Wednesday, March 24, 2010


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 is a link.....  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 you can see that my hair is, in fact, growing....