Friday, May 28, 2010

Where to start....

Jack ran fever Sunday night and Monday, so we took him to the doctor. His ears and chest were clear, so the doctor felt that is was likely something viral. Kevin was working in Texas this week, and he wasn't comfortable leaving Jack with me. I was totally up to taking care of him, but we were worried about me being his only caregiver for the week while he had fever. Kevin flew out of Birmingham Monday afternoon, which is halfway to Granny and Papa's house. So, my dad met Kevin in Birmingham Monday afternoon to pick up his favorite little brown package, Jack. Jack has stayed with family and friends for a day or two a few times in the past, but I have NEVER been at home without him for a few days. I missed him SO much. Luz Andrea would agree it was pretty quiet around questions, no sports TV. I missed my boys, but it was kind of nice. Jack was very well behaved for Granny and Papa. I know they enjoyed his visit. Jack is looking forward to doing it again sometime. He especially likes playing with Mallory and Savannah. Jack and Mallory are both 4, and Savannah is only 18 months behind. 
Obviously, it didn't take Jack long to feel better.

This week I really started to feel like myself again. SO nice! I think not having to drive kids to or from school helped me keep my own schedule. Thanks to BJ's visit last weekend, I was able to rest up plenty for the new week. With family gone, I didn't have to cook. Luz and I pretended we were on vacation and ate out more than usual. :) We watched some "girl" TV together, including a rental of Leap Year with Amy Adams...cute movie! One of the first indications that I am beginning to be Cindy again is my sense of humor returns. I like that. 

Physically, I felt better, too. I am doing much better at keeping my headaches away. I have done very well with getting plenty of water, but I have to make sure that I get some caffeine in, too. I do that first thing in the morning now, or at lunch. So, no headaches! What very little hair I have left is coming out again this week. I'm good with that. I have actually considered using tape to just pull it out mess-free, though I haven't...yet that is. My bruises from the very first chemo treatment without the port are starting to go away. That's another plus, I hate looking abused. My appetite is back. I eat all the time...CRAZY! I guess it's the increased metabolism from the chemo. The jittery shakes from the steroids have passed from last week. I do get tired by nightfall, but I think it's because I'm having so much fun. When you don't know how many years you have left in life, it changes ordinary days into something much more satisfying. I expect my chemo regimen will take care of the cancer, but let's face it aggressive chemo can't be good for your body over the long haul...of course neither is too much cheesecake. :)  

I have felt some sensations (I don't know how to describe them otherwise) and knots in my left side this week. I'm not sure what to think of those. They don't hurt, but they do call my attention. I wonder if it is the chemo working or the cancer fighting back. I try not to dwell on it. There is nothing I can do about it right now. I am already doing all I can. No, WE are already doing all we can...praying, staying healthy, treatment, you get the idea. I refuse to dwell on things that I have no control over. I will not become a victim to this. There are too many wonderful blessings in my life to think about rather than complain about the signs God gave me to know I needed treatment and the potentially life-saving treatment itself. God has blessed our family with so many supportive friends and loved ones. 

Last night I read my Praying Through Cancer devotional, a wonderful gift from Dr. Keri Miller who has become my sister's "local big sis." It's an easy read by Susan Sorensen and Laura Geist with contributions from cancer survivors. Kayleen Merry talked about the feeling of being overwhelmed when learning of her leukemia diagnosis. She was a missionary teacher, mother of five (2 adopted and 1 born in the three years just before her diagnosis), frequent moves, and then THIS. I can really identify with her because Kevin and I have had some pretty crazy years ourselves. We married, started the adoption process, I left the public school classroom, Jack was born, we moved, I had cancer...In just the past 10 months, we've lost our beloved dog Birdie, gained an exchange student, and fostered two precious little girls both under age 2. The author talked about being reminded of God's faithfulness through the huge and sometimes traumatic changes in their lives. Kevin and I have both reflected on that in recent months. Like Kayleen Merry, we recognize that God has blessed us through this cancer diagnosis so that we could once again experience His amazing grace and plan, and so that He could be glorified through us. 

Wednesday evening, I took Luz to meet her friend to play tennis. Rather than drive all the way back home and then all the way back across town to pick her up, I decided to visit the Sanctuary Hospice House.  I wanted to finish reading a book I've been reading and enjoy some quiet time. I always feel so peaceful at the hospice house. It's beautiful and quiet, very comfortable. Everyone there is so kind and nurturing. It's sad to me that families only benefit from this beautiful place at the end of their lives or the life of a loved one. Occasionally, I try to take Jack by there to wave and smile in the common area, so that the families can see life. They usually enjoy seeing him, and he stays pretty quiet. This week, however, I sat in the common area and read, one of the highlights of my week.

Thursday, was full of surprises. I had a very nice lunch and did a little shopping with Kevin's mom, Joyce. It was just the two of us, and much easier to talk without the distraction of kids. Thanks, Grandma!  My nurse from our health insurance company called, Denise. She is very nice. Apparently, when you have cancer, or some other serious illness like that, the insurance company assigns you a "case nurse." She is not responsible for claims or anything like that, just me. She checks in to see how I'm doing and feeling. She answers any questions we may have about my situation, and we are free to call her. I think that's pretty awesome. The best part of yesterday was when my two guys made it home. Jack was wide open! 
I would like to wish my Dad a very Happy Birthday today. Happy Birthday, Poppy! I love you and miss you. Can't wait to see you again! Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Muddy Buddies!

Farm Girl

I think it's pretty safe to say that the Friday and Saturday following chemo are the two most difficult days of each round. I'd like to say each month, but I have chemo every three weeks, so it works out to to a little more often than that. They are still manageable, though. Kevin and I have this running joke throughout our relationship...When we first started dating and then traveling together, he was always the gentleman (and still is) to carry the heaviest portion of our load, whatever that portion is...backpack through the airport, groceries, Jack, you name it...The first time it happened it went something like this. Kevin would say, "Don't hurt yourself. Let me carry that for you." I'd reply in my stubborn way, "It's ok. I got it. I was raised on a farm." (Completely untrue.) Kevin: "Yeah, the funny farm." (Kevin now carrying both of our loads.) And so it goes, each time now, whether I am trying to carry 45 plastic shopping bags from the car into the house on one arm to save myself a trip, or luggage, or junk, whatever. Silly I guess, but anyone who knows us, already realizes that we are silly. So, while the weekend after chemo is tough, I'm still that farm girl, and Kevin still helps carry my load. He never complains. He just does it, voluntarily...without complaint, with joy in his heart. I wish he didn't have to, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Chemo weekends are the ones where I muster all my strength just to climb out of bed and sit on the couch with my family. It takes being a farm girl just to do that. Cancer is very humbling. I say all this because I want to share just how much of a blessing it is to have loved ones like my sister-in-law, BJ, help on those weekends. She played with Jack, cooked, played with Jack, nursed me, chauffeured Luz Andrea, cleaned, played with Jack, and did a million different things in a two day period that I would normally do for my family. I love her. Her visit gave me piece of mind, Kevin & Luz a break, and Jack plenty of love and attention.  I slept as much as I could to get ready for the new week. 

Late Sunday afternoon, after the backyard was shaded by the house, I was able to sit in the swing on the back porch and read. This seems like a simple thing, but when I am tired, I can't pay enough attention to read anything. It's the small things that make life wonderful. Jack played outside with Luz and drew on the patio with chalk. Kevin prepared dinner while watching golf, basketball, and baseball. Biscuit snapped at spring insects. Absolute bliss. Thank you, God.

One more thing...Yesterday, I forgot to thank Mrs. Barbara, who drove me to a doctor appointment on Thursday last week to have port-a-cath stitches removed and celebrated my appointment confusion by treating me to lunch at Flowerdale Market. We had a great time, despite the rain and hail. Thanks, Mrs. B. You are the best!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2nd Chemo Treatment Down

Two rounds of chemo down, and seven to go! Monday was a long day, but everything went well. Kevin took me to chemo in Corinth while Mom made her way from Alabama to help with the kids. I take Cisplatin and Adriamycin on Mondays with several other "side dishes" to prevent nausea and such. I go through periods of feeling flushed and nervous that day. I was the belle of the ball this week. I wore my new monogrammed ball cap (a birthday gift from my lil sis), my new circle and triangle earrings from the Gum Tree Festival, and took my new "chemo bag" that Joyce gave me for a birthday gift. I was like a first grader on show and tell day. Pretty silly, but fun. I hate chemo, but I love the Cancer Center in Corinth where my West Clinic Office is. It's like Cheers..where everyone knows your name...Most of the other patients there are older than me. They smile and make small talk with one another as if they were meeting for coffee at McDonald's when the rest of the world is at work on a Monday. Seeing them take their medicine makes it easier for me to take mine. This was the first time to receive my chemo through the port. I have to admit, the initial stick hurt! I don't know why, maybe I was still tender from the actual installation and swelling of it all. At the end of the day, I had the option of leaving the needle in the port, or taking it out to be stuck again on Tuesday. I opted for leaving it in. I'd rather wear my needle for the next day than endure the stick again. I was very careful to keep it hidden from Jack the Question Asker. 

By the time Kevin and I made it home from treatment, Mom was there with Luz and Jack, and everyone was happy. That is about all I remember. Mondays cause "Chemo Brain" for me. It sounds crazy if you've never experienced it, but if you have, you know it's true. If you've never witnessed another person with chemo brain, I can imagine it would be quite hilarious. Funny enough that Jack notices. Basically, it reminds me of the old commercials from the 80's.."This is your brain...This is your brain on drugs." Yep, pretty much scrambled. :) I can't remember things. I talk in circles, I give completely wrong answers to questions. Here is an example. Jack figured out how loopy I was Monday and started making up questions. I told him that the clouds were yellow. OOPS! Look out Kindergarten teacher! I'm told, since I don't remember, that he thought that was the funniest thing he'd heard and only motivated him to ask further questions. Jack has learned to find ways to spend quiet time with me when I am down and out during chemo week. He "cuddles" with me. We cuddle up in bed and talk about everything, school, stories, songs, friends, whatever. I just love to hear his little voice. It usually ends with me falling asleep and him running off to play, but I love those moments. Luz Andrea kept me company by watching Dancing with the Stars in the bedroom recliner. I was in and out of asleep most of the time, but I knew she was there. I will miss her so much when she leaves in a few weeks. 

Mom took me to chemo on Tuesday. For Jack, Tuesday is Tumblebus Day at preschool. For me, Tuesday is Taxol Day at the West Clinic. I read a little, talked with Mom and some of the other people in the chemo room. There was one lady and her mother who were both there together, as patients. I don't remember what kind of cancer the mother had, but the daughter had brain cancer removed via surgery and still had cancer in her sternum. When you are in the chemo room, it doesn't really matter what kind of cancer you have, you are a cancer fighter, enough said. The daughter asked how old I was. I told her 36. She was nice. I like that she made small talk with Mom. A new lady sat to the right of me in another big red chair. This was her first treatment. I could tell by the way Jerri, one of the nurses, was explaining everything to her. I wondered if she was scared, what her story was, etc...I decided not to comment or make small talk. I really wasn't up to it anyway.

My good friends and Bunco buddies, Rhonda and Amy, brought dinner Tuesday afternoon, chicken lasagna, salad (which Kevin loves), bread and dessert cookies. Muy delicioso! Thanks ladies! Every single bit of it is gone! Even the leftovers were fantastic. 

Jack had a tee-ball game Tuesday night. I was really looking forward to going. In the end, I just couldn't summon the energy. Mom stayed home with me, while Kevin took Luz Andrea and a friend to watch Jack play. I am so disappointed that I missed it. Apparently, Jack is starting to figure out this ball thing. He stopped a couple balls and hit pretty well. My favorite part of the story when they returned home was that Jack was rounding third base when he noticed HIS bat lying in the dirt. Instead of running home, he went straight to the bat and put it in it's place in the dugout before finishing his run home. That's my little hall monitor, always following the rules. :) Go Braves!

Wednesdays are shorter chemo days, mainly for raising my white count. Mom went home after our lunch on Wednesday. I know it's hard for her to leave me. She planted a Mother's Day plant I've been wanting to get in the ground for me. I can't wait for it to begin to climb. She took care of every thing she could think of before giving in to reality and leaving for her 3 1/2 hour trip home. I can't imagine how difficult it must be. I hate leaving Jack at school when he's had a bad morning. I love you, Mom. 

I've received several nice gifts, thoughts, prayers, emails, calls, and visits this week. The time runs together, but I'd like to thank all the support I've received from my WGU friends and coworkers. I appreciate your patience and understanding and encouragement. The DT ladies sent me a pink t-shirt just like the one they wore in the Race for the Cure in Salt Lake City last weekend...AWESOME! Thanks, Barb! One of my best friends from Prattville, Carolyn, sent a birthday care package with a summer gown, short light house coat and caps knitted by her mother. Thanks, C! They are all so soft and comfortable. Laura sent a box of fun stuff from New Mexico that have special meaning as she is a cancer survivor, herself. My neighbor, Shannon, stopped by for a visit just yesterday with a thoughtful bag of goodies. I'm chewing some of the gum right now. I especially appreciate the offer to help with Jack. I want his life to be as normal as possible right now. Watching him play in the cul-de-sac is a huge deal. Mrs. Susan, who just lost her own sister to cancer, picked up Jack to play with her grandson, Wren, yesterday. I didn't have to worry about him. Mrs. Susan spoils them both. When Kevin brought him home, he was asleep with new silly bands on his arm. My neighbor and friend, Jane, took Luz to school for me Friday morning for exams, without hesitation, even though she already carpools almost all of Garden Park. Kevin's mom, Joyce (AKA in my blog world as Grandma), checked Luz out of school and brought lunch for the three of us from Newks. The broccoli cheese soup hit just the spot on a cool rainy day. Karen brought casseroles from the church, which will be very helpful next week when Kevin is gone overnight for a couple days. Thank you so much casserole club! That's one less thing to worry about right now. Mrs. Karen, Luz's exchange student rep from ICES, picked her up for a party in Tupelo, again, not on her way. Luz was able to have a great Friday night and see another one of her international friends off. My brother's wife, BJ, came to help with the kids. She has cleaned, cooked, and played all day long. That means more to me than she'll ever understand, just knowing that the rest of the house can have some routine. Father Tom called to offer blessings, mass and Eucharist any time I'd like; and I ran into Father Henry on Wednesday who was as quiet and supportive as usual. I love his sincerity. As you can see, we are humbled and blessed by support from all over the country, from friends and family in Philadelphia and New York, to new family south of the border in Queretaro, Mexico. We fill your love, strength, and support. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chemo Week #2...but who's counting, right?

I's been almost a whole week since my last post, but you know...I have been known to go a whole year before. So, consider yourself lucky. :)

The past week has been crazy with me working as hard as possible to make up for my days out and inefficiency at work during chemo week. Everything went fine with my port installation Thursday. I decided not fill my pain medicine, because I knew I would have to drive within 24 hours. It really wasn't bad at all. My left chest felt like I had attempted one too many push-ups. Believe me, one WOULD be too many push-ups for me. :) My mom went with me, since Kevin couldn't go. He, too, was trying to work as hard as possible in the days leading up to this week. Kevin's mom brought a cake and birthday presents over that afternoon to help me celebrate my birthday. What a treat! I especially like the bag she brought. I call it my "chemo bag." It has nice compartments inside and is strong enough for me to pack several things for a day in the big, red chair. My mom Thanks to all of you for the sweet cards and letters and birthday wishes I've received. I do look forward to the mail. Jack especially like checking the mail these days.

Friday was even busier. I took everyone to school drove the hour to Corinth for blood work (which is fine, a little low, but still in the normal range) and my pre-chemo doctor visit. Drove the hour back home, loaded the car, checked the kids out of school, and headed northwest to Memphis for Sean and Kristen's wedding rehearsal. Jack talked the whole way! I was worried about how he would do in his first wedding role as ring bearer, but he was well-behaved and responsive to strangers giving him directions. It was storming the whole trip from the hotel to the wedding site for practice. Really a downpour...I could barely see. Jack was watching for lightening. Unfortunately, the storms meant that the indoor practice wasn't exactly right for the outdoor wedding that was planned. We prayed for a break in the weather Saturday.

Saturday was a restful day for me. Kevin and Tim (father of the groom, Jack's godfather, Kevin's brother) took Jack down to the barbecue cook-off. Kevin had to work there for a little while, and Tim was a big help in keeping Jack happy. Then, Jack got to ride the Memphis trolley. May is filled with Memphis in May concerts and activities. So, the guys had plenty to do. Luz and I did some window shopping to get some fresh air, then she treated me to lunch at an Italian bistro. We rested the rest of the afternoon. I got to read a little and napped so I'd have energy for the wedding.

If you don't want to read about the wedding, you can skip this paragraph. :) There was, indeed a break in the weather with no rain. The wedding was beautiful, especially Kristen's dress! Jack was very well-behaved, and wore his tux from 3:30pm until we went home that night. It was HOT! The humidity was a killer. I sat on the front row so Jack could see me, and we'd have quick rescue access for any ring bearer meltdowns. Kevin told Jack to stick with "Matt the Hat" best man and groom's brother. So after Jack very slowly and methodically walked up the aisle carrying the same pillow that was used for Grandpa Jack and Grandma Joyce's wedding over 50 years ago, he walked right up to Macho Matt and handed him a beautiful white pillow, adorable. Jack had the best seat in the house, between the minister and the wedding couple. Too funny! I was worried about him being in the way, but not as much as Kevin. In the end, no one broke their leg and Jack did fine. Toward the end of the wedding festivities it started to rain again. Thank you God for allowing this couple to have their dream wedding outside. It made the humidity more acceptable.

Sunday, I enjoyed cooking one final "mommy meal" before the chemo yuckies set in this week. It was nice to sit around the table with our comfort food, poppyseed chicken, brown rice, and veggies. Sunday was also a day of rest for me, as the wedding wore me out, mainly the heat. Most of my hair is gone. I'm glad I stayed in a hotel this weekend to shed my hair somewhere else, it was pretty out of control. Don't worry, I went armed with my Lysol disinfectant and sprayed the entire room to the point that Luz was choking. :)

Yesterday, was chemo day 2a. It went fine. I really like the West Clinic. Everyone knows my by my first name, they ask about Jack. It's very informal. Three cheers for Jerri and Jill. Bloodwork was fine and chemo is still on schedule for this week. Kevin was in and out making work calls. Some ladies from a nearby church brought fresh-baked cookies by for the chemo patients. Can you believe it? How kind! My two chocolate chip pecan cookies were still warm and gooey. They were so yummy I couldn't eat them both at the same time. I was able to clarify which allergy medicine I can take in this aweful pollen season we are having. That is what is causing my sore throat. I cough some at night too, hate that! We are still not completely sure what is causing my horendous headaches, but we think it's the lack of caffeine. I'm making sure I get some in daily, but I was getting a great deal more previously. I cannot imagine how difficult drug detox must be. Remember that next time you can't say no to that cheesecake and say a prayer for those addicted to drugs. I was fine during chemo and on the trip home. We were able to use the port, so nice and easy! I was still swollen around the site, so it was a little painful when they needle went in. I expect it to improve by next time, though. I was pretty sleepy by the time we went home, though. My nausea medicine makes me tired and dizzy. So, I slept for most of the night. I just got up for a few minutes a couple of times. I ended up eating yogurt for dinner instead of Kevin's special speghetti. I need the rest more. Jack and Luz are doing good. Jack sat in bed with me for a little while while I slept, and Luz watched Dancing with the Stars from the recliner in my bedroom last night. I barely aware of their presence, but it was so nice just to have them close by. Thanks kiddos.

Thanks, Melanie, for the awesome birthday present! I love the lotion and Burt's Bees stuff. Jack had so much fun pulling the packing peanuts out to find everything. I especially like the card. You rock! Marie, I plan to get your casserole dish back to you soon. Thanks so much for the pasta/shrimp meal. It was delicious! Juies chocolate cake was to die for!

Today is chemo day 2b. I have to get ready to go now. It's Taxol day. So, I'll be freezing and flushing. I think I'll dress warmly. I'll try to check in tonight. Don't be too surprised if I don't.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Little Nervous

Well, I'm still a little nervous about my scratchy throat. No fever, I'm just concerned about it turning into a sinus infection or something with the pollen count so high. I'm not quite sure what to do about it. 

 I get my port-a-cath tomorrow. I know it will make chemo easier, but I'm not really thrilled about it. I can't stand the thought of knowing I'll be awake, numbed and sedated, but awake. I picture it like the dentist. They said I'd feel tugging, but no pain. I think the fear of pain is worse. I'll survive. 

 Jack was an absolute angel today. He made a happy plate at dinner, and shared half of his ice cream sandwich with me. He brought home an award from pre-school for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm so proud of him. He said it all by himself over the phone for Kevin tonight. He is growing up way too fast. I love him so much.

I received the sweetest card and inspirational book from my good friend, Blake, today. Thanks, Blakey! Fr. Henry and I had a very nice phone conversation. He is such a great listener, truly a joy to talk with. I love his quiet way. Several of you sent emails and texts, and I truly appreciate that. I was thrilled to reconnect with an old friend from my old church youth group today. Pretty cool. 

Pray that my white cell count will be high enough for the procedure to go on as planned. Pray also for a simple procedure tomorrow morning and that Dr. Harrison will have steady hands guided by our Lord. I'd like to write something more inspirational, but I'm really tired right now. So, I'm going to listen to my body and go to bed.

Day 16

I'd like to start this post by paying tribute to a brave, wonderful, Christian woman and friend, Lisa Palladino. Lisa went to live with our Lord in Heaven on Monday this week. She learned that she had adenocarcinoma of the lung in September last year. The months between then and now have not been easy for her, or her family. While I know she is no longer suffering, my heart breaks for her family and loved ones. In fact, our whole community mourns her loss. Lisa organized the nursery at our church and was very involved with youth activities, at church and school. She loved my little Jack and welcomed him into the nursery each Sunday with her warm smile. Lisa's family was blessed with one last Mother's Day with her family on Sunday, but I know every day will be Mother's Day for them.

My Mother's Day was magnificent. We went to the 8am mass so that we could make the 11am seating for lunch at the Hilton for Mother's Day. Luz gave me a beautiful necklace from the Gum Tree Festival, and the family gave me a new swing. I love it! You can let the back down so it becomes a bed. There is a canopy over it that I would not have appreciated pre-chemo. Now I can swing this summer without worrying about the sun. The very best Mother's Day gift was Jack's verbal list of "Things I Love about Mommy" on the way from church to lunch. So touching. It was a restful day for much so that I woke from an almost three hour nap thinking it was Monday morning. Crazy!

I just love irony. I always find it amusing. I told Kevin just Sunday that I was "going to be mad if my hair doesn't fall out and I shaved my head for nothing." Well, my nurse, Jerri, told me it would fall out by day 15, and she was right on the money. It's been falling out since Monday. For whatever reason, I've always been interested in men with balding heads, by interested I don't mean attracted to, though I am very much in love with one in particular. :) I've always kissed my dad on the back of his head where he has less hair. I once dated a guy who shaved his head. I have friends with no hair. This is just a revelation I've made recently. I have thin, fine hair naturally. So, I've always worked hard to take care of the hair I have to keep it. Translation: I've worried about losing my own hair. Again...there is the irony. None of that matters now. I'm losing my hair, and it's ok with me. If you don't want to read about how dramatic hair loss occurs, you should skip the next paragraph. I'm just sayin'....
This is another, graphic Cindy description...Sorry...Have you ever been sunburned? I hope not, but if you are like me and have this may help you understand drastic hair loss. You go to bed one night with beautiful sun-kissed skin, a little tender, but proud of the tan you expect to develop. The next morning, you awake with, much to your horror, itchy white flakes. It starts small, but depending on your skin and the severity of the burn (which is BAD for you, and I don't recommend sunbathing) the small flakes turn into larger ones. You try not to think about it and moisturize with lotion, but you know the peel is inevitable. Ultimately, you give in and do whatever you can to get it over with. You peel it yourself, you exfoliate, you dry off roughly after showers, probably other things that escape my mind right now, but you try to accelerate the process. At least after the peel, your "now fair again skin" will be smooth. That is what it's like to lose your hair overnight. You know it's coming. There is nothing you can do about it. It's not pretty, but you want it to be over so you can at least have a smooth head. My hair falls on my shirt and shoulders like I've just had a haircut. I can't keep my hands off my head. I keep looking in the mirror to see just where the line is now. I guess you could say I'm shedding. I am definitely glad I shaved it in advance. If I had not, I'd look mangy right now. 

I met the general surgeon who is going to install my VAD, or "port-a-cath," this week. I'm getting it for my birthday Thursday, assuming my white cell count is high enough. Dr. Harrison seemed nice. I really liked him. Kevin won't be here. He will be in Smithfield for his year end review. He can't help it and would rather be here, and I completely understand. My mom will be with me. It will be outpatient, and I expect it to be very low key. In fact, I plan to travel to Memphis this weekend for my nephew's wedding. I'm really looking forward to it. Jack's going to be the ring bearer. I just hope he doesn't do like he did at tee-ball last night and run over to Jack midway for a drink of Gatorade. He needed one while he was on the field.

Mom and I had a nice lunch at the Village Green yesterday. Thanks, Mom! I love their quiche. She let me pick out my birthday present, a beautiful beaded/stoned matching necklace/earring set. It's just the colors I wear. She also bought me a charm bracelet like the Pandora ones. I've been wanting one. It's going to be my "cancer bracelet." I'll add a couple beads each time I have chemo. When I've finished all nine rounds, it will be full. I'm pretty excited about it.

My throat was a little scratchy when I went to bed last night. I'm watching it carefully. No fever, though. I try to avoid crowds and keep my hands washed. I refuse to give up my life. I'll have to be very careful at the wedding. I get a tired easier than I'd like, but I'm doing well, getting my water in, still need to up the protein. I feel like I eat all the time, though. I'm checking into the "Hallelujah Diet" though. My friend, Binky, recommends it. She's going to bring me some information about it if I ever tell her when. Anybody know about it? I'm concerned about the fact that it is strictly vegan. My doctor says I need protein.

Cards, emails, calls, and texts continue to come in. We are overwhelmed with love and support. Thank you.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all friends who are mothers, be it birthmother, fostermother, adoptive mother, step-mother, grandmother...I am honored and blessed to be a member of this club. :) 

Happy Mother's Day especially to my own mother, Donna. I miss you today, but I can't wait to see you this week. Sometimes, I wonder how you did it...working long hard hours day in and day out before chauffeuring us to ball practice, cheerleader practice, doctor visits, church, dance, gymnastics, swim lessons, friends' houses, and anything else that went on. You were team mother, cheerleader uniform seamstress, and a number of other roles - voluntarily, without compensation, without a complaint. You helped with school projects after finding out about them at 8pm on the night before they were due. When I was frustrated about homework that I thought I couldn't do, you dodged a thrown textbook and patiently told me to go pick it up and try again. You cooked dinner every night during a time when McDonald was a treat for kids, not a daily expectation. You spanked us when we needed it, and now I know that it truly did hurt you more than it hurt us. Thank you for teaching us the difference between right and wrong. You endured the awful teenage years of a smart-mouthed daughter, I finally learned what "back-talk" was. You taught me to hold my shoulders back, keep my chin up and  believe in myself, because "Can't never could." Mom, you did it all from scratch, without a model of your own, because you lost your own mother when you were five. I love you so much! Thank you for all the sacrifices you made on my behalf. 

Happy Mother's Day to Kevin's mother, Joyce. Thank you for the amazing job you did raising my wonderful husband. He is the most considerate, caring, patient, generous person I know. I tell Luz all the time not to marry until she meets her "Kevin." He treats me like a queen and takes care of our family in every way. He works hard on the job and at home, placing God and family above all else. Kevin leads our family spiritually. He teaches Jack how to be a gentleman by his own example, holding doors, shaking hands, saying please and thank you, using his gift of conversation to make others feel better about themselves. Kevin loves life and is never too proud to laugh.  Thank you for raising him to have such strong faith in God. He is Jack's hero and my best friend.

Happy Mother's Day to Jack's birth mother. You are an amazing woman. What you did was not easy. You gave Jack life when his birth father was willing to abort him. You saved his life and selflessly gave us a family. You carried him for nine months, while complete strangers in the grocery store congratulated you on motherhood, asked if it was a boy or girl and when you were due. You endured the judgment of those who looked down their long noses at you for offering Jack a better life than you knew you could provide. You walked a mile to the bus stop to make regular visits to the doctor. You kept Kevin and me informed of his every development. You suffered heartburn from hell. You invited me to be a part of Jack's birth and to stay with you in the hospital after he was born. I saw you hold him in your arms and love him and kiss him when you knew he was not going home with you and didn't know when, if ever you'd see him again. I saw you carry him out of the hospital into his first sunlight. I heard you tell him you loved him before getting into a different car and forcing yourself to move on to the next chapter of your life. My heart broke for you. I know it wasn't easy, and that you still love him. We give him all the birthday and Christmas presents you send each year. We save all the birthday cards for the day when he will appreciate them. We think of you daily and thank God for your courage. Our lives will always be connected. To read about Jack's birth...

Happy Mother's Day to all foster moms. Being a foster mom is more difficult than being a substitute teacher. You are loving a child who has been through some pretty traumatic times, regardless of the path they took to your home. You love these children knowing that there is a chance you may never see what they blossom into. I loved both of my foster-daughters this year and continue to think of them often. You were mine while I had you. I pray for your protection. 

Finally, Happy Mother's Day to all host moms. I have truly enjoyed being Luz Andrea's mother for a year. She has taught our family many cool things about Mexican culture. It's not easy helping a teenager overcome stereotypes in a world away from her family. It won't be easy to put her on that plane to Mexico in June, but I know we will see her again. We will miss you dearly.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Mommy without hair

Mommy without hair
Originally uploaded by
Ok...this is my first official hairless picture. The first of many I'm sure. The peach ribbon represents my cancer. The funny part is that I hate the droopy left eye more than the lack of hair. Neuropathy from chemo seems to be making it worse than usual, or the lack of hair makes it more noticeable.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Since learning that my cancer has returned, my family has received amazing support from friends, loved ones, and people like you who read this blog. We receive daily text messages from some, constant prayer, meals, play invites for Jack, cards, voicemail, visits, and the list goes on. Today, though, I received something really cool and different in the mail. This is in addition to the yummy homemade mac and cheese and pie Mrs. Betty sent for dinner and a visit from my favorite Harden House ladies, Stephanie, Mrs. Nancy, and Erica. My mail surprise was card from a great friend, former student, and fellow cancer survivor, Laura. A card you say? Yes...a card. What makes this card so cool and special is that it said the following, "Have a great NORMAL week!" Isn't that cool? Nothing like cancer to make you celebrate a normal week. Thanks, Laura!!! You rock! 

Today was a pretty normal day for me, and I loved every second of it...except for that one small scene after dinner when I couldn't find a pitcher for mixing Luz juice (what I call Crystal Light). It wasn't pretty. Driving Luz Andrea to tennis after school today didn't feel tedious as it did in the fall. It was a beautiful day! I took my Twilight book and read on the deck. Remember creation? There would be no light without darkness. It's the challenges we face that help us appreciate serenity.

The quote of the day, though, was after Luz and I returned home from the tennis club. Jack was busy playing with friends in the backyard. They were in swim trunks enjoying the 90 degree temperature by running through the sprinkler and playing on the swing set. I went into the back yard to watch the boys run and play. The porch is nice and shady in the afternoon. It wasn't very long after I went outside when the older friend told his little brother, "Uh, we gotta go home." I thought it was a little odd that they needed to leave so abruptly, but ok. When I went back into the house, I walked past a mirror and realized that I had gone outside sans cap or wig of any kind. So funny! Luz and I laughed out loud! This is the new me. My family and I have grown used it it. Normally, I would have a cap on in the back yard to keep the sun off my head. Poor little guys. I hope I haven't traumatized them too badly. 
 My mouth sores are improving. I ate pretty well today. I treated my headache early in the day with Tylenol, and I was able to drink plenty of water today. :) Looking forward to a fantastic Friday and a visit from my friend Marie. :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


When I was little, my mother used to remind me to behave with the admonition that "you never know who is watching." When I became a fourth grade teacher I cajoled my students to behave in the hall to earn "brag points" because you never know who is watching. Kevin and I make a big deal to our son, Jack, when someone brags on him when he doesn't know they were watching. It seems to be a pretty effective behavior management long as someone is watching. I'm not sure why I am so surprised in my mid-30s to realize that people are still watching. When we learned I had endometrial cancer not quite two years ago, Kevin and I were completely humbled by the support of our friends, family, and community, even complete strangers. In 2008, cancer was a blessing to us. It was a fleeting reminder of God's plan for our family. Surgery went well. I didn't look like I had cancer. At times I even felt guilty that people were so concerned for me. The support was tremendous. People were watching. They were watching to see how we were, what kind of help we needed, and who knows what else. I do not bode well with attention. It's hard for me to endure that moment when someone hugs me tight.  It frightens me to think that a tear may fall before that final second of release. I don't know why...maybe it's my independence...control. What I have come to realize is that it's not people who are watching, it's God...through their eyes. I'm ok with that. I have learned to appreciate the hugs, the calls, the blessings, the notes, and especially the prayers. They are the visual reminder that God, indeed, is watching over my family and me. 

Thank you for all the reminders of the support that we have. Thank you for reminding me that God's control is enough. Thank you for becoming the friends that I didn't even know I had. Thank you for permission to be sick and the pep rallies that follow. 

Today is a beautiful day. I feel like me again. I was up early to take the kids to school. Kevin's mom often says...Every day is a gift from God. What you do with it is your gift to Him. Happy Tuesday, God. :)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

This morning started off really slow. I just couldn't quite pull myself together. My heart would beat like I was running a marathon forcing me to slow down and rest. Finally, I think it was "take 4" I was able to finish dressing...thank goodness I didn't have to fix my hair! See, those blessings just keep on coming. :) Amanda helped me get my clothes ready and really took good care of me this morning while the boys were  off running "man errands." I finally made some time to call back a few folks who had checked in on me, my poppy, Kevin's mom, Father Henry, and a few others. I'm super-siked about Grandma making me some of her cream potatoes! Amanda was the MVP of the day for helping me find an AWOL shirt that I'd been looking for. I still can't believe I cried over a shirt. 

After the boys made it back, we all went for lunch at Old Venice Pizza Company, one of my favorites. I made sure to order enough four cheese pizza that I would have leftovers, even after sharing with Jack. It was nice to get out and feel normal. Just sitting through lunch conversation made me really tired, though. I feel like I am being so lazy, but I just can't get up the energy to be productive. I am so grateful for those that have been so much help. Jack's been a little more quiet than usual, but a visit from Uncle Tony and Aunt Manda, paired with one Daniel Whitfield have made for an adventurous Saturday. As I type, he and Daniel are covered in mud in my backyard. YIKES! Really happy that I don't have to clean them up.

The best part of my day so far was taking a nice long nap after lunch, you know the feeling... a nice cool bed on a rainy day. Another blessing from above. :)  I am truly grateful for this slow-paced day. It was much needed. 

Planning to stay in and watch a movie with my sister tonight before she goes home tomorrow.
Aunt Manda helping Jack out of the tub in my bathroom last night...Jack: "There's my momma's two hairs." (While pointing at my wigs on their stands). Giggles and follows up with, "They come off." PRECIOUS! Jack now helps pick out my hair and shoes. ;)