Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm 37!

First of all, today was my last day of radiation. They made my treatment extra long, I think. I am really glad for it to be over with. Quite painful. My head is still scabbed up, itchy, bald and unattractive. Scott has been lathering on lots of aloe vera which helps for a few minutes. I know this is a milestone but it was hard to get excited about it for some reason.

Scott and Annabel and I had a great Thanksgiving at home together. Scott made white chicken chili and we watched some Disney movies on TV; Mary Poppins, part of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. We didn't watch them all day, they were sort of just on in the background.

On Tuesday, I turned 37. It was a pretty good day. I wasn't sure how I would feel but I was pretty happy most of the day. Scott and I dropped Annabel off at school. It was their Thanksgiving lunch day. She wanted me to hold her hand to walk inside. That was very special for me because I don't ordinarily go in with her. At radiation, one of the ladies tried to give me a cupcake. When I saw my nurse practitioner, I got a chorus of Happy Birthday from she and the nurses. After school, Annabel brought me a handmade birthday card from her class. There were also lots of birthday presents and treats throughout the day. The only thing that went wrong was an attempt to go for sushi. We got there; sat down; I was too nauseated; we left. Scott picked up some Japanese hibachi instead. I threw up (at home, in the toilet). Other than that it was a really good day.

We had a small family celebration on Saturday for my birthday, our anniversary and Thanksgiving. Dad and Gail, Jeff and Suz, Kim and Karen were all here to celebrate with Scott, Annabel and me. I ate a ton of food -probably more than since I've been home from the hospital -including a slice of Magpie's cake. Yum. I hit the wall and then I hit the bed. It was great to have everyone here for a holiday. We had lots of good visiting and lots of good food. Unfortunately, Karen had to leave on Sunday. But I'm looking forward to seeing her again in December.

Next up is neupogen shots next week to boost my blood counts. We are still preparing for the PEG feeding tube though maybe it is still up in the air. I still lean towards not getting it but I will do it with the encouragement of my doctors. I have scans scheduled soon to check the cancer in my body. I have something else scheduled to check the level of cancer in my neuro system. Both those will dictate the next course of action. Other than that, I am just working on recovering which means mostly sitting in my chair. I'm starting to get antsy so I think that must mean that I'm getting better. My eyesight is still the same. Scott is working on some different ways to help me with the visual impairment since I'm not able to communicate via computer or text without assistance, can't drive. In general, I can't see, the TV, or anything else. This is probably the most frustrating part of my life.

I spoke with Shannon today about the benefit. I'm shocked by how much work is going into it, how many people are involved and how generous everyone is. I am touched. I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

www.hallraiser.com

http://www.handlebar-online.com/

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Healing

Hi. Katherine’s sister Karen here. I’m taking dictation.

I know I always start with this, but it’s been a long time. I’m feeling better in the last couple days and just want you all to know I appreciate your well wishes.

On Oct 7, I had my Duke surgery for implant and lymph node removal. I spent one night in the hospital. Everything went well. Prior to any of the Duke consultations, however, I had been having lots of headaches. I was worried about that.

After the surgery, I left the hospital to recuperate a couple more days in Durham. That Sunday night, I ended up back in Duke’s ER. My headache was out of control and I was having spells of disorientation and confusion. I was a guinea pig for a week while I was there for observation and tests. They did not find anything while I was there. My tests included another brain MRI, more scans, a lumbar punch. We drove home that Wednesday after a follow-up visit with my surgeon. I got a good report from him –decent pathology –not all clear but a tiny bit of cancer left in there which we expected. My headaches were controlled with medication at that point. I felt like we were waiting a lot while we were at the hospital but we had a lot of laughs. Courtney visited for two nights. She smuggled beer in for Scott and she brought me jammies. There was also an Oodles of Noodles restaurant around the corner where we ate the whole time. The nurses there were awesome.

We spent the night in Charlotte and got home on Thursday. We tried to unpack, acclimate to being home again after all that time and enjoy Annabel’s company. I got a call from Dr. Fanning on Friday afternoon late. She explained the results of the lumbar puncture. I have carcinomatous meningitis. Essentially, my cancer has spread to my spinal fluid and head. There is no tumor. It’s free floating cancer cells.

Because of my new diagnosis, I had more consults lined up with other doctors. The plan was to install an Omaya port in my head to administer chemo to the closed brain system and also get a power port like the one I used to have for administering whole body chemo and drawing blood.

The day I saw the neurosurgeon, I wasn’t feeling well and when I went to his office for my consultation, I was in pain and throwing up, still disoriented and confused. It was very frightening to be aware of being that far away from my brain. I remember trying to talk to my doctor and the words weren’t coming out. So probably the reason I spent the next time away from my body. The neurosurgeon sent me to the ER to check in to the hospital so that I could get some pain relief. I was there for 10 days mostly unaware. I was having seizures while I was there. I had lots of visitors and caretakers.

Accompanying me home from the hospital were some mechanical asssssisstances. A wheeled sitting device, a rubber footed shower sitting device, a portable terlet – all of which, I must say are most convenient. They have been used.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been slowly coming around. I’m going to radiation everyday right now. They’re trying to get me to have a peg feeding tube. I’m resisting but I guess I have to do it –next week probably.

My eyesight has deteriorated to the point that I cannot read, watch TV or type on the computer. The doctors are hopeful my current course of radiation and chemo will cause whatever is stopping me from being able to read, watch TV or type on the computer to go away. I am not blind but my vision is very impaired. I can see shapes. So obviously, I have an excuse for my late blog this time. I was able to go to an ophthalmologist this morning for a check-up and he says that everything works well it’s just the way it works together so we’re still hopeful the situation will resolve itself.

I have six more treatments of radiation left. This time around the radiation has been very uncomfortable. I have to lay on my stomach on the table with my head clipped in. Did I say it’s very uncomfortable?

The last week or so my head has been scabbing up in preparation to fall out. So the past few days, I’ve been sitting around picking my hair out. Today, Karen and Scott cut and clipped it so I’m in less pain now although bald with a crusty head. Yum. This project involved a sheet and a chair and some scissors and some clippers and a shower at the end…. and then a nap –the emotional stress was too much. Annabel tells me she does not like it but she’s glad to have the bag that I used to collect my hair the past few days. (Karen editorial –she would not have used a bag had I not provided a bag –it would have been all over the floor.)

Other than all of this business, I am very much looking forward to my 7th wedding anniversary in a couple days on the 20th. Scott has taken phenomenal care of me and Annabel during this time. You never know what you sign up for when you get married. He has bravely and lovingly taken charge of our family situation and I love him very much.

Annabel is in preschool now. She seems to really be enjoying it. She has a friend. She is getting sassier every day. The other morning on our way out the door, she exclaimed, “oh, shit, my sunglasses.” Scott and Karen didn’t even hear it. I told her to say “oh, no” instead. We haven’t heard it again but I know it’s on her mind. She has been thriving with all the extra attention and company we have had in the house. She’s taking great care of me too. Last night she tried to help feed me and spilled chicken noodle soup all over my shirt. She is very sweet and cute and very busy.

I’m very humbled and honored about the upcoming Hall benefit taking place on Dec 10th. It makes my heart happy and spirit glad that so many people would think of us. I look forward to seeing everybody there.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Plan, Revised & Ever Changing

This post is LONG overdue.  I started to update several times, but never finished. 

Lots has happened since my last post and I won't go into too much detail because I'll never finish!

I started chemo in late July and had two treatments before I had the joy and privilege of going to First Descents to learn to kayak with other cancer survivors (more on that later!).  The first two treatments were really pretty easy.  I bounced back easily and didn't feel too bad on the bad days.  Despite feeling good, when I came home from camp, my counts were low and my next treatment was postponed.  Since then, I've had three more treatments, each one worse than the last.  The effects of chemo are cumulative, but I didn't expect to feel as bad as I did.  My last treatment was last Thursday and I feel like I am just starting to emerge from the haze.  My biggest complaint lately has been a neverending banging, throbbing headache.  An MRI ruled out cancer, so now I just have to figure out what is causing it and get it under control.  My oncologist has suggested that it is from tension.  What's there to worry about?  Ha, ha.

I also have a new team of doctors at Duke University.  I got a 2nd opinion there just after I came home from First Descents and have been back two times since.  My oncologist there wanted me to have a few more treatments and then come back for scans there, which happened on the 15th of this month.  My response to chemo has been good and my tumors have shrunk.  This is great news, but I will admit that I was disappointed that they were there at all.  I keep thinking that someone is going to come into the doctor's office and tell me that it was a big mistake and there is no cancer after all.  I met with a surgeon on the day of the scans and he is going to operate to remove lymph nodes on the left side.  He is also going to remove my implants and take out a chunk of skin where the rash was before chemo sent it on its way.  I will have the surgery at Duke in early October and will just have to spend one night at the hospital if all goes well.  I went back to Duke again on the 20th to meet with my oncologist there as well as the radiation oncologist for a 2nd time.  The original Duke planned involved some major radiation, but when I met with the radiation oncologist on Monday, she told me that she wants to wait and see my pathology after surgery to see whether she will want to zap me at all.  There is lots of area to cover and she can't re-radiate my supraclavicular area because it would likely cause nerve damage in my right arm and/or paralysis.  She is also worried that my cancer doesn't respond to radiation because she is sure that these tumors were growing while I was being treated the first time.  That is very scary stuff.  She also mentioned that I would probably have more chemo after surgery.  And I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Annabel is doing great!  She keeps me laughing and keeps me on my toes.  Her favorite thing to do lately is play with her babies.  She feeds them, undresses them (I'm in charge of putting the diapers on and getting them dressed), puts them on the "bus" (lines up the dining room chairs), puts them "a sleep".  Scott also got her a choo-choo and she has been playing with that a lot.  She still enjoys painting and coloring, too.  Her favorite show is still Max and Ruby if you ask her, but thankfully, she's willing to watch a variety now and probably watches too much TV.  She is not in school....yet.  We postponed it because I thought I was going to have to go to Duke for five weeks of radiation.  Now that seems to be out, we will get her started in preschool soon.  I hate that she will start late, but I think she will like being around other kids again. 

I have lots more to say, but time has gotten away from me again and we are finally going camping again!  I have to go and get ready.  More later!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Plan

Lots has happened since my last post.  My calendar has been full of doctor's appointments, with many more upcoming.  Most notably, I saw my oncologist on Wednesday last week and we now have a plan of attack. 

On Thursday, I will have my first chemo and the plan is that I will have 3 week cycles; I will get chemo once a week for two weeks and then have a week off.  I will be on chemo indefinitely.  My hair will fall out (again).  I am not thrilled about this, obviously, but am willing to do what it takes to knock it out.  Am I ready?  I think not, but there is nothing that I can do to get that way.  I am ready to get my cancer under control, but not looking forward to the process.  It has been a rough few weeks, to say the least.  I vascillate between trying to wrap my head around this mess and trying to keep my mind off of it.  Not sure which is more detrimental, but it is difficult to cope with my new diagnosis and upcoming treatment.  I feel like I have just recently gotten back on track with my health and am finally feeling good, so it is quite a blow to face this crap once again, knowing that I will not be feeling well and will have to learn to cope with side effects all over again.  This time around, I will be getting two different drugs, Ixabipilone and Carboplatin.  It will allegedly be more tolerable than last time because of the dosage. 

When I saw the radiation oncologist a few weeks ago (just after my last post), she was not hopeful about treating me with radiation to zap the cancer out of my lymph nodes.  She told me at the time that she wouldn't rule it out and would think about it and consult with other colleagues, but she felt that the cancer might not be confined to the areas that showed up on the PET.  She was very concerned about the rash on my chest and though I had an upcoming appointment with the dermatologist to have a biopsy, she was able to get me in to see the surgeon for a biopsy immediately following our appointment with her.  The results were back the following day and it turns out that the rash is cancerous.  It is breast cancer that has metasticized to my skin, called lymphatic dermal invasion.  Apparently, it is tough to control, but I will have 10 radiation treatments to zap the rash and hopefully stop it in its tracks. 

On Friday, I will be going to Duke to meet with an oncologist there for a consult/second opinion.  My doctor has been very supportive and helpful in facilitating the appointment and getting me there quickly.  I had hoped to find a clincial trial with PARP inhibitors, but didn't meet eligibility requirements for any that I found (with lots of help from a few different people).  By going to Duke, I will see a specialist and will then be on their radar should some new and promising treatment become available.  She will be working with my oncologist and together, we will forge ahead with a treatment plan. 

I am happy to report that I will still get to attend First Decents, the kayaking camp that I signed up for and have been looking forward to attending for months.  My doctors think it's a good idea for me to go and I hope that it will help me get my head straight for the battle ahead.  Despite my excitement, it is going to be positively brutal to get on a plane and leave Scott and Annabel behind for a whole week.  Getting ready for my trip has been a good distraction and I'm headed to the attic today to find some ski gear that will serve a dual purpose.  I love gear!  I think I'm just about all set between recent shopping trips and stuff I already had.  I'm concerned that the (unknown) chemo side effects will hit just in time for my trip, which is my chemo "off" week.  The trial nurse said that she would schedule me to come in and get IV fluids the Friday before I leave to hopefully help me out.  I don't want my trip to be fouled up with feeling foul!  I think I can also expect to lose my hair while I'm there, which I'm sure will be especially tough being away from home.  I will be with other cancer survivors, so at least it will not be shocking.

Annabel is doing great.  She is talking up a storm and singing and dancing and coloring and painting and playing with her babies and using the potty (still working on poop!) and going to "school" and camping and travelling....we have had a busy and eventful summer so far.  I am not quite sure how to prepare her for what is coming.  She was only 17 months old when I was first diagnosed and turned two a month after my last chemo treatment.  At 31 months, she is so much more aware of what is going on and is more perceptive than I sometimes give her credit for.  I am sure that she will adjust to our "new normal", but I hate thinking about the effect it will have on her.  I don't want her to fret or worry because I'm sick.  Last week, she spent two nights with Scott's parents to visit and so that Scott and I could go to my Wednesday appointments and I had a CT scan on Thursday.  I was so sad and upset, I felt like it would be hard to keep it together when she came home.  I was really worried about it, but she was just what I needed to pull myself together. 

I am not sure how Scott is able to keep it together, but he is doing an amazing job of taking care of me and Annabel and the house and the dogs and of course, work.  He has been with me to all of my doctor's appointments and is able to ask the right questions when I am too stunned to process what is going on.  He comforts me when I'm down and knows exactly what to do to bring me out of a funk.  Or hysteria, for that matter.  There has been a fair share of hysteria lately!  I could not do this without his love and support.  Cancer aside, our life together is pretty darned good.  I could never have imagined that any of this would happen, but I am incredibly lucky to have him by my side for this wild and scary ride.

To keep things upbeat, I am going to mention a few things I'm doing to fight the fight before chemo starts.  I am still going to oncology rehab to exercise.  I have missed a few days due to doctor's appointments, but I go whenever I can and do as much as I can while I'm there.  The trainers and nurses involved in the program are awesome.  They are encouraging, supporting and have been really sensitive during my diagnosis and this waiting phase.  I can't say enough good things about this program.  It really is set up to help participants to succeed in developing healthy exercise habits.  I hope that I will be able to drag myself there once treatment starts.  I have already had rough days; last week, they had to go and find some tissues for me because I cried half of the time I was there.  I almost didn't go because I knew it would happen, but F it, I am going to make things better for myself and this cancer shit is pretty raw.  Exercising while crying is nothing compared to walking around bald.  But I digress....I am also trying to overhaul my diet.  I am really freaked out about making things worse and my appetite is still not "right" from my last stint with chemo.  I will eat whatever is in front of me, but when I am left to my own devices, I can't think of anything to eat.  I am cutting sugar out, reducing the amount of meat I eat and upping the fruits and vegetables.  I rarely drink diet coke anymore and have switched to unsweetened tea or water if we are out to eat.  My favorite healthy concoction so far is sauteed spinach and roasted beets over quinoa, sprinkled with goat cheese.  Pretty impressive, huh?  I am far from where I need to be with this effort, but it's getting better.  I am trying not to beat myself up because I think most things are fine in moderation.  I drank half a pitcher of margaritas last weekend at La Paz.  That was naughty, but if you have ever had a margarita there, you would understand. 

Tomorrow, I have an appointment to get fitted for a compression sleeve to prevent lymphedema.  I HATE nude pantyhose and this will be like wearing thick nude pantyhose on my arm.  In the hundred degree heat.  I saw a physical therapist a few times who prescribed the sleeve as a precautionary measure.  I have been dragging my feet about getting it, but my hand has started swelling in the past week, so I need to get one, like, yesterday.  At this point, the swelling is minor and would be imperceptible except that I learned what to look for from the PT.  I also need to make an appointment with her as I cancelled the last one for my biopsy and haven't rescheduled yet.  I am curious to see whether my measurements have changed since I started exercising.  Just another unpleasant thing about this whole situation.  Waaaaah!  I should add that there are sleeves available that are not "nude"; just not sure that I will invest in a color or pattern right off the bat.  These things aren't cheap. 

My update might be full of whine, but I still think I have a pretty good attitude, all things considered (I didn't even write about my trip to the dermatologist!).  I am lucky to have the love and support of my family and friends, so thank you all for helping me do this!  Also, though things are not great right now, don't be afraid to ask me questions or call me.  I don't remember who knows what half the time, so remind me to update you if I don't and you want to know what's going on.  And I'll try to update more often.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hope!

I was able to get an appointment with my oncologist this afternoon.  This is a feat and a credit to how wonderful she is because I was the last appointment on Friday afternoon before she leaves for vacation.  Up to this point in my diagnosis, I have felt sort of shuffled around and it didn't help that I had a new surgeon, too.  It helps to hear bad news from someone who you know and who knows you. 

My oncologist got right down to business.  Her best case option is sort of "outside the box".  She thinks that there is a possibility that I may be able to have radiation to stop this cancer in its tracks.  It is not a sure thing; I have to meet with a radiation oncologist next week to see whether this is an option for me.  I guess it has to do with the fact that the cancer is in a few different places.  My doctor has another patient in a similar situation that is going through this treatment right now.  This would be GREAT.  Radiation is sort of scary, but I would take it over chemo any day (as long as it does the work!). 

I also asked about the possibility of specialists and/or clinical trials outside the area.  She is working to get information about any trials that I may be suited for at either Duke or UNC, and I should hear something about this next week.  Not only did I get a last minute appointment, my doctor is going to communicate any pertinent info via email WHILE SHE IS ON VACATION.  And I already thought she was awesome.

I have this rash on my chest (left boob) that has been there for over a month now.  I had her look at that and now I need a biopsy to make sure it isn't some kind of manifestation of my cancer.  The treatment for that sounds absolutely awful, so I am hoping that it is some kind of fungal infection.  The doctor suggested this as a possibility as well, so she prescribed some kind of topical cream to use on it until I see a dermatologist next week. 

So, also, part of my pathology hasn't come back yet, but there is the possibility that one of my receptors is positive this time around.  That would be good because I would be able to take tamoxifin to keep cancer at bay; this is something that was not an option the first time around because my receptors were all negative.  I am anxious to get the results.

I feel like I got some good news with lots of possible options today.  I really expected to go in there and leave with an appointment to get another port and start chemo next week.  Really.  So it was a pleasant surprise to walk away from the appointment with hope that treatment might not be chemo for an indefinite period of time.  Because basically, if the radiation thing doesn't pan out, it is likely that I will have to have chemo for the rest of my life.  That doesn't sound so good.

It's baaaack.

I had a biopsy on Tuesday and went to the doctor today to get the official news.  The cancer is in my lymph nodes under my left arm and above my collarbone on the right side.  Apparently there are other suspicious areas as well, but just in the lymph nodes. 

The next step is a visit with my oncologist to formulate a plan of action.  She is going on vacation next week and I'm really glad that she was able to squeeze me in this afternoon.  I didn't want to have to wait an extra week to get started.  I will be having chemo, but not sure yet what kind and how often.  My guess is that it is going to be an indefinite situation and that they will just switch it up as needed.  I'll learn more this afternoon. 

This time, I plan to get a second opinion.  I have absolute trust in my oncologist, but I know that there must be someone, somewhere that is a specialist or is studying my particular kind of cancer.  Hopefully, I will be able to find a promising clinical trial.  There is a new drug that hasn't been released by the FDA yet that has shown lots of promise for people with the BRCA gene and who have triple negative breast cancer.  We'll see.

Yesterday, I still wasn't feeling great from the biopsy that I had on Tuesday.  It is hard to shake that anesthesia!  I went to oncology rehab anyway and I'm so glad that I did.  I thought I would take it easy, but the trainers only modified one exercise for me.  I did the regular workout otherwise, and left feeling good.  I know a big part of it is getting there.  The oncology rehab program lasts 10 weeks and I will stick with it if they will let me, and I can't think of a reason why they wouldn't. 

I think I'm doing alright dealing with the situation.  I think I mentioned before that at least there is less shock with this diagnosis, so I feel like my head is on somewhat straight.  Ativan helps when needed; I have had some panic attacks, but I think that is to be expected.  The waiting part before treatment is especially hard mentally and emotionally because there is no action yet.  Once treatment starts, there is at least the confidence that chemo is doing its job.  I am definitely keeping my normal pace for the time being.  Things will change soon enough.

Still no update on the fun stuff that's been going on lately!  I will get to that once this whole diagnosis thing is over and my treatment plan is in place.  I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Already?

Poor, neglected blog.  The last part of May and all of June were so busy that I hardly had time to catch my breath.  I have been having a fabulous time, full of great adventures and lots of visiting with family and friends.  I have lots of good to report, but also some not so good.  I guess I'll start with the bad....

I still have a lot of tightness on my right side from surgeries and radiation.  I am (finally) seeing a physical therapist to help (more on that later), but a few weeks ago, I was especially sore for a few days.  I was trying to locate the source of my pain and found a lump above my collar bone at the base of my neck.  I called the doctor immediately and went to see her two weeks ago.  She agreed that there was cause for alarm and sent me for a PET scan, which I had last Tuesday.  My oncologist called with the results last Thursday afternoon.  The lump is "highly suspicious".  The conversation is a little blurry because while I was not surprised, I was still in shock.  Apparently, areas of "suspicion" light up on the scan.  This area wasn't bright and I'm not exactly sure what it means....whether that means that it is not very concentrated or if there isn't much of it?  I don't know; I'm sure that I will be learning more about that.  It is not good that this is happening, but the scan is from the top of my head to mid-thigh and the only areas of suspicion were the lump that I found and something under my left arm; presumably a lymph node, but she said that treatment for the other would take care of it.  The next step is a biopsy and after several calls to harrass the schedulers at the doctor, who were dragging their feet, I finally have an appointment to see a surgeon on Friday morning.  I still don't know whether he will be able to biopsy the lump at the office or if I am just going to meet him to schedule the biopsy.  I am ready to move this along as quickly as possible.  I do not like the thought or idea of cancer in my body and I am ready to get it OUT.  My oncologist said that if it is positive, I will have to have more chemo.  I am prepared to fight this battle again; I want it GONE.  I am very anxious to move through the diagnosis so that I can start the treatment.  I want to move past this; the sooner the better.  In the meantime, I feel like I have been calm, but with moments of hysteria.  I have had to employ my old friend Ativan some, but not too much.  The support and encouragement of my family and friends is helping me cope during this period of waiting.  So, THANK YOU for reminding me that I can do it again! 

Part of my recovery is oncology rehab.  Part of oncology rehab is physical therapy.  I have been to the physical therapist twice so far and she says that I have a full range of motion, despite the tightness in my chest, especially on the right side where I had more extensive surgery, lymph node removal and radiation.  I went last week to learn more exercises and she massaged my arm where I have cording from radiation.  Cording is gross.  It feels like there is a piece of string under my arm that goes all the way to the tips of a few fingers.  And the string feels like it is just a tad too short, so I get a weird shooting pain sometimes when I reach too far or the wrong way.  It is much improved after just two visits to the physical therapist.  It is uncomfortable when she massages it, but I have less pain immediately afterward.  The plan is to only visit her once more for more massage and then I'll be released from her care.  The biggest part of oncology rehab is that I meet with other cancer patients at the hospital's fitness center three times a week to work out.  I really love it so far.  The trainers monitor my heart rate and activities and my stamina and flexibility have improved each time I've been.  I am trying to challenge myself to work hard so that if (WHEN) I have to start chemo, I'll be in a better place physically.  It is also a great distraction at the moment.  I told one of the trainers about my lump and let her know that I plan to finish the 10 week program despite treatment.  It makes me sad to think about missing out on that.  After just three sessions, I feel better overall, mentally and physically.  Being there makes me feel like I'm doing something to make my condition better.  I have an upcoming appointment with the registered dietition there as well. 

My hair is growing like crazy.  I still like it short, but for some reason am very hesitant to cut it.  I have weird cowlicks in the front because I have a widow's peak, but I just sort of try to smooth them over as much as possible.  It is long enough now that it sort of feathers on the side sometimes and I don't care for that at all, but again, hesitant to get a haircut.  I don't use any products or anything on it.  I never have used much on my hair (well, not in the last 20 years!) and I don't think it would do any good or make it look any different than it does.  I love that it is low maintenance!

Well, I feel like this isn't much of an update because I haven't mentioned our new (very old) motorhome or all of the trips I've taken lately and I didn't mention Annabel and Scott at all.  That will have to wait for another post very soon! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jellybean jellybean jellybean jellybean jellybean jellybean JELLYBEAN

It has been yet another crazy week at the Hall house.  I am feeling lots better and got a good report from the plastic surgeon last Wednesday.  He is happy with his work and it was encouraging to hear him say that I am healing well.  I have to wear a sports bra for a few more days and am supposed to be massaging my chest to soften up the implants.  I was instructed to keep up the antibiotic ointment, gauze and sports bra for another week, so minimal fuss and no tape, which is nice.  My incisions are itchy and I have a little pain, but they look good.  My right side is still (and not shockingly) sore, to varying degrees of discomfort.  Some days it isn't too bad, but some days it hurts.  I am still mostly sleeping on my back, but I can finally stand to sleep on my sides for short periods of time.  I have had a little bit of insomnia the past few nights/mornings; I've woken up at 4 or 5 and can't go back to sleep until it's time to wake up.  It is frustrating to still have days where I'm not feeling great; I am ready to GO GO GO, but I am also still taking things slow and easy.  Most days are good and I am ecstatic that I feel like my health continues to improve. 

When I woke up at 5:30 this morning, I was thinking about what I was doing this time last year, the year before, etc.  It has been a pretty amazing few years with the highest of highs and really low lows.  This time last year, I was plodding along.  I was walking with Annabel a lot and had seen the doctor twice for the lump.  I was waiting for my ultrasound appointment that was scheduled in mid-May and while it was on my mind and causing a good bit of anxiety, I might have thrown out the possibility of cancer, but I didn't know it was raging inside me.  I was happy and enjoying spring weather and being a stay at home Mommmy.  The year before that, I was trying to get back into the swing of work life.  All I wanted to do was spend as much time as possible with my little baby.  Although I was so happy to be a Mommy, I was sad about leaving my shiny new baby at daycare every day and stressed out about the amount of preparation and organization required to pull off a normal weekday.  I felt like I was spending as much time (or more time) getting ready for the next day as I was spending with Annabel.  I was not happy with my job and was not happy being at work.  There had been a shake-up prior to my maternity leave and when I returned, I had to adjust to the new regime and my compensation plan had changed in such a way that it was unlikely that I was going to be able to hit any goals and therefore, make any bonuses or commissions.  I didn't like my manager and felt that there was a huge disconnect and lack of communication with my higher-ups.  I had always felt that I was recognized for a good work and work ethic, but I no longer felt that was the case.  Annabel's daycare also stressed me out.  We had chosen it mainly because it is so close to home, but I quickly found out that her caregivers were not very enthusiastic about breastfeeding and while they officially had an open door policy, I was not exactly welcomed to spend my lunch hour with Annabel every day to feed her.  It was very difficult to leave her in the care of people who, while loving and trustworthy, did not support breastfeeding.  Annabel rarely napped and frequently spent her time screaming (or so I was told).  I guess I had done her a disservice by holding her for the entirety of her first three months of life.  Oops!  I am sure these things would have been less horrible if I had been more committed to being a working Mom, but the truth was that at the time, I probably would have lived in a tent if it meant that I could be with my child.  Scott and I simply didn't think it was possible for us to survive on one income.  I was also expecting a bonus owed to me from before my leave and had to put in a minimum amount of time to get the payout for money that had already been earned.  The plan was that I would give it 6 months while we saved money and then we could re-evaluate our situation and see whether it would be possible for me to leave my job.  Exactly 6 months later, I was laid off.  While this was not my fault or my intention, I was thrilled to be thrown into unemployment so that I could stay at home with Annabel.  Otherwise, I'm not sure that we would have made the leap.  Year before last, I had just found out I was pregnant.  I was scared and excited and adjusting to a major lifestyle change.  It was the first time since Scott and I had been together where I felt that we weren't forging ahead experiencing the same thing, feeling the same thing, etc.  That sounds strange, but we had been so much the same for five years, while we could share the joy of my pregnancy, he could not know what it was like to have a baby in his belly and was not required to stop drinking beer or start eating right, etc.  Such began this phase of crazy changes in our lives that has gained momentum and is moving too fast for me to keep up with sometimes!

Annabel is keeping us on our toes.  Understatement!  She is really loving school right now, especially when she isn't there.  She told me on Thursday that she wants to go again and again and again and again and again....  Prompted by driving by her school on the way home from meeting Scott for lunch.  I assured her that she will DEFINITELY go to school again and again etc. and that I would surely remind her later of this enthusiasm.  I get the impression that she is still quiet and reserved at school, but she's taking it all in and spewing it back out when she comes home.  She is finally eating her lunch at school.  I had a brilliant idea to "pack" her lunch so that she could pretend at home.  Backfire!  As soon as I handed her the lunchbox, she became hysterical and told us that she wanted to go to school and now.  To be fair, I lost track of time and it was a little late for lunch.  She was so upset that I ended up putting her to bed for her nap before she even ate.  I tried, but it was no use!  When she woke up, I got her lunch out of the lunchbox and she ate it without further incident.  She was probably starving, though!  So, you never can tell.... 

The biggest news of the week is that Annabel is potty training.  We have had a potty and a potty seat for quite a while now and she plays with it and has occasionally made an attempt, but we are full throttle now.  I am sure that this has something to do with school.  No time like the present!  The only other successful attempt prior to this week was one time when she pee peed on the potty for Auntie Kim.  Not shockingly, Auntie Kim kicked off this whole potty initiative with a repeat performance last Monday morning before school.  We took her to school in underpants and she came home with the same (dry) clothes on, but with a diaper underneath her underpants.  She made an unsuccessful attempt on the potty at school, hence the diaper.  I thought that was a great idea to keep things going in a positive way and her teachers told me that they thought she was ready when Kim and I picked her up.  Scott kicked things in high gear by bringing home some Jelly Bellys and presenting them as the potty reward.  So far we have had a good amount of successes and a small amount of "incidents".  I am letting Annabel decide whether she wants to wear underpants, a diaper or nothing at all.  There has been lots of streaking and I think three puddles on the floor.  The biggest disaster so far has been, of course, of the number 2 variety.  It is a good thing that I think poop is funny because nothing was going right when it happened.  After a pee pee success, Annabel wanted to wear pajama pants with nothing underneath.  She had napped and peed and was playing nicely.  I looked up and noticed that she was frozen and had a panicky look on her face.  There was a very small puddle at her feet, but her drawers were droopy.  I calmly helped her out of her pants and held them shut as we headed to the bathroom...the door was LOCKED.  Thank you, Annabel.  The dogs became interested pretty quickly and as I was making my way up and down the hall trying to find something to pick the lock with, the poop dumped out in the hallway.  Shocker.  Anyone who has dogs can guess what happened next...right when I inevitably stepped in poop, Suki slurped some up.  I got the giggles so bad that I could barely manage to get the lock picked and finish what was left of clean-up....the floor, the poopy ass, my foot and the pajama bottoms.  Boy, do I love this potty training stuff!  Neko and Suki (the dogs) have been waiting for an Annabel poop snack for over 2 years now.  I was really worried that Neko was going to eat her stinky diapers off of her when she was a baby, so it was a monumental day for all of us.  As I was typing this, we had the 2nd number two accident (thankfully not as eventful as the first; Scott said she smelled bad and it looked like she had a potato in her underpants).  Looks like that is going to be a little tricky, but I am sure she will figure it out before too long.  I am pretty impressed thus far, but I am tired of the jellybean pleas.  I am SO proud of my baby!

I guess all of this big girlness is getting to her head because she has been living especially loud this week.  She is at about 110% whenever she is awake and has been as sassy as ever.  I'm sure she has said "NO" at least ten times as many times as she has said "jellybean", and that is A LOT.  She is even yelling at the TV.  Every time I open my mouth and say her name, she says no before I can even finish what I'm saying.  She also seems to have developed a "look" that I can only describe as WTF?, but it is endless and without blinking or flinching until (I assume) she feels like her point has been made and then made very well.  For example, I got THE LOOK the other night and it lasted so long that I had time to ask her why she was looking at me like that.  She kept it up, but added a really slow smile to let me know that she knows she is making a point.  I guess this is part of the terrible twos, but it is hard to navigate the days with all this drama.  I think I am amused to a fault because I probably let it go on longer than it should sometimes.  OK, most of the time.  It must be hard to be such a little thing learning how to be independent.  The other day, we went downtown for lunch and to get her some new shoes.  We were ready to leave, but by the time I got my purse and keys, she had taken her shoes off and put them on the wrong feet.  She refused my help and insisted on wearing them that way.  AND wanted to wear her jacket, zipped with the "hoooot" up even though it was 80 degrees outside.  To literally top things off, she grabbed one of her hats off the table on the way out the door to wear OVER the hood on her zipped up jacket.  Yikes.  I somehow talked her out of the extra hat when we were getting out of the car, but we walked two blocks to the store with shoes on the wrong feet and the hooded jacket.  Whenever I see a kid dressed weird, I always wonder what happened between the child and his/her mother that this was the compromise.  So, I was that lady.  When we got to the store, there were two people helping us and the woman saw what was going on and understood right away.  The guy was talking to me and stopped mid-sentence to ask Annabel whether she knew that her shoes were on the wrong feet.  He got THE LOOK and the woman told him that of course she knew.  I am sure that guy doesn't have kids.  Annabel walked another block to lunch like that, but Scott convinced her to put her new shoes on (the right feet) as we were leaving.  Oh, well.  At least she is not wearing a Halloween costume or something.  I saw a kid in a Halloween costume recently and it looked like it had been worn every day since last Halloween.  I guess there are varying degrees of toddler madness and I feel pretty lucky most of the time in this regard.  Lucky ALL the time to have such a wonderful child.   She is very entertaining!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Surgery and Recovery

Surgery went well!  I am recovering comfortably and moving back and forth from the bed to my chair in the den (the command center).  I'm not in pain when I sit still and it is manageable when I move around.  I am still taking pain medicine around the clock, but tomorrow I'll ease off and see how I feel.

Scott's Mom spent the night with us on Wednesday night so that we didn't have to worry about dropping Annabel off the morning of surgery or having Mimi drive all the way here.  I wasn't very stressed out the evening before or the morning of surgery.  We all left together, Scott and I to the outpatient surgery center and Mimi and Annabel to Lavonia.  Scott and I got to the surgery center on time at 9:30.  They took me back to the pre-op area right away.  A nurse came in to start an IV soon after that and she gave me some versed to take the edge off.  My surgery was scheduled for 11:00, but I guess they were running late.  My plastic surgeon came in and marked me up and then I was on my way!  When I got to the operating room, I saw my plastic surgeon's nurse and everyone else introduced themselves.  It was good to see a familiar face in there!  I should say it was nice to hear a familiar voice because I couldn't see anything.  I had to leave my glasses with Scott.  I wasn't awake in the operating room for very long before they put me to sleep.  The next thing I remember is being in the recovery room.  I felt a little queasy, so I got something for nausea and I'm not sure how long I was there before they let me go home.  I was really impressed with everyone at the surgery center; they were all very professional and made me very comfortable while I was there.   Scott and I were home by 3:00.

When Scott and I got home, I went straight to bed and slept pretty much until Friday afternoon.  I have just been resting since surgery and Scott is taking good care of me.  Kim got here last night and Scott is going to get Annabel this afternoon.  I miss her so much!  I can't wait to see her!

So far, I like my new boobs, but they seem small.  I haven't examined them too much.  It looks like he used the incisions under my bumps to put the implants in.  There is only gauze and tape under my boobs all the way to my sides, so the top part is exposed and they seem flat and smallish.  I am trying to keep in mind that they will look different as I heal.  I started wearing a sports bra yesterday afternoon as directed by my doctor.  I am glad to have the new boobs, but I know I will be disappointed if they don't fluff out.  My follow up appointment isn't until Wednesday and I'm anxious to see my doctor and hear what he has to say about it.  Scott said that my doctor was happy with surgery and that there wasn't much evidence of infection in there when he took my expanders out.  It was a relief to hear that; I was really worried that I'd wake up from surgery with one boob or something.  Also, no drains were required and I'm really happy about that. 

I am including before and after pictures.  As you can see, I have a furry nurse!  Suki has been stuck to me like glue.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Fever!


Our lives seem to be especially busy lately and I am happy to report that I am keeping the pace!  I really feel a lot better these days and seem to have less fatigue.  I still lay down with Annabel at naptime, but I am starting to feel fidgety about it.  I typically don't nap with her, but there are days that I fall fast asleep.  When I don't, I just have some quiet time and catch up on my tv shows or play on the computer.  The weather is still amazing here.  Our springs are really short; it doesn't take long around here for things to heat up to unbearable with high humidity, so it's nice to be able to spend time outside during the day and especially in the evenings when Scott comes home.  We do have lots of pollen, but it hasn't been bad enough to keep us inside or close the windows the past few days.  Annabel loves to play on her playground and in her sandbox.  She picks lots of flowers...and weeds...and rocks....and leaves.  Lots of little presents!  She doesn't like bugs or worms or snakes and is always quick to point out an ant or worm and tell them to go away.  Ah, the great outdoors!

I have been busy trying to get ready for my exchange surgery.  Mostly just getting laundry caught up and organizing things so that Scott can find Annabel's clothes, diapers, etc. to get her dressed and changed.  I don't want to sit around staring at messes while I convalesce (like every other day!).  My doctor and his nurse insist that I am not going to be in much pain and fully expect an easy, comfortable recovery, so I don't have too much anxiety at the moment.  Besides, this is the good stuff!  I am going in with three bumps (counting my port) and coming out with two new and improved bumps.  I decided to go with silicone gel implants and we are shooting for a C cup.  I guess my doctor doesn't like to make any guarantees in that regard because when I asked him about it again, he said "depending on the bra".  I didn't ask him to elaborate, but now I sort of wish that I had.  I am not too worried about it.  He says that many of his reconstruction patients don't have to wear a bra unless they choose to, so I am definitely good with that.  I have a feeling that I will want to wear one because I already know that the right side is going to sit higher than the left.  He will do his best, but the skin is not the same after radiation and it's common for this to happen.  He's really happy with the way my chest looks going into surgery.  I have recovered nicely from radiation and the redness/irritation from the infection has gone away.  Up until last week, my right boob bump looked really nasty.  It was like a really bad sunburn and was scaly and flaky and gross.  My skin is still dry and the right side is slightly tanned, but a serious improvement from the last part of radiation and recovery from it.  It is outpatient surgery, so I don't even have to spend the night in the hospital.  Scott will take Thursday off and work from home on Friday.  Annabel is going to stay with Mimi and PopPop for a few nights and then Kim will be here on Saturday night to help out/visit and take Annabel to school and pick her up on Monday.  The doctor expects me to do basically nothing or next to it for 3 to 4 days and then I can ramp back up, but I won't be able to pick Annabel up for at least two weeks.  I think we'll be ok with that; I'll just have to budget more time when we have to go somewhere because she dawdles when she has to climb in and out of her carseat herself.  I am hopeful that things will go off without a hitch and this doesn't set me back too much.  It scares me to get too excited about it, but I am really looking forward to eradicating the discomfort from these expanders, losing the port, quitting the antibiotics and getting permanent implants. 

Scott and I went to Tybee Island/Savannah for vacation at the beginning of the month.  We really had a great time together and with our friends Lennie and Courtney.  We got to Tybee in the late afternoon and stopped at the Crab Shack for late lunch/early dinner.  YUM!  I finally got my big heaping pile of shellfish.  It lived up to the hype.  Court and Lennie met us there when they got to town and Lennie helped Scott and I finish what was left of dinner.  We all went together to get settled into the condo.  It was really nice and in a great location.  It overlooked the pool area, but was right around the corner from the beach, pier and restaurants and shops on Tybee.  Right in the middle of the action!  Scott and I had to leave pretty soon after we got there because we had tickets to see Wilco in Savannah.  It is about a 20 minute drive, so we had to get back in the car again.  I love to see my favorite band, but I was pretty exhausted from spending all day in the car and I really just wanted to relax and hit the hay.  We ended up leaving 3 songs before the end so that we could get back to the condo and go to bed.  The weather was beautiful on Friday and we went for a walk on the beach and then sat by the pool before taking an afternoon nap.  We drove into Savannah on Friday night for a haunted pub crawl.  It was my idea and I was really the only one "on board", but everyone else conceded when I pointed out that we wouldn't know which bars to go to otherwise.  I was doing my best to convince them that if nothing else, we would have fun bar hopping and seeing the sites.  I enjoyed the stories and even got a picture of a ghost!!  I was excited about the orbs, but this weekend I showed the pictures to our friends and our neighbor Shannon pointed out the GHOST between the orbs!!  Pretty cool.  I wasn't ever scared during the tour, but I did think that the 2nd floor of the Moon River Brewery was creepy and that is where I got the pictures.  We just relaxed on Saturday afternoon and then went to the Crab Shack for dinner again for another big pile of shellfish.  Scott and I had tickets to see She & Him on Saturday night in Savannah and we were in a rush to get there because dinner took longer than expected.  We ended up missing most of the show and only caught the last 4 or 5 songs.  We had to pack up on Sunday morning to check out of the condo and head back to Lavonia to pick up Annabel.  We had lunch at the Moon River on the way out of town before we said goodbye to Lennie and Courtney and hit the road.  It was a wonderful weekend!  The perfect mix of dates with my husband and spending time with Court and Lennie.  I hope we can go back soon.  I really enjoyed both Tybee and Savannah and I'd love to take Annabel to the beach sometime this summer, either before it gets too hot or after it cools down some.  Here is the ghost picture....look between the orbs and see if you see him!!  He's on the right side of the picture as if he were posing for me!  Obviously this was not "doctored".  I am not very tech-savvy.  Whether or not you believe in ghosts, this is really a neat picture!  See it?


We went to Knoxville for Easter weekend.  On Friday night, Scott and my Dad went to see George Strait and I went over to Jeff's house and hung out with he and Suz on the porch.  It was a great time!  Jeff fired up the chiminea and had a fridge full of yummy beers to try.  We took Annabel to an Easter Egg hunt on Saturday afternoon and then went out to dinner.  Annabel wasn't too impressed with the Easter bunny, but she enjoyed the egg hunt and carried her Easter basket around for a few days.  The Easter bunny visited her again on Sunday and she got lots of goodies, candy and otherwise.  We went to brunch and then headed home.  The interstate is still closed through the mountains for a rock slide, so we had to take the windy road through the mountains.  It is a nice drive on a pretty day!  We haven't really enjoyed the detour much since the rock slide because it was treacherous at times during the winter.  I will still be glad when I-40 opens up again and we can cut some time off of our trips to Knoxville.

I had a few doctor's appointments last week....a follow-up with my radiation oncologist and pre-op with the plastic surgeon and then to the outpatient surgery center for more pre-op.  Annabel seems to be enjoying Mother's Morning Out.  She is exhausted and crabby when I pick her up, but chats about it in the evenings.  She is also eager to get there on school days and I am happy to report that she is eating her lunch.  She is just going on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 to 2.  The picture up top was taken on the ride home from school today.  Yeah....she doesn't want to talk about it!  I guess she needs some time to process it all.  I have spent some time lately wondering where my baby has gone.  She is growing up so fast! 

Last weekend was busy again.  We went out for dinner on Friday night and then went to see our friend Andrea's band.  They play outside at a shopping center on the weekends, so we got a table outside with Steven and Brad and had a beer.  It was nice to be able to take Annabel down there to do something different and I think that she enjoyed it, too.  She got some pink ice cream out of it, too!  On Saturday night, we grilled out here.  Scott made ribs and it was great to have friends over and be social.  I haven't really felt like it much since I've been so run down and in various phases of treatment, so it was especially nice to get caught up.  Annabel did a great job of entertaining herself (within eyeshot) and was pretty sociable as well.  We spent the day with Scott's parents on Sunday.  They came up here to visit and we went out to lunch and sat outside for a bit, too.  Mario and Shannon had us over for delicious dinner on Sunday night.  It was so good to get to spend time with friends!

This morning as I was walking Annabel into school, a woman walked past me and said that she loved my hair!  She truly made my day and I wanted to grab her and hug her, but I resisted the urge.  I just thanked her and smiled a whole lot for a long time afterward.  It wasn't very long ago that people noticed me because I was a hairless, bandana-wearing Mom.  That lady thought I did this to my hair on purpose!  I do like it, but I guess I can now confirm (instead of hoping) that I don't look like the former chemo patient that I am.  I'm in need of a ear and neck trim.  Today, I decided to see what would happen if I didn't brush it after I took a shower.  I just ran my fingers through it and it looks better than it did the last time I brushed it when it was wet.  It is still really short, so it's hard to tell whether it is going to be curly, but it definitely has some waves in it at this point. 

Today, I met with the counselor at the Cancer Society.  I go to the support groups, but sometimes go to see her alone.  I guess I needed some reassurance that this phase of my journey is normal.  I am having problems staying focused on tasks.  I feel like I get distracted really easily and am very forgetful.  I think I have this constant undercurrent of anxiety taking up too much space in my brain.  That and/or chemo brain....and/or radiation....I don't know.  I have a prescription for anti-depressants, but I am not ready to pull the trigger on that just yet.  I don't feel sad; I just feel overwhelmed at times.  I am definitely an advocate of anti-depressants when necessary, but I just feel like I need to get through this in the most authentic way possible.  She said that what I'm feeling is normal and I think I just need to get through the process of dealing with what's left behind from cancer and treatment.  The anxiety is not like the panic attacks that I was having after my diagnosis; it's just there, occupying space and occasionally tossing out a little "food for thought", lest I become too comfortable in my lack of cancerness.  I don't know how else to explain it.  I also don't know how to make it better, but I think it's just part of the journey and as long as I'm ok and Scott and Annabel are ok, I will just keep plowing forward.  I am confident that time will take care of it, and if not, I will find something that does, whether it be anti-depressants or therapy....we'll see.

That's the news!  This time in two days, I'll be recovering from surgery.  Call me & I'll tell you all my secrets while I'm drugged up.  On second thought, maybe wait until Friday, at least.  Here are a few pictures that were taken on recent adventures.  The second is of Annabel and I with my brother Jeff and my sister Kim.  Rarely is every looking the same direction AND smiling!  The first is our "scary" picture from the ghost tour in Savannah with Court and Lennie.  Good times!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Update

Annabel was eager to go back to school last Tuesday, which was a pleasant surprise.  Kim was here visiting and went with me to drop her off.  I was worried that my doctor's appointment would run late and Kim would need to pick her up.  I am glad that she was here because my appointment did indeed run late.  Kim reported that she was happy and chatty when she picked her up.  She still didn't eat one bite of her lunch at school.  The teacher told Kim that she pushed her chair back from the table and observed the other kids eating, but didn't seem upset or anything.  I am hoping that she will join in next time she goes to school.  Unfortunately, she missed both yesterday and today because she's been sick (AGAIN!) since Thursday.  I was hopeful that she'd be able to go this morning, but she had yet another explosive diaper situation after she ate breakfast.  Poor baby! 

As I mentioned last week, I was really nervous about my check-up with my oncologist.  I was worried that seeing her would cause more anxiety than relief.  When I got there, I had to have my port accessed for the first time in quite a while.  My port is supposed to be flushed every 3 to 6 weeks and it had been a lot longer than that, so I got a short lecture and tsk tsk from the nurse.  Oops.  My copay is $50 every time I walk in the door, whether or not I see a doctor, so I wasn't in a hurry to get in there to pay $50 to get stabbed in the chest with a needle.  Anyway, luckily she was able to get blood out for the lab.  They always leave the needle in just in case the doctor orders more tests, then send me back to the lobby to wait for the doctor.  Scott was with me and we waited and waited.  Usually they aren't running far behind, if at all.  It was not a good day to have to wait longer than usual!  When we finally saw the doctor, she was very apologetic about the delay, so that at least made things better.  She also reassured me about my recovery and cancer-free future.  I told her about my surgery date and she agreed to have my plastic surgeon remove my port during surgery!  I am happy to get rid of it!  We also discussed the oncology rehabilitation program.  She advised me to wait until I recover from surgery to start, so I will hopefully start that at the beginning of May.  I was happy with the appointment and felt more confident about future screenings, etc. when I left.  

I got some really exciting news last week.  I applied for a young cancer survivor kayaking camp in February and was waiting for my oncologist to submit the medical review to be accepted.  The paperwork was finally sent in last week and I was accepted to the camp!  I'll be going to Vail in early August to learn how to kayak!  I learned about the camp from Kim's friend Karson.  She attended last year and it looks like it's going to be an incredible experience.  I am looking forward to the challenge, but I'm really nervous about being away from home for a whole week, by myself.  That will be the longest time away from Annabel and I'm worried about how much I'll be able to call/email home.  Vail is one of my most favorite places on the planet and I can't wait to go there in the summertime.  I have gone white water rafting a handful of times and I find the rapids both thrilling and terrifying at the same time, so I have a feeling that I am either going to love kayaking or be really freaked out.  Regardless, I think it will be a great challenge and I am up for it!  Jeff is a kayaker and likens the experience to skiing, which I love.  Very cool that I will get to be a part of it.....here is a link.....http://www.firstdescents.org/.  Amazing!  And what a lucky girl I am!

Kim was here last week for the first time in a long time.  We had a great visit and it was reminiscent of "old times", pre-cancer.  There for a while, I needed help and it was frustrating and disappointing to me that I couldn't be a hostess and/or visit and do fun things when we had company.  So it was nice for Kim to be here and for things to be mostly normal.  She is recovering well from her surgery and is going back to work next Tuesday.  We did some shopping, but mostly just hung out and enjoyed Annabel's company together. 

Tomorrow, Scott and I are going to Tybee Island/Savannah for a long weekend!  I am really excited about it, even though I know I'll miss Annabel a whole lot.  She has stayed with her Mimi and Pop Pop for three nights before, but we have never been farther than 45 minutes away from her.  A mini-vacation is in order, though!  I look forward to celebrating the end of treatment and having a nice break before I gear up for my surgery next month.  The forecast for Friday is sunny and 75; my favorite!  I am going to eat a mountain of fresh shellfish and I think we are also going to take a haunted pub crawl.  I am sure it will be good times!

On the hair front, it continues to grow and I'm going to need another neck & ear trim before too long!  I never would have gotten my hair cut short, but I am loving it!  It is absolutely maintenance free.  Kim and Scott and both trying to encourage me to use product, but I don't see the point with it still being so short.  I do have a few cowlicks, but nothing that can't be tamed with water and a pat-down.  Sometimes I forget to check the back, but Annabel is excellent to let me know that my hair is sticking up....ALWAYS when we are in the car on our way somewhere!  I guess my cowlick is directly in her line of sight when I am driving.  I am trying to encourage her to point it out before we leave the house so that I can do something about it, but so far, not much luck with that.  It has lots of gray, but I haven't made a decision whether to do anything about it.  Currently, I wear it proudly.  I am not inclined to start the merry-go-round of hair dye.  It is hard to stop once you start and I really enjoy the lack of effort required right now.  LOVING no hats, no ponytails, no hair in my face or making my neck hot, etc.  It is nice to enjoy the moment since I was bald and yearning for hair for the months that I didn't have any, then have spent the last few months wishing it to grow fast.

That is the update!  We have another spring-like day today and it really does a lot for my mood and my outlook.  Annabel and I are off to take advantage of the weather and play outside!
 

 

Monday, March 15, 2010

School is Cool

Today was Annabel's first day of Mother's Day Out.  I am so proud of her!  We had a rough night last night because of the time change and Annabel didn't get to sleep until very late.  I was worried that would make for a bad morning, but it was painless despite all of the preparations required to get out the door.  We talked about school while she ate breakfast and then we made her lunch together and put it in her lunchbox.  She wanted a cheese and mustard sandwich, apple slices and cookies and chocolate milk to drink (of course!).  I also threw in a box of raisins because I knew the apples would brown a little even though they'd be refrigerated.  I was ready for resistance when it was time to get dressed (because that would be the norm), but again, incident-free.  We made it out the door as planned, which is unusual.

The program starts at 9, but I had already planned to get her there late this morning to skip the commotion of all the other kids getting dropped off since it was her first day.  Before we got out of the car, I told her again what was going to happen when we went inside.  She did not like the part about me leaving, but I assured her that it was going to be okay and she would have fun.  We went in and I walked her to class.  We took a spin around the room to look at the toys and books.  When she let go of me, her teacher Miss Beth was taking care of the business of distraction, so I gave her a kiss and reminded her that I would see her after lunch. She didn't cry, but I could tell that she was trying hard not to and I knew exactly how she felt because I was doing my best not to cry, too.  I went to the office to handle the paperwork and watched on the video monitor from there.  She stuck close to the teacher and watched the other kids.  Before I left, I got to look into her classroom for a few minutes.  She was still standing next to the chair where her teacher sat, but she looked a little more interested in all the activity.  I got in the car at 10:00 and headed home.

I accomplished more this morning than I have been able to do in the past few months!  On my way home, I stopped by Dunkin Donuts to get my free Monday coffee.  I was fueled by caffeine and managed to clean the kitchen, knock out some laundry, organize Annabel's drawers and fill a bin of stuff for the attic.  I also dusted the bedroom and changed the sheets.  I even dusted the blinds!  I don't know that the blinds had ever been dusted, they were so dirty.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a good housekeeper, but today I was really motivated.  I spend so much time at home lately, you would think I'd manage to keep it cleaner, but it is really hard with a 2 year old's "help".  So it felt like a real luxury to have the house to myself to get things done.  I turned the music up loud and kept moving until it was time to get Annabel.

I left the house at around 1 and when I got to the church, Annabel's class was playing outside.  I went to the room to get her stuff and discovered that she didn't eat one bite of her lunch.  When I got outside to the playground, she just stared at me for a minute.  I'm not quite sure if she didn't believe I was there or if she is just mad at me for leaving her.  She was still close to her teacher, but the other two girls in her class were right there, too.  Miss Beth said that Annabel did well for her first day.  She kept to herself a lot and was quiet, but she did talk to the teachers and to the other kids.  As we were going back inside, Annabel told one of the little girls that her hair clip was falling out.  I think I was there a little too early because one kid asked where his Mommy was and another little girl told me that her Mommy would be there soon and that her Daddy is at work.  So cute!  Annabel has not told me much about her day; I have had to ask a lot of questions and I don't get the same answers every time.  I guess that's the way it's going to be?  When we got to the car, she fell apart a little bit because she wanted her drink, but she was fine when I handed her the chocolate milk that she didn't drink at lunchtime.  As soon as we walked in the door, she wolfed down her sandwich and apples and now she is taking a nap.  It was a long day for her!

Scott and I were pretty amazed this weekend about Annabel's increasing conversational skills and sense of humor.  We got her a new doll at Target on Saturday that sort of looks like her.  I think she wants to name the doll Annabel, but she wouldn't say it, so we kept asking.  "What do you want to name your doll?"  "Me."  "You want to name your doll "Me"?"  "No, me."  "You want to name your doll "Nomi"?"  "No, me."  And on and on and on.  This cracks me up to no end, so I just perpetuate it.  Luckily, she thinks it's funny, too, if not slightly annoying.  After Target, we went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch.  Annabel was eating chips and salsa and I could tell that she got something hot in her mouth.  I asked her if the salsa was hot and she told me no, it was spicy!?!  I have no idea where she learned that, but Scott and I were impressed.  We had to make another trip to Target last night and Scott pointed out a shirt in the toddler department and Annabel told him it was a boy's shirt.  Of course, it was, but I have no idea how she knows this!?!  He tested her a few minutes later with another boy's shirt and same thing.  Hilarious!

My exchange surgery is tentatively scheduled for April 15th.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is outpatient surgery.  The coordinator at my plastic surgeon's office hasn't gotten confirmation of the date yet, but I will know for sure on Friday when I go back for my usual follow-up appointment.  I am not sure what the recovery from this surgery will be like, but I know it is not as major as the mastectomy.  If all goes as planned, he will just use the incisions from my mastectomy and deflate the expanders to remove them.  He plans to clean the area with antibiotics before he puts the implants in and then he will sew/glue me up and send me on my way!  I haven't read the literature that I brought home last week, but he has suggested silicone gel implants.  I guess there are other options and he said that if I'm going to obsess over the things popping, that I should consider another option.  With saline, if it pops, the saline is absorbed by your body and that is not so with the gel.  I don't plan on obsessing over it, so I am going to go with what he suggests.  If I hate them or they don't work (look nice), they will just have to be replaced. 

On Sunday afternoon, Shannon and I went to Yoga for Women's Health together.  I was nervous about it because I still have pain and I don't think I have full range of motion in my right arm/shoulder.  I use it normally, but it is just not the same because of the lymph node removal.  I am really happy that I went!  I was able to pretty much fully participate and while some of the poses were challenging, I didn't ever feel like I was going too far or causing damage.  I got a good stretch and found it to be very relaxing and refreshing.  I have been to yoga a few times before, but this time, I felt more "into" it.  The instructor was really helpful in explaining everything explicitly without dumbing it down too much or going over my non-yoga-minded head.  I also think I finally "got" the breathing thing.  I really enjoyed the class and plan to go whenever possible, hopefully once a week.  There is another class there that I want to try called Restorative Yoga and it is for people with chronic conditions or who are recovering from illness or injury.  I was going to try that today, but I am a little sore from yesterday, so I'll wait until next week.  Other than a little soreness in my hips and legs, I have some burning in my chest muscles.  My chest muscles feel like they might be old, brittle rubber bands.  Again, hoping that is a radiation thing and it will get better.  I am also looking forward to starting the oncology rehab program, but I am not sure whether my oncologist will want me to start before or after my surgery.

Tomorrow is my first 3 month follow-up appointment with my oncologist.  I am nervous about it because I'm afraid that going there will cause more anxiety than relief or confidence.  I am not sure that I will have any tests or screenings to make sure that it is gone or hasn't come back.  I guess I will be nervous either way and going to the oncologist is just a(nother) reminder of cancer.  I have a lot of questions for her, but I haven't made my list yet, so I need to work on that this evening.  Three months is a long time between appointments, so I need to make sure that I cover all of my questions and concerns.  I have mostly felt that I get proper attention during my doctor's visits, but I am worried that might be different now that this is a "follow-up" visit.  I don't like it when doctors are dismissive or quick to run through the necessary information exchange.  Again, I have not ever felt like that with my oncologist, but I haven't really seen her much since my surgery.

So, that's another update in a short amount of time!  I am glad that there is good and exciting news to report.  I do like to update my blog, but it is really hard to do if I can't devote some quiet time and concentration; it's difficult with the stops and starts of a normal day and sometimes I'll start a post, but by the time I get back to it, it's old news and gets scrapped.  Such is life!





Friday, March 12, 2010

Movin' Right Along

Annabel approves of the silicone gel breast implants.  They are apparently good for patting and jiggling around and if there's one thing Annabel loves, it's things that jiggle! 

I finished radiation last week.  I was originally told that I would have 25 regular treatments and 8 "boosts", but my radiation oncologist decided against the boosts, therefore shortening my treatment by a week and a half.  I was pretty ecstatic about that because I was starting to get uncomfortable towards the end of my treatment.  I have also had lots of fatigue in the past month.  Luckily, it has been on and off and not really very constant.  As far as the other effects of radiation, I look like I have a really bad sunburn.  The blistering has healed, but I am tan and burned and itchy in spots.  I have a patch of skin in my armpit that looks like it belongs on an elephant.  I still don't have a lot of feeling, but I have had pain as a result of radiation.  Mostly under my arm and my chest muscles.  My skin feels sort of brittle and so do my muscles.  Yesterday I described it sort of like Play Doh.  When you first get a can and open it, it is pliable and adheres to itself really well.  When it dries out, it gets sort of cracked around the edges and doesn't stick together as well and has a tendency to crumble.  I am not sure whether a doctor would agree with my comparison, but that is sort of what it looks like and feels like.  I am trying to keep it moisturized to help it heal and am using both aloe and Aquaphor.  The Aquaphor is like Vaseline, so it is sticky and gross.  I only use that before bed.  I have heard that some people have serious burns from radiation, so I guess my reaction is normal and maybe on the good side since I haven't had too many problems, mostly just discomfort and fatigue.  I am certainly glad to put that phase of treatment behind me!  It also marks the end of active treatment for me, so it is a pretty big milestone.

I am still seeing my plastic surgeon weekly so that he can keep an eye on whatever is going on with my right side.  It still has a red patch, but he doesn't necessarily think that I have an infection because the fluid that he removes every week is coming out clear, which is apparently a good thing.  We have just decided to say that something isn't right and I am continuing to take antibiotics (going on two months now).  The plan is to continue follow up visits until he feels that my skin has healed well enough for exchange surgery.  The typical time frame for exchange is no sooner than 6 months after radiation, but that is not a good plan for me because of the irritation on the right side.  My doctor feels that it would be safer to go ahead and take the expanders out and blast everything with antibiotics before putting implants in and glueing/stitching me back up.  I thought that I would get my surgery date today based on our conversation last week, but it hasn't been scheduled yet.  He is aiming for early April, but we are going to make it tentative to allow me to continue to heal from radiation. 

As my treatment is winding down, I am finding lots of joy in trying to get back to normal.  We have had some warm weather here and there and that just does wonders to lighten my mood and make me feel better.  There is nothing like Vitamin Sunshine!  We have lots of fun stuff coming up in the next few months to look forward to.  We have a long weekend trip planned for the end of this month to Savannah.  Scott bought me tickets to see my favorite band for my birthday, so we have been planning this for months now and it's finally right around the corner!  We are meeting our friends Lennie and Courtney there and plan to celebrate both Court's birthday and the end of treatment.  I have had a craving for shellfish since my weekend trip to Charleston last month, so I'm planning to eat fresh seafood and will hopefully be able to convince everyone to take a ghosty pub crawl. 

Annabel is, as always, growing up faster than I can comprehend.  On Monday, she is going to start going to a Mother's Day Out program twice a week.  This has happened rather quickly, so I am doing my best to talk about school and get her revved up about it.  I am sure it will be harder for me than it will be for her next week!  Scott and I have been talking about finding a program for her so that she can socialize with other kids, but hadn't really done anything about it until this week.  I am sure that she will enjoy it and it will give me time to get some things done around the house and run errands.  I also plan to schedule doctor's appointments and such while she's at school, too.  The hours are 9 to 2, so she will eat lunch there.  It is downtown, so when it gets a little nicer outside, I can walk her to school or pick her up on foot.  It isn't exactly up the street, but it is not too far.  Before cancer, we took lots of long walks around town.  I am hoping that I will have the stamina to start up again very soon. 

Annabel's favorite things to do at the moment are playing hide and seek and pretending with her Yo Gabba Gabba figurines.  It is sort of difficult to play hide and seek with a 2 year old, but we play a few times a day usually.  I am never sure if I should be hiding or if I am "It".  It is hard not to laugh when I'm hiding because she wanders around calling my name.  She can count to five now, but her favorite number is still two.  She also (finally) said her own name yesterday.  So freaking cute!  Scott was coaching her on what she might say at school.  "My name is Annabel.  I am 2.  I love to jump!".  Ha, ha.  She doesn't like to watch Yo Gabba Gabba on tv, but she has been playing with the YGG figurines nonstop for a few days now.  She lets them take turns driving her dump truck around the room and they often stop at the Little People house to go potty and "go seep".  Sometimes they cry and sometimes they are hungry.  I love to watch and listen to her play.  She makes me laugh all the time!  I love being her Mommy!

Next week is going to be my first visit to my oncologist in three months.  It has been a busy three months, but I think it has gone by pretty fast.  I have lots of questions for her and will probably spend the days up until my appointment composing a list.  I am not sure what (if any) screenings she will schedule.  I guess I am a little nervous about it because of the length of time between visits now.  I feel like I have less anxiety than I did in the beginning, but that is because after a while, I took comfort in knowing that I was actively doing everything that I could to get rid of cancer.  Now I feel like I don't have that safety net....I put it out of my mind as much as possible, but a visit to the oncologist brings it all back.  I hope it will be an encouraging visit.  And I also hope that she will give me the go ahead to have my port removed. 

My hair is growing and growing.  It's still very short, obviously, but I had my first haircut two weeks ago!  It was only a trim around my ears and my neck, but still a haircut.  I can't complain much about it.  I'm glad to have it and it is an added bonus that it is so low maintenance.  I think it is almost long enough that it might look it's short on purpose instead of like a former chemo patient.  It makes me feel a little more "normal". 

Well, that's the update!  I never mean to go so long between updates, but time has a way of getting away from me lately!  Here is a not so good picture of Scott and I from a few weeks ago...so you can see that my hair is, in fact, growing....


Friday, February 12, 2010

Update

Well, it has been a whole month since my last update.  I never mean to go that long and I guess a lot has happened since my last post.  Before I get started, though....Holy shit!  It is snowing in Greenville, SC!!!  This never happens and I am hoping that it doesn't stick.  I have no use for this crap.  No skiing this year = no need for winter.  So, go away, Snow!  Move along! 

Shortly after my last update, I went to the radiation oncologist to get started with radiation.  My appointment to get "marked" was on the 20th of last month.  Scott's mom came up to watch Annabel because I had a lot to do that day.  The appointment didn't last long and aside from the discomfort caused by my arms (the right, particularly) being over my head in the CT scan, I was ready to go and run the rest of my errands.  I had to go to the unemployment office and had to wait in line for 3 hours there.  Not pleasant and by the time I got home, I was pretty tired.  When I sat down, I also realized that I was in a good amount of pain.  Mimi left to go home and I fed Annabel and got in bed with her.  Scott had a work dinner that night and was home by 10.  The pain medication that I took didn't even touch whatever was going on.  By the time Scott came home, I was freaked out and crying because I was in so much pain and was not feeling well and was also running a low fever.  I called the doctor at around 11, took some medicine as recommended and tried to sleep.  I was to call her back if anything changed and at around 3, I woke up and threw up a few times and was in excruciating pain.  When I called back, the doctor told me to go to the ER.  I was having trouble getting a good breath because of the pain, my fever was worse and I just felt awful.  I went ahead to the ER and Scott called his parents to come up (again!) to be with Annabel so that he could meet me up there.  I had x-rays and scans, but they didn't ever find anything and sent me home quite doped up.  Scott had to leave for work while I was there and his Dad came to the hospital and sat with me for the rest of the time that I was in the ER.  I was glad for his company, but I am scared to think what we might have talked about because I was WHACK on whatever they gave me when I got there.  I do remember dozing on and off and waking up muttering about something and he gave me a funny look, so who the heck knows what I said!  A few days later, I also had an ultrasound on my abdomen to rule out any gall bladder issues.  That day or the next, the lower half of my expander (boobal area) was blazing red and hot to touch.  Sooooo....I have an infection.  Since the 20th, I have been on round after round of antibiotics (5, I think) and have seen my plastic surgeon once or twice a week.  At this morning's visit, we discussed the options in case it doesn't continue to improve.  Hopefully it will continue to get better so that he doesn't have to surgically intervene.  Every time I've seen him, he has gotten out a massive needle to extract fluid from the area under my expander.  Thankfully, I don't have any feeling down there, but it is unpleasant anyway.  Now he says that the fluid looks less infected, so I am hoping that it is really clearing  up and going away.  The infected area looks really gross now and is peeling and crusty around my incisions, but the doctor says that is a sign of healing.  I have been in pain and have also been very run down for weeks now, so it has been sort of a rough time. 

I started radiation on the 27th and will have 33 total treatments.  I go to the Cancer Center every morning during the week for my 8:00 zap.  So far, I have completed 12.  As yet, I don't have any side effects and don't notice any changes to my skin.  I have been told by the radiation techs and the doctor that I will start noticing a burn pretty soon.  If all goes as planned, I will finish radiation on March 15th.  The Ides of March!  Getting radiation is sort of like getting an x-ray.  I go in and change into a gown on top.  When they call me, I go back to the radiation room and take the gown off and lay on my back on the table.  I have to put my arms over my head in armrests and then the techs make sure that I am lined up by checking the marks they have made on my chest (lots of marker and many sticky stickers that don't fall off in the shower).  I stay put and the machine moves around; the techs come in between each of the three zaps to recheck my alignment and move the machine to the next spot.  Every other day, they put a gel pad over my chest to trick the machine into thinking that my skin is thicker so that my actual skin gets some of that good old radiation.  It is all very systematic, which is both disturbing and comforting at the same time.  Once a week on Mondays, they weigh me.  On Wednesdays, I see the radiation oncologist for a quick visit and on Thursdays, I get x-rays so that they can make sure that their precision machine is zapping me in exactly the right place.  I leave the house every day by 7:40 (well, that's the goal) and am back home by 8:30, so Scott is going to work late while I have radiation.  

During all of this mess, I decided to quit the clinical trial.  I was supposed to start the Avastin infusions on the 25th of last month, but with everything else going on, I was so worried about it.  It just didn't feel right for some reason and then I found an article that indicated that about half of a small group of women on the study had failed reconstruction after restarting the drug post surgery.  I also know that there is no guarantee that Avastin prevents recurrence, so I was even more trepidatious about starting the trial again.  I spoke with my chemo nurse, the trial nurse and my oncologist (and of course, Scott) about it and came to the conclusion that I would not continue with the trial.  I didn't mess things up for them; they will still be able to use the information to this point and I elected to continue to be available for monitoring, etc.  I still feel confident in my decision.  I think the additional treatment would also bring me additional stress and it just seemed like a neverending road to have 30 more weeks of that in front of me.

Treatment, treatment and more treatment.  I spoke with one of my brother Jeff's paddling buddies the other day who just happens to be a well respected gynecologic oncologist (try to say that out loud 3 times!).  I wanted to talk to him about the impending oopherectomy (ovary removal).  My gynecologist had recommended a hysterectomy and when I stopped for a minute to think about that, I wanted to speak with someone else to get another opinion.  It seems a little much to just remove all those lady parts when only the ovaries need to go.  Dr. C recommends just the oopherectomy; he thinks that a hysterectomy is unnecessary in my case and that my recovery time will be longer.  He also reminded me that it is ok to slow down because as long as I am getting regular screening, there is no rush to go under the knife for this immediately.  It was very cool to have a candid conversation with a doctor.  My sister Karen has a friend who is a surgeon up north and I have spoken to him a few times throughout my treatment to ask for another opinion.  I feel like both of these guys have helped me immensely with their objective opinions and I feel like their input has provided both reassurance and the confidence to really talk to my doctors about my concerns and questions.   

My hair is growing back!!  I have hair!!  I am so excited about it.  It is still super short and while I'd like to think it's Mia Farrow-ish circa Rosemary's Baby, it is really more Monchichi right now.  Not very glamourous!  It also has lots and lots of gray.  I do not care.  I am glad to have it and I even like the way it looks at the moment.  It is still so short that it is zero maintenance, but I have enough of it to use SHAMPOO, which is really cool considering how I have been washing my head with soap for months now.  I even have bad hair moments now!  Sometimes it will poke up and look a little unruly.  So exciting!  Pretty soon, it is going to start looking weird because it is long enough on my neck and over my ears that I might need a trim.  I don't want to end up with a mullet or anything.

As far as the boobal area goes, I am getting used to the way that the expanders look and am grateful to have two that look basically alike and not so strange to attract any attention.  They are still very uncomfortable.  Just to remind you, these things are like bricks on my chest.  They are absolutely immovable.  They do not bounce or wiggle or slide to the sides when I lay down.  Think Barbie boobies, only not as soft.  The perks are that I don't ever have to wear a bra and the shadow of my right bump looks not so bad on the ceiling of the radiation room.  Because it is like a Barbie boobie.  I guess I am still just getting used to them, which makes me very much look forward to getting some real fake boobs.  Yay implants!  I can't wait.

Kim had her prophylactic mastectomy a week and a half ago now.  She is recovering very well.  She had the DIEP flap surgery where they remove your breast tissue and make new boobs out of belly fat.  She was even able to keep her nipples and I think that she is very pleased with the outcome so far.  Not many surgeons are skilled with this surgery, so she had it done in Charleston and Karen met her there to be with her while she recovered.  Annabel and I drove down last weekend to visit and were there when Kim came home from the hospital on Sunday.  She is a real trooper and is very mobile for someone who had surgery like that.  We were there when she got the call from her doctor that her pathology was clear and there was no cancer, so that was a great relief.  I am astounded by her bravery to have the surgery!  It is not entirely uncommon for women who are at high risk to go ahead and have the surgery before they are struck with cancer, but I can't imagine how hard it would be to make the decision to go ahead with it.  I am not sure that I would have the courage to do it if the situation were reversed and I'm really proud of her for taking control of the like this.  Cancer is awful and I know for sure that I don't want to see anyone in my family or any of my friends go through it. 

Annabel is doing great.  I SO love being her Mommy!  She is amazing.  We started going to Gymboree again last week and I think she is enjoying getting out of the house and playing with the other kids.  She is still all about her shows and is very opinionated about nearly everything.  If we let her, she would live on "choc milk" alone.  It is ridiculous.  Her vocabulary continues to increase daily and I am always amazed and impressed by what she has to say.  And she is very observant!  Nothing gets by her.  While we were in Charleston, we laid down in bed to take a nap and she told me that I was on the wrong side of the bed, that's where Daddy sleeps.  And would not stop until I got up and went around to the other side.  So picky!  And amusing!  Annabel is with Mimi and Pop Pop tonight for a visit and Scott and I are going to finally spend some time together.  I feel like I haven't seen him in a long time because I've been so exhausted lately that I go to sleep with Annabel every night!  I am looking forward to a date with my husband.

That is the update!  It is still snowing.  Not good.  Can somebody please do something about that and make it go away?  Thank you!