell I’m still tired.

I also finished up a huge presentation that I was preparing for our annual User’s Group. It was due by end of the day, and I turned it in around 4 – just under the wire. It felt very good to finally be done with it. Well, as done as I can be for now. I’m sure the committee will recommend some changes, and I still need to add my own talking point notes and do a dry run or two, but I’ve got the majority of the hard work done on it at least.

Since it was a beautiful day and we all knew that rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week, I also had lunch outside with a friend, and we took a walk around the park afterward. That chance to be outside and enjoy a good meal and time with my friend pretty much made my day.

My new extra wide monitor (22”) was delivered and IT says they are currently loading software on my new laptop. I don’t have any time right now to work on that, so the monitor is just sitting on a corner of my desk for now, but I can’t wait to get to it. The new equipment will save me literally days of time when I start my next writing project which is looming on the horizon since we have a new software release coming out soon.

So, if you have stumbled upon my blog because you are going through cancer treatments, take heart! You will feel good again, maybe even faster than you think you possibly could. You will take joy in the things that delight you, you will have the energy and the will to fling yourself fully back into your life and you may find yourself having deeper relationship with yourself, the world and all the people who stood by you through the hard times.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More Info on Genetic Testing

So I had the interview appointment.

I am still waiting for the letter that will tell me what the computer model says is the percentage of probability that my test could come back positive.

I heard from the testing company after they checked my insurance benefits.

The test is $3750. My insurance does cover it, but since I have not paid my deductible yet this year, it would still cost me around $700 out of pocket. If I had done it last year when my deductible had been met many times over, it would have only cost me $200.

But that doesn't really matter. If I was convinced that I needed the test, of course I would do it. Regardless of the cost. They even take payments with no interest.

So I know that while I grouse about the cost of it, that is not my real objection.

I am seriously considering not doing it because I believe the probablity that I have the mutation is very low, and if I did have it, I would not want that information on my health insurance files for the rest of my life.

I am also standing up and saying "enough". Enough tests. Enough doctor's appointments. Enough statistics that are talking about my life span. Enough doing things based out of fear. I have made the best choices that I could with every treatment option that has been offered to me. And so far, my choices have been on the conservative side.

But this time, I'm voting for taking my chances.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Genetic Counseling Appointment

I've got an appointment for this Wednesday.

No point in waiting any longer since I know I need to do it.

I'm not going to worry until I have a reason to, but even just scheduling the appointment had that same surreal feeling that scheduling appointments for biopsies, surgeries, and chemotherapies had.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Oncologist Follow Up - Genetic Testing

I had another routine follow up with my oncologist yesterday.

I'm having a few side effects from the Tamoxifen. I get bruising on my legs and sometimes my knees swell up after I go dancing. He wasn't surprised and said they should not get any worse. I'm telling myself that those symptoms are a good sign since that means the drug is working. If it is doing a couple of annoying things, well then it is busy doing the good stuff too.

Then we talked about genetic testing. He recommends that I do it. I agree. Since I am this young and my Mom did have breast cancer, it is better to be safe than sorry.

But! That does not make it any easier to hear or to go through.

Of course, I realize that if I do have that mutation, I need to know. I need to know for me, I need to know for all the other women in my fam.

But, I really don't need another white knuckler now do I?

I'll go through the anxiety of the interview. Then, if I do need the test, the long wait for results. If I'm off the hook after all that, that's awesome. If it came back positive, that's a nightmare. A good nightmare in a way because there is a lot of preventative stuff I can do, but that preventative stuff is surgical. More surgeries, more recovery. I really can't bare to think about that.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Nod to Proust

Ever have a food really remind you of someone?

But you forgot that it reminded you?

Here's what I mean. While I was on that de-tox diet, the very first day I was strapped for breakfast options, so I ended up in an unfamiliar section of an unfamiliar grocery store. While looking for organic oatmeal, I found Malt O Meal. I could not have it right away, but I bought some out of nostaligia and put it in the pantry.

A week or so ago, I had an unexpected work from home day due to snow and ice. So I was up and ready to go at six, but I didn't need to get he kids up or commute, so I had time to think about having a hot breakfast. So I made the Malt O Meal. My mom used to make it for me all the time when I was little. She made the chocolate flavor and served it with a dribble of milk on top and some raisins. I loved the stuff. I had forgotten all about it til I saw some sitting on the store shelf.

When I was making it, I learned that you have to slowly stir the mix into the boiling water so you don't make lumps, and you have to stir constantly for 2 and a half minutes while it cooks. As I stood over the stove making it, I got such strong memories of my mom that I could almost see her, standing at the stove in the house I was raised in, while I sat in a chair, feet dangling, knees scabby, wearing my dreaded catholic school girl uniform, bobby socks and Vans tennis shoes, waiting for the hot breakfast that she made before she sent me off to school.

A lot of foods remind me of people in my life. Campbell's chicken noodle soup reminds me of my mom, so does shrimp, peanuts (two of her favorite foods ever, put them together in something like Kung Pao shrimp and she was in heaven) coffee, iced tea, chocolate. Brandy Alexanders since she insisted on buying me one with every meal (yes even breakfast) on the day I turned 21.

Matzo ball soup reminds me of her and my brother. The first time I ever had matzo ball soup, I was around 11 or so, and my brother took us all to a restaurant in L.A. called "The Eater's Digest". I remember the name because my mom loved Reader's Digest and I have a life long affection for puns. I thought Matzo ball soup was amazing and I could not believe I had lived so many years without knowing about it. So that's why I can't have some without thinking of my brother. It reminds me of my mom because we had a deli by our house (Benji's - how I hope it is still there. I would lose some of my faith in all that is right and holy if it ever closed), and we often went there since I loved it so much. My idea of the perfect meal then was the large bowl (TWO matzo balls) with those skinny egg noodles, rye bread with butter and kosher dill pickles. That's just how they served it. You ordered the soup the rye bread and pickles just showed up.

Bagels, falafel, and Haagen Dazs reminds me of my brother too. He bought me my first (well, after I raved about the first one, he bought a whole grocery bag full to bring home) bagel. I was probably a young teen by then. I remember thinking "how could I not know about these little wonders?". Snickerdoodles remind me of his first wife, she made them one day, and I ate the entire container that she was saving for a church gathering. Ooops. Shredded carrots remind me of her too. I ate at their house one evening and she made a variety of side dishes. She liked to cook and she made things that were more elaborate than I was used to. One of the side dishes was pretty much pureed and seasoned carrots. I remember thinking what a boat load of work that had to be, a lot of torture to put a carrot through so you can end up with orange paste. It was good, but didn't seem worth the effort to me.

My brother also took me to Westwood and introduced me to falafel, Haagen Dasz and not on the same trip, the first Star Wars movie. We waited in line for hours to see it.

Pupu platter will always remind me of my eldest son, steak in any form of my youngest. Hummus makes me think of my friends at work, yellow tomatoes make me think of my niece and my brother.

It's kind of like a bonus. You can enjoy whatever food you are eating, but at the same time you get a vivid reminder of so many people, and places and times.

So why the title of this post? Proust wrote this huge opus called "Remembrance of Things Past". It is one of my goals to read the whole thing some day. I have not even bought a copy yet, so I'm a little behind on that. Anyway, I've heard that at one point, he eats a Madeline (a pastry) and the first bite transports him so vividly back to his childhood that he spends pages and pages in revery.

I thought about this last night too. My husband and I went out to Cincinnati's only four stare restuarant, Pigall's. We were celebrating. Celebrating Valentine's Day and my birthday coming up and really I think just celebrating the chance to go out together and share our appreciation for food.

We used to eat at great and expensive (obviously a restaurant does not have to be expensive to be good, but it helps) restaurants all the time. But then we had kids! The very last time we ate at a French restaurant was when our first son was a newborn. Since then, there has been no time/money for that kind of meal. Our son is 17 now, so it sure has been a while.

The atmosphere and decor were OK, nothing spectacular. That's actually something I like about Cincinnati, they don't go for gaudy much around here. The food was spectacular. The experience of having some quiet time together to just enjoy the time and the food was wonderful. As we sat there though, I flashed on so much of our past together. The days before children when we travelled and had adventures and ate so many meals together. The next phase when the children got here and we shared worried looks over the tiny head of a feverish baby, confusion as we learned the hard way the difference between a great little league coach and a poor one, many meals that revolved around spaghetti or pizza, and how to make a pinewood derby car without accidentally chopping one of your own limbs off.

Now we are moving into a new phase where there is a little more time and money so we can weave in elements of our early life together while still enjoying all the stuff that the kids bring - a rousing game of Pokemon cards, teaching someone to drive, making a science fair project (he got second place in the Physics division by the way, so it is off to the district finals for us next week), learning about books, music, dances and slang that I would never know if it weren't for having them in my life.

I wonder some day what foods they will eat or songs they will hear that will make them think of us?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wonders of Not Commuting

I worked from home today. The kids had a snow day, I had no meetings, and I have a cold. So I kept my germs to myself and worked from my bedroom.

The cool thing is that after working a nine hour day, I had time to get to my son's school to set up his science fair project (I was the taxi, he did the work of course). Boy that was fun. I loved looking at all the projects. My favorite explained that phosphorus is the stuff that glows in black light. They had a black light set up on a box with various objects in the box. Some glowed, some didn't. There was a bowl of detergent you could dip you hands in, then put your hands through holes in the box to see the glowy splashes where the detergent was on your hands. They also suggested that you put a $10 or $20 bill in to see the strip glow. Cool!

We went from there to the education store to get some division/multiplication supplies. I found flash cards in the form of wheels that have one side with the muliplication facts, the other side has division. I also got a book of exercises, and this neat tool that looks like a pile of big plastic keys with string. Each key represents one set, you know 1s, 2s, 3's. You start by putting the string through a groove for the first number, then go over the front to put the string through the groove for the answer. When you are all done, you flip it over and plastic guides show if your string ended up in the right place. I really like it!

Then we came home and I made dinner with the kids, we cleaned up the dishes and I was supposed to go to the belly dancing class that the city is offering. My friend that I wanted to go with didn't call me and I don't feel all that great, so I stayed home instead. My son and I did math exercises that used all of the tools that I bought. Then I took a bath (Eucalyptus to help my poor stuffy nose), finished an issue of Smithsonian, and had time to sit and watch Battlestar Galactica with the kids.

I had so much time!

Under the Weather

We've had a lot of snow and ice over the last couple of weeks.

We had rain and snow yesterday, and a little more snow last night, so my kids have yet another snow day.

And I have a cold. The first time that I've been sick since last spring. I think that is a miracle. When I was going through treatments, I was still working and going into the office one or two days a week. I fully expected that some time during all that exhausted immune compromised time, I would catch something. Not so. Once again, I'm left feeling lucky.

And I'd much rather have a run of the mill cold than the flu that has been going around the office. I've been coming down with it since Saturday. It was only last night that I could tell it really is a cold and not just a temporary sore throat and congestion from teaching so much lately.

I've arranged for my son's driver's test to take place on the 4th. And yesterday I learned how to make my own ring tones for my phone from any MP3 file. A friend at work taught me how! It's fun! Good, clean, total geek ball fun.

I've lost a little weight too! Yeah!! That's pretty astonishing considering that I have not exercised (except for dancing) at all for weeks. It bugs me that I'm having trouble pulling that part of my life back together again.

I'm going downtown after work tomorrow with two of my friends. We are going to go do a little shopping (it is Saks beauty event time again), then go out to dinner. There is nothing like having some good friends who share your pathetic addictions! LOL

I'm starting to get pretty excited about my birthday coming up next week. I'm just looking forward to going out to eat, having cake, you know, just celebrating in general. I also think turning 45 is a respectable milestone, so is your first birthday after facing a health crisis. All good reasons to gather around all the people you love and make a big deal out of it!

Oh yeah, and I forgot to tell you what a friend at work did for me on Monday. I had a meeting come up off site. It thought it was going to be an hour long. Wrong. It was two hours and it ran late. I finally had to leave since I had a webex to teach. So I ran into work, running late, knowing I had to prepare for the class and that I would have to skip lunch. I hate skipping lunch. I hate rushing. I hate feeling unprepared.

Well, when I got to my desk, my friend was standing there with a hot bowl of soup. She was sharing her lunch with me! She had chicken soup that her Mom had made. I had hummus to share too. And she had already done the preparation for the class for me! So all I had to do was slurp that soup, down in record time, gather my laptop and stuff and run to the class room. I ran into another friend on the way there, and he helped me carry all my stuff. I was still a total mess because I hate to be rushed like that for a class. I had the shakes pretty bad for the rest of the afternoon just from adrenaline (and maybe not enough calories). I wish I was one of those people who can just remain calm no matter what. I've really been working on that lately and so far, I gotta say, I have not seen any progress. Of course, maybe yelling at myself to relax doesn't help either! LOL

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wonderful Weekend

Yesterday was the perfect day.

First I went to get a massage. The therapist that I see has all of her services listed on her website (www.nitarosemassage.com if you are curious). The week before my appointment, I go browse the site and pick one. I have been doing the Indian medicinal massages, but this time I was drawn to something called Lomi Lomi. It's Hawaiian and it sounded restorative.

Well, that was one of those lucky accidents, because just like the other things I have tried there, this was the right thing at the right time. Lomi Lomi is sacred massage to help you get through life transitions. It is ceremonial and designed to bless you and help you "die" to your past, and be "reborn" to face your future. If ever there was a time I needed to let go of the past this would be it. I spent the time there consciously letting go of myself as a sick person and letting go of myself as grieving friend. I think I really needed to do that. I think our society underestimates the power or ceremony and the power of deliberate intention, and I am so glad that I found a soothing, supportive ceremony to help me conciously move on.

So, that was my morning.

I got home in time to realize that my youngest was 15 minutes late to a lazer tag birthday party (ooops, I thought it was at 2:15, not 12:15). My husband and I raced to get him there. He got there in time for pizza, but missed one round of lazer tag. He was pretty upset about that until the hosts gave him some game tokens and he started winning lots of tickets.

So my husband and I left him there with his friends and we went to lunch just the two of us. We ended up at a little Greek place. We split a Greek salad with gyros (my husband it vegan so I got all the gyros), vegetable soup and fries. I ate a ton and was instantly sleepy. By the time we finished, it was time to pick our son up. After we got home, I took a nap! For two hours! A massage and a nap! Both in the same day! What could possibly make a day like that even better? Well, dancing of course.

So our oldest son drove us an hour and a half north for a dance to raise funds for the Tacumseh Land Trust. This was killing two birds with one stone. We wanted to go to the dance since it featured our favorite caller and one of our favorite bands, we haven't been to Yellow Springs in years, so we were looking forward to seeing how it has changed, and our son still needs a few more hours for his driving log so he can get his license. He drove the whole way and back, so he only needs a few more minutes today and he is done with his log! Yeah! We started teaching him to drive when I was still doing chemo and trying to get his hours in was like moving through molasses. I thought we would never get it done! Ah, it feels so good to make progress on this! Now I just need make the call to his driving school next week to get him scheduled to take his driver's test.

The other benefits of going to that particular dance were supporting the fund which preserves agricultural land and restores barns in Ohio, and the crowd. Quiet of few of the Cincinnati dance regulars were there, but of the 150 or so who showed up, I would say more than half were first timers, many of them in their 60's and above. I made a point of asking the people who looked the most lost to dance so I could teach them the moves. One man had to be in his 80's and he was having so much fun! His face just lit up and when we spun he would say "wheee!". As I went up and down the line, I kept running into people who were saying "wow, this is fun!". So that really made the trip worthwhile.

Today, my knees are a bit sore (gymnasium floor, not hardwood, and I haven't been dancing much so I'm out of practice) and I have a sore throat and some congestion from teaching so much last week. I'm taking little rests in between doing chores.

We have had snow today and for a little while we had my favorite snow in the world. Here are my rules for the best snow:

We all have to be home
I have to be in bed under a comforter, looking out my bedroom window into the back yard
The flakes have to be big, fat, and fluffy and drifting down in the lazy, whirly style that I call "snow globing".

One other good thing. My memory is coming back more and more. I still pause a lot when I talk (especially if I'm tired) because I'm searching for the right word. Probably a good thing really since I used to talk pretty rapid fire and this has forced me to slow down. But just today, I was able to remember the name (names have been particularly difficult for me to recall) of a man that I worked with 6 years ago and the name of his wife. I was also able to remember which cookbook had my favorite recipe for Garlic Broth. This is a wonderful soup that I enjoy anyway, but I also use medicinally. All that garlic just has to be restorative, I figure.

The funny thing about that recipe is that I started to think I should go looking for it this week, then today I get an e-mail from a dear friend asking if I happen to remember that recipe since she wants to make it for her sick daughter. I went straight to the right cookbook. Yeah!!

I recently read Stephen King's new book, Duma Key. I won't give the whole story away here, but the protagonist of the story has an accident that affects his ability to recall. Stephen King did a great job of describing how scary and frustrating it is to have your mind not work the way that is used to. I really enjoyed reading it. I took some comfort in seeing someone else struggle with something that I'm experiencing too. And like the bladder infection in the "Green Mile" story, this character's physical condition is so much a part of the story that it really is another character. That is one of the reasons that I keep reading Stephen King even though I'm not really into horror, he is one amazing story teller and he really has a gift for making believable and memorable characters. By the way, his wife is an excellent story teller too. If you ever get the chance, read "Pearl" by Tabitha King.

Friday, February 22, 2008

She Works Hard For the Money (apologies to Donna Summer)

Well, I have to say that it is still hard. Not impossible, but hard.

The real world wants me back at 150%. I'm still at about 80%.

The kids need me for science fair projects, birthday parties, rides to activities, and oh yah, three meals a day.

My work has returned to the usual complete frenzy. I have classes to teach, books to write (each with a deadline looming), new features to learn for our latest release, a difficult presentation to prepare for our user's group meeting in May, and up to 10 hours of meetings a week regarding software development projects. While it is great to be back in the thick of things, to be needed, to be productive, the daunting hours, long commute and sheer volume of work are overwhelming. Add that to losing Mike. Geez the last five weeks or so have been brutal.

Not to mention the weather this week. We had snow and ice earlier in the week, and last night I had a two and a half hour journey home through heavy snow and ice. My car was encased in a sheath of ice by the time I pulled into the garage and my windshield wipers could not reach the glass any more since they were both totally coated in their own blocks of ice. Considering how bad the roads were, I am amazed I got home that quickly. Trips like that have taken me over four hours in the past. The new car got me home safe (handles great in the snow and ice, God Bless front wheel drive!) and my new direct iPod connection was just perfect. Having good tunes made the trip go by fast. I also had a lot of friends and family call. We were all checking on each other to make sure we all got home safe. Everyone did.

What I do it the best I can. I take it day by day. I try to balance my physical needs with my work and family obligations. I'm not sure I'm doing the best at that. I can't remember the last time I worked out. I do have a massage tomorrow and I do still see my healer every month. I dropped acupuncture. No time for it, and the need to save some money somewhere.

To try to drink enough water, I kept a big bottle of Pellegrino next to me each day in class and I made sure it was empty before I went home. That was 25 ounces a day anyway. And it reminded me of Italy which was a bonus. I bought a case at Costco and kept it in the trunk. Made me laugh after there were only a few bottles left in the box. If I hit the brakes, there would be clinking in the truck and it sounded like I had booze back there!

I sleep better than before. I'd say I get two or three good nights a week now. The rest are spent tossing, turning and hot flashing, but at least I get a few good nights in. Sometimes I can even sleep in until after 8 on the weekends. I love it when I wake up late!

Yes, I still hot flash. Less often and less severely than I used to, but I'd say it probably still happens at least 10 times over a 24 hour day. For some reason, it happens a lot as I am starting to fall asleep, and that is one of the reasons why I have trouble sleeping, just when I start to nod, I feel like I'm in an oven.

My energy level is getting so much better now. I made it through working close to 50 hours this week, plus 10 hours or so of commute, plus making dinner and doing dishes by hand every night. Did I tell you? My brand new ultra expensive LG dishwasher broke!! I paid almost a grand for it, got it delivered in late August and it has not worked for WEEKS. It took weeks to get the service guy out. Once he finally did come, he said it had a bad motor. It took another full week to get the part. Now they are supposed to come and repair it next Tuesday. If that repair does the trick, we will have been living without a dishwasher for a solid month. Ridiculous. Learn from me. Don't buy LG, and do buy an extended warranty/service contract for whatever you buy. If I had, H.H. Gregg would have fixed the damn thing by now. Since I didn't I had to go through the manufacturer. They are making the repairs for free, yes, but clearly not in any kind of hurry.

My husband is exhausted too. He is traveling a ton. And when he is home he knocks himself out cooking, grocery shopping and doing laundry so I don't have to do those things on top of everything else.

Still even though I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, when I get a moment to have a little perspective I'm amazed at how far I have come. My last chemo was in August, last radiation in late October. By February I feel much more normal, I can pretty much do anything I want to or need to do, and I act, feel and look so much more like my old self. That's a long way to come in a fairly short time.

My hair is still crazy wacked funky kind of short and curly. Not what I'd pick if I had a choice, but I'm so grateful to have hair that nothing could make me complain.

The sales guy at H.H. Gregg even said he loves short hair on older women. I was cracking up inside because I'm pretty sure he thought he was flirting. If you want to make points, or give a compliment, my advice would be to avoid the phrase "older women" for starts! LOL

Classy Workplace

I was really proud of how my company handled Mike's death. They did so many things right and with dignity.

First, they told each of us in person, an e-mail about it did not go out until each of us had heard it from the Vice President of our division. It had to be hard for him to tell so many people, but he stuck with it and did the right thing.

Next, they cleaned out his cube the next day at 6:30 in the morning so none of us would see them carting his stuff out. I have to admit this was a little disturbing since the next day when we walked in it was like he was never there, but I appreciate what they were trying to do which is not make all of us watch them pack up his stuff.

Our Vice President, almost all of the company's directors from all the divisions and our second highest officer all came to the visitation. I had the opportunity to meet Mike's Mom and she was very touched by how many of Mike's colleagues came. She felt he was really loved and appreciated and she was right.

I could not attend the funeral since I had customers in from Texas for a four day class. That really bothered me. I felt the funeral should take priority over business. But I know that everyone who could attend did.

Next, the company offered grief counseling. I could not attend since I was teaching, but they did offer it and they made sure that I got the handouts when I requested a copy.

Next they sent out an e-mail to our entire customer base. The e-mail explained that Mike had died, gave him glowing praise and asked any customers that had open projects with him contact us so we can make sure nothing gets overlooked.

I am so proud! Management and everyone else went out of their way to handle it with grace and did not flinch from openly showing their appreciation for Mike and their grief at his passing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lost a Friend

It is 4 in the morning and I am WIDE awake.

Today at work I got called into my Vice President's office.

I could tell when I walked in that something was seriously wrong.

He had to tell me that one of my colleagues died suddenly last night. I completely fell apart. I was shaking and crying. I had a few minutes to hug some friends, then I had to go to meetings, I had to call my team members who were traveling and tell them, and I had to teach an afternoon class. I guess I'm grateful that I had some distractions, but it was so surreal and I kept feeling like I really could not go on, thinking about work things, doing my job, taking care of a client. But I did somehow.

What a shock. His name was Mike. I've worked with him for four years, sat in the cube next to him for two. He was young (mid thirties at most), and one of the wonderful people. Kind, thoughful, smart. A joy to be around, and someone that I truly admired.

I am so sad. Horrified. And oh, I'm angry. This just should not happen. He should have had so much more time. It should not be so quick and easy to lose a whole person. Damn.

I've been through a lot of sorrow and loss lately. You'd think I'd get a little better at it. So far I've seen no evidence that it ever gets easier. I guess maybe it shouldn't.

I called some friends tonight just to hear their voices. I splurged and took the kids to our favorite Japanese restaurant. It's on the expensive side, so we don't go there as often as we would all like. After that I came home, crawled into the tub and downed a lemoncello. I've come to understand the medicinal value of alcohol. Another friend from work was at his house doing the same (uh, drinking, not bathing, as far as I know anyway!), so we texted back and forth for a while just to keep each other company.

Also, when I first came home, my older son had a red carnation for me. There are few things sweeter than one of your kids handing you a flower on Valentine's Day. And my younger one wanted to give me something, so he fed me a piece of pepperoni while I was talking on the phone. Funny the things we do when we want to take care of each other. I don't know why it was important to him to feed me that one piece of pepperoni, but it was, so of course I ate it.

I had e-mailed my huband, and he called me from Finland when he woke up to start his long journey home. I'm very glad he is on his way home and that it is almost the weekend. I really want to just hunker down and be with my family.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Facing Your Annual Review When You've Had Cancer

I'm all done with de-tox. I made it the full 10 days. It was both harder and easier than I expected. I was pretty sick of it by the end, and tired of eating mostly cold foods when it is cold outside. I think it would be much easier to follow in summer time when it is warm out and there are more fruits and veggies to chose from. A ton of nectarines, cherries and apricots would make the diet far more palatable. I am having trouble even facing a banana at this point since I came close to living on the darn things.

I did a little splurging on my first day back to regular eating. I got shredded pork on my Qdoba. Normally, you could not get me to order that - but I sure wanted it this time. I wanted to feel like I had a basketball in my stomach! I ate it all, I was stuffed, and I still ate a chocolate just because I could.

I plan to do it every six months or so. Maybe. We'll just have to see if I stick to that. Uh. I can already feel myself waffling.

I have been in the usual whirlwind. Husband out of the country, youngest son's 11th birthday party, also his science fair project (affect of weight on flight distance) which we finished just under the wire this evening. The photo lady at Walgreens does not know this, but I would have given her ANYTHING to print my three lousy pictures that we needed to finish up his board while I waited. She did it without my having to resort to bribing, pleading, or threatening to set myself on fire right there in front of the photo counter.

I have also been completely, mercilessly slammed at work. All of the others in my department have been traveling, so I am here keeping the home fires burning, attending every meeting, working on every project, answering every customer or internal inquiry. I am worn out.

It is also review time at work. This is ordinarily nerve wracking. It is not easy to stand and be judged even in the best of times. One year, I had a peer put a lot of effort into giving me a terrible review. Fortunately, my boss completely disregarded that feedback and focused on all the other reports which were positive. I am so grateful that she did that, but all the negative stuff still stung. And every year when I go through the process again, I wince and prepare to get reviewed by some other peer who clearly has a problem with me.

Anyway, this year was even more anxiety provoking than years past because of going through cancer and treatments. Yes, it is true that I worked like crazy even during the worst of it. Yes, it is true that I honestly did my best at all times. But if anyone wanted to get mean about it, they could easily mention how little I was in the office, or anything that I might have missed while suffering from exhaustion and chemo brain.

Clearly, I should have been more trusting that the folks I work with were rooting for me, understanding what I was up against, and appreciating all that I did do because I got my review documents this evening and they were glowing.

I am so relieved.

It is very hard to have cancer. It is very hard to go through the treatments. Everyone knows that. What I don't hear people talking about much is how hard it is to be a mother, an employee, a friend, a sibling, a spouse, all the other things you need to be while you go through it. How are you supposed to be a good employee while suffering that much? Where was I supposed to look for a model of how to do this?

So many things were impacted by my illness. I had the worst time facing this review from that perspective. I didn't know how to rate myself (do I do it considering my circumstances and make myself sound super heroic, or am I supposed to measure myself against my usual goals and productivity in which case I missed the mark?) Do I mention it? Is it professional to talk about such a thing on a review document that goes in your file? Crap! I don't know.

In the end, I did not mention it. But my supervisor did and so did all the peers that reviewed me. They did it in a kind and understanding way and they made me feel very appreciated.

Imagine that! The last thing I expected to feel when I reflect back on those hard months is appreciated by my colleagues. Oh, I felt supported all right, a ton of people were so kind. But appreciated for my contributions whatever they were? Nope, wasn't expecting that.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Detox - Day Two

Well, another day down.

Last night, I had vegetable soup, brown rice and stir fried broccoli. It was plenty of food and I ate until I didn't want any more. Wierdest thing though - about ten minutes after I finished - I was starving! I was hungrier after I ate than I was before I had dinner. It passed in about 15 minutes.

This morning I had oatmeal, almonds and blueberries for breakfast. That's what I usually have, only difference now is that it all is organic.

Lunch was cold salad and sushi at Wild Oats (veggie rolls, no fish). Once again, a few minutes after I finished, I was starving. It passed in about 10 minutes this time. Wild Oats had tons and tons of samples out to get people to buy stuff for Super Bowl Sunday. I didn't find it hard to pass all the samples up. Considering that I all but dove into a vat of buffalo chicken dip this time last year, I guess that is quite an improvement! LOL

Then I had my second smoothie for afternoon snack. After that one, I just could not warm up. I guess that would be my biggest complaint so far - I'm tired of so much cold food.

I still have passing headaches, but otherwise, I feel same as ever.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Camp Detox - Day One

Today is my first day on a ten day detox diet.

My chiropractor recommended it. I see it as pressing a big old reset button for my battered liver, kidneys and immune system.

What is it?
Well, I went to orientation and got a tub o' powder and a bottle of supplements. I'm pretty much supposed to live on that and organic fruits, veggies, and brown rice for ten days.

How did I prepare?

A friend of mine bought one of these kits a while ago. Hers is called "The Detox Box". It comes with a booklet, flash cards and two CD's. I read the booklet and the cards and listened to both CD's. The first one gives compelling reasons to try this kind of thing, it was the best explanation of the theory behind it that I've heard. The second one walks you through recommended yoga and breathing. I see value to that, I just don't know how to consistantly make time for it. I'll try though. I didn't do the recommended yoga this morning, but there is still hope that I'll do the night time exercise.

I attended the orientation.

I read the booklet that came with my supplies.

I stopped drinking white tea, my only source of caffeine, at the beginning of this week. I eliminated white flour at the same time. I attempted to eradicate sugar until a guy at work started selling World's Finest chocolate bars for his daughter. What can I say? I ate a whole bar. I'm trying to regret it - but I just can't!

I made a trip to Kroger's late last night to stock up on organic stuff, distilled water, and epsom salts and backing soda for a bath that is recommended.

I made an emergency trip to Remke's this morning when I realized that I didn't have any organic breakfast options.

What was day one like?

Not bad.

This morning, I was in a rush and had little food available, so I had a banana and some organic roasted almonds. That kept me going until I got to the store.

For snack I had a shake with one scoop of the powder, some fiber stuff, water, a banana, and four different kinds of organic frozen berries. It was good.

I have been drinking tons of water.

I had mint tea twice.

I had a "patty" that my husband made me that was made of quinoa, black beans and pine nuts and a slice of some rice based fruit juice sweetened bread like product that I found in the frozen organics section of the store this morning for lunch.

For snack, it was back to a shake with the powder. I forgot to put the banana in. That was a mistake. Turns out that the banana is essential if you don't want to drink gritty fruit water.

In a few minutes, I'm going to go make a veggie soup and have that with brown rice for dinner.

I had a slight headache a couple of times today, and I noticed that I'm getting cold a little easier (not sure if that is due to the food or to the fact that it is ridiculously cold and windy out today).

Otherwise it has been easy. I don't feel hungry or deprived. I feel fine.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Life In The Fast Lane

OK, I am so busy right now that I don't have time to post, to read, to crochet, to answer e-mails, or to rest, to dance, to work out, to think....

This week, I went back to training a four day class for the first time. The students were great, so it went well. But is was exhausting. I co-taught with my boss, so the most I trained was about half of any day. It was a funny week though. On Monday, I SLEPT IN!! I have never done that. Here I am finally teaching my first full class again, with my boss, and I show up late! Ugh!! I woke up at 7:45 and I was there by 9. Since I have a one hour commute, you can figure out how fast I showered and dressed. She was great about it, but I was horrified.

A typical training day goes like this:

leave home before 7 so I can get to work before 8
Get to work, make coffee, get the room ready, do e-mails until the class shows up at 8:30
Teach until break at 10
Go to the bathroom (finally) and do e-mail at break
Teach til noon
Eat lunch while doing e-mail or attending a meeting. Or if it is Wednesday, take the client out to lunch.
Train from 1 until 4:30
Dismiss clients for the day, then do more e-mail and meetings, or let class run late if we are behind.
I don't head home until after 6 or so, so I get home around 7 or 8

I made it through and held up pretty well. I did have problems with hot and cold flashes, but I just keep putting wraps and scarves on then taking them off. Other folks don't even notice. It does wear me down a little though since I am pretty much uncomfortable most of the time still. I was able to train and work all day then get home and do whatever I needed to, I didn't come home and go straight to bed once. I did slack off on Monday though. Instead of going to the contra dance, I snugged up with the kids and watched three episodes of the Harry Dresden Files. I didn't want to wear myself out early in the week, so I took it slow.

The class had fun points too. The group was very nice and we all shared stories and laughs. I must have told a story about our new espresso maker that we got for Christmas because the next thing I knew they were asking me to bring it in. So I did. That was fun. We all had a couple of espresso breaks that day. It made the classroom smell terrific and gave us all something new to enjoy. My eldest son was pretty upset about it though. He didn't have any problem with me leaving for the day, but saying goodbye to the espresso maker was breaking his heart! I'm pretty sure that neither of my kids could survive in the wild.

I also stayed up late Wednesday crocheting hats with my niece. We were up until past 11 because a friend at work asked me to make some for his friend who is facing breast cancer for the second time. She has already lost her hair, and my friend is only in town for the week, so I was in a rush to get some hats done fast. I was not very successful. I made a practice one of a yarn that is too rough for a baldie to wear, it looks great other than that though. Then I made a fun fur one, but I reduced the last couple of rows too tight, so it ended up too small for an adult! I'm pretty proud of it any way - it is my first try with the fun fur and it is recognizable as a hat - so hey, I'm proud of it. Fortunately, my niece made a nice pom pom one, and I went through my own hat box and found a couple more that I could give away, so I was able to bring in three new hats in for her.

Then last night, I went to a meeting at my chiropractor's to learn how to do a 10 day detox program. I picked up my tub of powder, a bottle of vitamins, and a brochure.

It looks pretty reasonable, you drink the powder and take the supplements, but you are also allowed to eat a long list of organic stuff, so it is not as harsh as the cleansing programs where you live of a powder or lemon juice for days.

I am supposed to do this for ten days. I leave for NY this afternoon, so I won't start it until I get back. I'm sure I'll post all about it once I get started. Prepare for some serious whining! LOL

So here is the exciting stuff - I am going to NY for a fun girl's weekend. The other two girls who train in my department are there training a class. When they realized they would have to be there late on Friday and not fly home until Saturday, they decided to stay over the weekend and see the town. Then they invited me! I'm really looking forward to it. I leave this afternoon, and I get back home on Sunday.

Then, I unexpectedly bought a new car last weekend! It's a 2004 Lexus ES330. It was such a great deal that I could not pass it up. We have been casually looking for a car for a month or so now but we weren't planning to buy until spring. As we were researching different models over the net, we pretty much decided on another used Avalon since I've been so happy with the one that I have now. But we started to see Lexus models that were in the same price range, so we researched those. We went to the local dealership just to drive one and see if we even liked them - well, we did and the price was right. So here I am driving a bling bling ride!

It is very cute. The paint is dark blue that looks black from a distance. It has slick features like a button that you push that elevates a sunshade for the back window, wipers that have a raindrop sensor so they can self adjust, and a navigation system (um, I really do need that. I get lost frequently and usually take ridiculously complicated routes everywhere since I am so navigationally impared - it drives my husband nuts and amuses my friends to no end). The only thing is does not have that I really want is a direct connection for my iPod. It has a six CD changer, so I'm "making do" with that! But what I liked the most about it was that it is very quiet and has a nice smooth ride. If you are looking for a new car and think you can't afford a Lexus, take a look at the used ones - you will be surpised!

I also got a massage last weekend to help me prepare for this rigorous week. I got the same auyervedic one (sorry I know I spelled that wrong, but I just can't motivate myself to look it up right now) and I tried something else too. Last time I did the sweat lodge tent thing. This time I tried this oil blessing ritual. I was on a massage table on these warm water bed kind of cushions, that alone was very nice. Then, the therapist put a metal bowl with a small hole in the bottom over my forehead. The warm, scented oil flowed onto my forehead and spilled over my hair where it was caught in a basin. I could hear a pump, so I'm guessing it went back up a little tube to the bowl so it could keep pouring. It sounded relaxing (and good for my hair) and it is supposed to help with cognitive functions, so I tried it. I really enjoyed it. It was blissfully relaxing.

Last Sunday, we went over to our dear friends' house for a fabulous feast (bbq shrimp, salad, quinoa salad, fruit salad, broiled talapia and more, I can't even remember all of it now), then we all settled into their basement to watch another episode of Star Wars. You might remember that while I was doing chemo, I would go to their hous the Sunday before a new treatment and we would watch one of the Star Wars films. Their eldest daughter had never seen them, so we are watching them in chronological order with her. This was so wonderful for me. The night before a treatment is a rough time. It is very hard to get your mind off what you are going to do the next day and how you are going to feel. But at their house, I would snuggle up in a comforter, surrounded by wonderful people, with a full tummy, and watch Star Wars for the first time through her daughter's eyes. It was magical then, and it is magical now. We still have two of the movies left to go.

Oh one last thing. Guess what I'm asking for for my birthday! A "gameboy for old people". A friend of mine got a DS Lite for Christmas and he loaded it with Brain Age games and this other game called Flash Focus (uh, I think that is what it was called. Hmmm. I better start doing those brain age games asap) that is supposed to help you improve your vision. So I want to get one and play the games to help me sharpen my focus, improve my memory and maybe avoid bifocals. Cracks me up that I seem to be making my way into the AARP demographic and they have video games just for us!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Signs of Progress

Last night I went to sleep around midnight. That's pretty normal since last spring. Here's the cool part though, I didn't wake up at 4 - I woke up at 10!!! I missed most of the old folks show because I was ASLEEP! I haven't been able to sleep for more than six hours in months.

I also had a very busy week, though a short one due to the holiday. I stayed up late on New Year's and went dancing a bit.

Tuesday, I worked in my home office for about 7 hours straight on trying to close out the year and clean up my desk. I made a lot of progress, but somehow there are still piles on my desk and plenty more to work on this weekend - HOW does that happen? LOL

Wednesday I worked from home since we had enough snow on the ground to completely mess up the highways.

Thursday, I went into the office, worked a long day then went out for drinks (I tried a new trick. I didn't really want to drink, but I wanted to be polite. So I ordered a Pinot Grigio. I had the feeling that the wine at that bar would be awful - and it was. So I took a few sips, but really spent the whole time drinking my water, so if you are out with friends and don't really want to drink - try ordering a bad glass of wine!) for a friend's birthday and then shopping at Kenwood and Trader Joe's with a friend. (I went a little crazy at the Lush counter in Macy's - check them out at Lush.com - they have a store in Venice too which is the first time I saw their bubble bath offerings that look like some kid's playdough art project.)

Friday, back at the office for a long day, got home and went out to a local little bar because a friend of mine was the musical act and he needed some friends to come out and support him so he gets invited to play there again. That was fun. A couple of weeks ago, I sent him an e-mail recommending that he learn the Elton John song "Rocket Man". I never got a reply so I forgot about it. Well, he had learned it and he played it for me! I loved it. He plays guitar and has a great voice for ballads so that song was a great fit for him. It didn't take a lot of energy to just sit there and listen, but I can't remember a week where I would be up for even that by Friday night. I might have gone before, but I would not have enjoyed it, I would have just endured it.

Saturday, I went clothes shopping while the boys cooled their heals at Borders. I tried stuff on at J. Jill, Anne Taylor and Banana Republic. Not long ago, just two weeks ago, it would have been too much for me to walk to all three stores, and there is no way I could have gathered all the clothes that I did, or had the energy to try them all on. What I got out of that was a couple of amazing skirts that were on sale, one amazing skirt that wasn't and a terrific pair of jeans - and more important than that - I felt jubilent because I was doing all the things I wanted to do! I felt normal!

I wasn't even too bugged that I had to buy a size bigger since my figure is more curvy now. Before, I was pretty bummed that I've gone up a size, but now that I have more energy , I feel confident that I can work on getting my figure back in control too, so why fret about it. I have been using my treadmill here at home a lot - one of my favorite workout songs is Kanye's "Stronger" because he starts out by saying "that that don't kill me can only make me stronger" - it's kind of my work out anthem, it gets me feeling all sassy and victorious about getting through these last few months. That's what I listen to when I work out right now, sassy songs. I listen to "Sexyback" too which is a little harder because it makes me laugh and dance a bit and I wonder if I'm going to fall right off that treadmill one of these times.

OK, sure I was tired, really tired every night when I got home, but it was normal tired, not debilitating tired, and when I got up in the morning, I had the energy to get going again for another day.

I'm so glad to have time and energy for fun now, and fun is fun again - I can enjoy things. I enjoy all the things that I used to (including music, I sang with my iPod like a dork for over an hour last night because I was trying to learn the French lyrics to my new Etienne Daho CD) and I am enjoying even mundane things like doing the mail and finances every week because I have the energy and the concentration that I need to do them.

It feels so good to feel good!