Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Sick Baby Weekend

We have had a very eventful weekend!

On Friday, Scott's mom came up in the afternoon to watch Annabel so that I could get a few things done around the house. Scott and I went to the movies right after work and when we got home, Annabel wasn't feeling well. As a matter of fact, she barfed all over Scott when we walked in the door. She had a fever, too. After another barf and some Tylenol, Scott's mom left for the night at around 9. We decided that it would probably be best for me to sleep on the sofa and for Scott to sleep with Annabel in our bed. Despite regular doses of Tylenol, her temperature got up to 103 degrees at 5am! It only went down to over 102 for 2 hours until it finally fell to around 100. Neither Scott nor I got much sleep on Friday night. Annabel was stuck to him like glue and woke up a few times during the night. It was hard for me to stay away, too.

Scott took Annabel to the doctor on Saturday morning. Her fever was lower, but the doctor felt that because of me, she should treat it as if it was strep. Annabel had a sore throat and her glands were swollen, but the culture came back negative. Apparently, there is another culture that will come back Monday for strep as well. She also thought it could be hand, foot & mouth disease. She suggested that Annabel and I be apart so that I didn't get infected (if I wasn't already!). Annabel is taking her first dose of antibiotics.

Needless to say, it was very hard for me not to be able to take care of her when she was sick. Not to mention that I have never spent the night away from Annabel! The doctor thought it was a good idea for me to go and stay somewhere else until she was feverless and on antibiotics for 24 hours. It broke my heart to think about leaving, but I also knew that she was in good hands with Scott and his mom was on her way back to Greenville to spend the night. I am so thankful for all of her help. She has made a lot of trips here lately and she takes such good care of Annabel (and Scott and I).

Mario and Shannon were excellent hosts to me while I was kicked out of the house! I went to their house and they made dinner and we watched a movie. I slept great in Haley's room and this morning when I called Scott, he told me that Annabel was already feeling better. After lunch at the Bohemian, I came home. She's still a little puny, but I can tell that she is on the mend.

It's sort of ironic that Annabel got sick. She is very rarely sick and with all that has been going on, we haven't exactly been out and about. I guess she picked it up at Gymboree last week. The nurse practitioner said that because of the amount of time since my treatment, my immune system was likely built up enough that I would not be any more susceptible to catching it than anyone else, so that is good.
I have been feeling good the past few days. I keep forgetting about my #3 haircut and continuing hair loss until I pass a mirror. I think shaving my head was a really good idea. I spent so much time worrying about it; now it's done. I haven't worn the wig yet. I have only worn a baseball cap out in public. My head does get a little cold at night and since it's falling out, I've been wearing a hat to bed every night. I don't mind the bandanna look, but it is sort of cancer-y looking. Ha, ha. I'll just save the bandannas for later when I have less hair. I have never been a fan of the baseball hat look for myself, but I have found that is most comfortable for me for now.
The countdown is on until my next treatment on Thursday. Scott and I have talked a lot about how we can prepare to make things easier and I'm also hoping that my recovery time will be easier this time since last time I was also bouncing back from the port/biopsy surgery. I am glad to go into it feeling good. I know I'll be more and more anxious as the week wears on, but I'm also ready to get rid of the tumor and get this cancer OUT.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mommy Monchichi

If you need a #3 haircut, Scott's your man!

As predicted, my hair started falling out yesterday. It's weird....sort of like it's rooted in jello or something. By the end of the day, I could pull out clumps. I did NOT want to get the wig, but Scott said that he wouldn't shave my head until I went to pick it up. And I did not want to be pulling out chunks of my own hair, so I very reluctantly went to pick up the wig. When Scott came home from work, I reminded him that it needed to be done. He did NOT want to do it. We decided to have thai for dinner (picked it up and brought it home) and also agreed that Annabel should probably see it so she wasn't scared later. That probably wasn't a good idea. I am not sure she isn't scarred for life. I really really tried not to cry, but I couldn't help it. Annabel was a little alarmed, I think more about the clippers and the process (and the crying) than the "look" itself. Not sure if it would have been better to just wait until she was asleep.

Scott wouldn't cut it any shorter than the #3 guard and now I'm really glad. I thought it should be shorter, but maybe this will make it easier. I'm not crazy about the way it looks, but I will say that it feels good!

Shannon and Mario came over after the ordeal so that they could check out the buzz and the wig and they didn't look visibly horrified, so that definitely helped!

I am still not sure about the wig. I think I will have a difficult relationship with it. Ha, ha. It seems like it takes a lot of adjustments to make it look right. I wore it in the car when we went to pick up dinner last night and it was hot and I was paranoid that it was going to pop off my head. It would have been ok if it had since we were just going for a drive to pick up dinner, but I started thinking about stuff like Gymboree and I don't think that will be appropriate. It isn't that it is strenuous or anything, but I don't know that I want to wear it for activities that require moving and bending and opportunities for Annabel to snatch it off my head! I really don't know that I want to wear it at all, but I'm sure that there will be lots of times that I concede to wear it. I have a collection of hats/bandannas/scarves, so I guess I'll be experimenting. Why does it have to be so freaking hot???

I will post a picture later. I didn't want Scott to take one last night because I got hair in my eyes and had to take my contacts out and since I showered, I didn't have any makeup on either. I look like a Monchichi!

Kim just sent me an email that concludes with "Life is happening in spite of cancer and there is no reason to give it more control than it already has." I think that is very appropriate and a great reminder for me today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

My Mom came to visit on Sunday night and we have been playing with Annabel during the day and Scott has cooked great meals every night.

At Gymboree on Tuesday, the other kids/parents witnessed The Annabel Show. She was so excited about some of the activities that she did her own dance and song routine. She is hilarious! She was fueled by her Grandma watching I think. My Mom brought 3 pair of flip flops with her and Annabel has amused herself for the past few days by disappearing for a few minutes to return with a new pair of shoes for Grandma to wear. She rotated pretty evenly between red, pink and black.

I have finally gone wig shopping. Twice now, same place. I picked out my wig, but I just haven't pulled the trigger yet. It is on hold at the wig shop. It is actually not so bad. I don't think it is very "wiggy" looking; Scott and my Mom and Annabel agree. Key to this though is that I still have hair (today) and I think my natural "sideburns" made it more real looking. We'll see.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking about the hair thing because according to the doctor and what I've read, it should start coming out today or tomorrow, possibly Friday. As if staying up all night worrying about it was going to postpone it from happening. I certainly wasn't up all night enjoying my hair, whatever that might entail. Ha, ha. I had dreams of my hair falling out when I did sleep. Then something would cross my mind like how horrifying it would be if I woke up and Annabel was covered in my hair that had fallen out in the middle of the night. I am sort of ready to get through this part. I don't think I'm vain and everyone knows that I am not really a hair-doer, especially since I've been home with Annabel. The last time I got my hair cut (before the big chop) was in October and I was washing it once a week or so. It was sorta dirty most of the time and spent a lot of time in ponytails. Now that it's so short, it is prone to wackiness that I don't care to try (hard) to control. I have lots of cowlicks apparently. I just wet it down and go about my business. So later, when I am whining about my baldness, just remind me that my hair was usually a hassle!

All of this hair anxiety wasn't good for my visit with my Mom, though. I am sorry to say that our visit didn't end well. I told her that I didn't want her to be here when my hair started falling out and she took offense to that, of course. This cancer thing is not fun for anyone, I know. I am sorry it had to end that way though.

I am sure that tomorrow is the day. I took a shower tonight and some, um, other hair came out (in case you were wondering!). I am not shedding any tears over that loss, but it was a little shocking. I yelled to Scott from the bathroom to tell him. He didn't come in there because he was occupied with Annabel. He wasn't too surprised I guess. I think he still doesn't totally believe that it's going to happen. Again, this whole thing is not fun for anyone, but I am so lucky to have him by my side.

Enough about the hair for now. I have been feeling lots better. I guess mostly now it's a little fatigue, but I have been laying down with Annabel for her afternoon nap and either taking a nap or just relaxing. I feel like for the next few months, I'll be going through this cycle of getting smacked down with the chemo, gradually getting better and then gearing up for the next smackdown. My next treatment is a week from tomorrow and we are already talking about how we can get things ready and be more prepared for next time. Starting with getting the house in order! Ugh.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekend Update

We have been busy the past few days!

Annabel's 18 month check-up went well. She is in the 90th percentile for her height and the doctor is happy with her growth and development. No shots this trip and we don't have to go for another well visit until she's 2.

On Friday, I went to the oncologist for a check-up. She is happy with my blood counts and we talked about the different side effects I'm having, adjusting to the medications, etc. I have had some typical side effects. Mostly, fatigue, but also I have had some heartburn/reflux and my mouth and throat are sore. I asked her what she thought about smoking pot. She says that the medical community KNOWS it works and is effective for managing the side effects of chemo, but for obvious reasons, she can't recommend it. She said that it would in no way conflict with any of the treatment that I am getting and also told me that you can get it in pill form. I was so excited that I forgot to write down what it's called in pill form or ask her if she could give me a hint about how to get it. Internet, I guess. Anyway, most people know how I feel about the weed. My only concerns are that I am a mother and of course, it is illegal. Also, my throat hurts. But I did it anyway and it felt GOOD. I was more relaxed and I hadn't had an appetite all day, but was able to eat and even laughed a little. I think it is a good thing, but it isn't like my situation is one where I can sit around smoking pot all day. I have a gallon-sized ziploc bag full of prescription medications (like a geriatric) to help as well, so pot is just another tool in my box, so to speak. I hope that isn't too controversial.

My Dad came over to visit this morning for the day so that we could shop for some playground equipment for Annabel. So, probably sometime next week, Lowe's will come out to put it together for us. I am looking forward to her being able to play on it! She also has a new sandbox. It is swank and we can probably use a portion of it for a guest house when it isn't 100 degrees outside.

The countdown is on now for my hair to go. Sometimes, I feel brave about it, but I know it is going to be a really rough day. I will probably start to lose it on Wednesday; maybe Thursday or Friday. I told Scott that the first big clump that comes out, he is going to have to shave my head. I am not entirely prepared for this. I do have some bandannas and today, I got a silk headwrap in the mail that is really pretty. I have a few hats, but I still haven't gone to get a wig yet. I keep saying that I won't wear one, but I know I should have one before I have to go wig shopping bald. That does not seem like fun. I guess I'll be doing that on Monday. What do you think of the rasta hat with dreads? Somewhat appropriate and the hair is included with the hat!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the Mend, For Now

Today was a good day. It was the first day in about a week that I didn't have help. I was worried last night since I've been so worn out, but Annabel and I had a really low-key day. Annabel got to watch more TV than usual and that made her happy. She LOVES Sesame Street right now and we also have a baby channel on Dish that she watches. I know, not good, but it was helpful to have the distraction today. We also took a long nap together, which was nice. Scott brought home some dinner from Fresh Market and we ate together. He gave Annabel a bath while I got some stuff done around the house and I put her to bed. Which was what I wanted. To finally have a more "normal" day.

Tomorrow is Annabel's 18 month check-up. Here she is on Saturday at the zoo....

Monday, June 15, 2009


I spent most of the day resting today. I had to go to the Cancer Center and get a shot to boost my white blood cells. Kim took me with Annabel in the car; I didn't realize I'd have to wait 30 minutes to make sure there wasn't an allergic reaction. I felt like crap when we got there, but the nurse was great. I got the shot in my stomach (2nd one in a week!) and relaxed in the chemo chair while I (thankfully) didn't have an allergic reaction. I guess just being there reminded me that I'm not supposed to feel normal right now.

Annabel is off schedule. She hasn't napped right in a few days and is having a meltdown right now as Kim is trying to get her into the tub. This evening, we all took a trip to the grocery store and to pick up pizza. I am getting ready to go and get in bed and wait for Kim and Scott to deliver my clean baby to snuggle down for the night. She loves to have her people around and put on quite a show for Scott when he got home from work. She was dancing for us and telling us different animal sounds. Tomorrow Scott's Mom is going to come back and spend the day to help out. Kim has to leave early to get to work in Knoxville.

Cancer sucks. I am not in a very good mood tonight.

I do have lots of great pictures to post from our trip to Chicago/Wisconsin and more since we've been back.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chemo Treatment #1

On Friday morning, I went in for my first chemo treatment. I was really sore from the port placement surgery the day before and woozy from the effects of general anesthesia. And NERVOUS because I didn't really know what to expect. Scott and I got to the Cancer Center at 10 and they started by trying to draw blood from my port. That didn't go so well because it was swollen and they ended up having to take it from my arm. Then I visited my oncologist to discuss the treatment and pick up tons of prescriptions. After that, it was back to the chemo room to start the treatment. Luckily, they were able to give me the treatment through my port even though it was swollen. It was not nearly as bad as I had expected! They have medical style recliners arranged in a circle and the nurses come around and administer the treatment. A volunteer circles the room offering snacks and drinks. Scott sat with me the whole time, except when he went for food. I brought a pillow and blanket and watched an episode of TrueBlood on my new iPod touch. I dozed off for a while when Scott left to get us some lunch. I even got up a few times to go to the bathroom, dragging the IV stand along with me. After I had gotten my treatment, the nurse took me into another room for a shot. It is supposed to put my ovaries to sleep during treatment. Unfortunately, it is administered in the stomach! AND it is a pellet! So it was big, but I didn't look. It didn't hurt too much.
When we came home, I slept for a while and then just assed around in the evening until bedtime. Annabel crawled in with me and I read her some books and we fell asleep together.
This morning, Scott wanted to take Annabel to the zoo and I decided to go too. I was worn out, but the zoo is small and we had a good time. After that, we went for lunch at Barley's and came home and took a long nap.
I had a few "moments" this afternoon and evening just because I am feeling worn out. The port is still sore and I wanted to give Annabel a bath and put her to bed. Scott helped, of course, but getting her to bed (in her bed) myself wasn't really an option tonight.
I expect a few days of fatigue and on Monday I have to go in for a shot to up my white blood cell counts. I could have gotten that today, but it seemed like a lot with all the stuff I had to do last week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Little Background

In March, I had some pain under my right arm and a knot in my right breast. I was still breastfeeding Annabel and was pretty sure that it was a clogged milk duct. I visited my OB/GYN on March 19th and saw the nurse practitioner. She agreed that it was a clogged milk duct and recommended heat and massage to release the duct. The knot continued to grow even though the pain pretty much went away, so I made another appointment to see the doctor on April 21st. I saw one of the doctors in the group on that visit and he agreed that the lump was sizeable, but assured me that all kinds of things can happen to your breasts while you are breastfeeding. I was breastfeeding more irregularly, so he suggested that this was just some kind of big clog and that if it wasn't released, it would be absorbed into my system. Just to be sure, he recommended that I have an ultrasound. The next available appointment was on May 15th. It all started to go downhill when the ultrasound tech took a look and then had a very alarmed look on her face. The radiologist came in and recommended a mammogram on the spot. After the mammogram, she sat down with me and told me that she needed to do a biopsy to learn more, and the sooner the better. It was a Friday and I was scheduled for the biopsy on Tuesday. The follow-up appointment was on Thursday to check the site and that is when the radiologist told me that I have breast cancer. Since then, I have met with my surgeon and my oncologist and had lots of tests....CT Scan, MRI, EKG, echocardiagram, etc. I also got my hair cut off to get ready for my treatments.

I started chemo on Friday. I will have 8 treatments spaced 3 weeks apart. I am participating in a clinical trial and will be getting the standard chemo treatment plus a new drug call Avastin that shrinks the blood vessels that supply the tumor. The doctors and nurses tell me that participating in the trial will afford me the opportunity to get medication that is above and beyond what is standard to fight my cancer aggressively. An additional perk is that more eyes will be on my info as there are research nurses who will be with me throughout. The hope is that with the chemo, the tumor will shrink/disappear and by the time I have surgery (after chemo), the tumor will be gone and they will just be removing the tissue where the cancer was. I have also consulted with a surgeon who is friends with my sister Karen. He is sharing my info with oncologists he knows, but says that this sounds like a good route.

On Thursday, I had outpatient surgery to have a port installed in my chest. I guess this is pretty common for people in my situation. I won't have to have an IV inserted into my arm for my treatments; they can use the port to hook me up to the drugs and also to take blood. I also had more biopsies for the clinical trial.

I have a few books on breast cancer and have found some good resources online, but I decided a little while ago NOT to read too much just yet. My doctors are well respected and I like them; I have spoken with another surgeon who agrees that this is a good track for treatment. I feel that I am getting good information from them and the nurses. I am all about empowering myself with information, but right now the books and discussion boards are really overwhelming and even though it should technically help, reading mostly makes me more paranoid than I already am. Besides, my sisters are doing all the research! They read and research and pass along what is relevant (or what they think I will hear).

I am so thankful and touched by all of the well wishes and support that I have from friends and family. I appreciate it so much more than you all know! As you might imagine, this has not been very easy to digest. I am trying to keep up with everyone and I keep forgetting who knows what and who I need to call back, so I wanted to find a way to post information so that everyone knows what is going on. There's lots to say, but I wanted to put it out here to let you all know where I am, what I'm doing, how it's going, etc.

Scott's Mom has been a TREMENDOUS help. She has been watching Annabel for us and has already made MANY trips to and from Lavonia. Scott has gone with me to many of my appointments. Annabel is a smart cookie and I'm sure that she knows something is up, but I hope that we will get through all of this before she is old enough to remember.

For now, I am fighting the fight. So far, most days, I feel good. I am lucky to be surrounded by all of my wonderful friends and family!