Finding those silver linings

Back in 2010 when I was originally diagnosed I remember a conversation I had with my dad. We were laughing hysterically as I was describing one of my many bizarre medical tests. We were on the telephone and tears were streaming down my face – probably because if I wasn’t laughing hysterically I would have been crying maniacally. It was definitely a cross-breed for sure! When all of a sudden my great big, manly-man, stoic dad said to me, “You are always finding those silver linings my Katie Mae and I am so proud of you, keep doing that!”

The conversation stuck with me because it was at that point that I realized how much we ALL needed some silver linings. Cancer sucks the life out of you but finding those silver linings is kind of like giving cancer the finger every now and then. And my dad LOVED sticking it to the man! Ha. (Unless he was said man and with five kids that was sometmes the case!) And they don’t call me “Bobina” for nothing.

With those silver linings in mind – I bounced, okay bounced is way too much, I hauled, yes hauled (silver linings or not I am not Mary Poppins?) myself back into the cancer center to crank out the new chemo regimen 5 of 12 this week. Fatigue, bone aches, pains, stomach issues and some crying eyes but it can always be worse! Five down, seven more to go!

As far as the silver linings – I took my kiddos to the cancer center last week after hours to get a tour. They are 9,10 and 11 and had a lot of questions. I was curious as to the questions. First, they were so excited to meet all the nurses that take good care of me. All the nurses I know by name since it’s been five years together. My middle kid said, “Wow, you are really popular there mom! They all know you and they know about us.” It was pretty funny. And my oldest couldn’t wait to try out the recliner and inquire about what is in those “bags that they hang”? My youngest was mostly enamored with the cookie she got when she walked in. The funny part was listening to them talk amongst themselves on the way home. You see – these three kids have seen WAY TOO MUCH cancer  in their short little lives. This is the second time for my own but they watched my Mom, my Dad and their very young uncle die of this horrible disease.  So, in their minds this cancer center should have looked like some sort of torture chamber. All these kids see is how sick everyone gets after coming home from here! I hadn’t ever really thought about that part of their perspective. They all seemed much happier knowing the cancer center had become “Mom’s Cheers” – yes, everyone knows my name and they have very comfortable chairs! As well as TV’s and fish tanks. By the time we drove the five blocks home they were convinced it was a pretty decent place. SILVER LINING!

So – that’s where we are at – silver linings! We had a great summer at the lake and here at home with friends and family who visited. And we managed to make my treatments work for us. The kids decided that although my bald head wasn’t ideal in summer my scarves were fun. And at least I could swim bald up at the lake.

And the last SILVER LINING – I love my kids but I CANNOT WAIT for school to start! Ha. I am usually the mom that is not looking forward to the structure, but with these treatments zapping my energy – back to school time is looking SO appealing. Until then we will continue to find those silver linings – so all of you out there back to school shopping like heathens – if you see a bald lady coming at those Ticonderoga pencils gimme a break huh?

And thanks again for all the meals, childcare and generally AWESOME well-wishes, encouragement, support and love!

The rollercoaster ride of cancer treatment

So many details. So much has unfolded over the last few weeks. I am not sure where to even begin.

Well – at last blog I was feeling hopeful and excited regarding treatment recommendations from the incredible doctors at UW-Madison. I was also feeling excited about what my trusted Dr. G would think of said recommendations. Madison responded with recommendations to scan and if scan showed treatment had worked then they would recommend surgery to remove lymph nodes followed by the same drug I was on prior to this recurrence. However, Dr. G spoke with the breast surgeon at UW-Madison, Dr. W and explained his recommendations were different. Ahh – and there’s the ‘rub’ of cancer treatment. Two incredible doctors, two different opinions and one patient to make the right decision. What is the right decision?

Dr. G felt strongly that we continue with the course and follow up with twelve weeks of weekly chemo, surgery, radiation and then look into a different “class” of drug as my every day cancer killer. These two extremes are so very different, on the one hand Madison would like to be as non-invasive as possible and Dr. G would like to go full throttle at a chance at another glorious partial remission.

So, the hubs and I sat down along with my BFF, JP, who was in town visiting and talked it out. We methodically went through each scenario, exhausted huddled around the kitchen table we hashed and rehashed.  In the end, we went in to Dr. G’s office feeling confident we wanted to stay the course with his treatment plan and mix in a few of Madison’s recommendations as well. We would like to do a scan now and see if the really hard chemo did what it was supposed to over the past four treatments. We also wanted to do the lymph node surgery in Madison with the breast surgeon, Dr. W. And we wanted to hear what Dr. G thought of Madison’s plan after he spoke with them.

Dr. G spent a great deal of time going over the different scenarios with the hubs and I. He agreed that Madison’s plan wasn’t aggressive enough.  He felt strongly that we had a good chance of at least a partial remission if we went full steam ahead. He agreed to a ct scan to check the nodes. And that very day we began treatment one of 12 for the next twelve weeks.

The ct scan was scheduled for the day before my second treatment on the new chemo regimen with results about an hour later. I headed in confidently. The first time I did hard chemo the results were incredible. Within two rounds my tumors saw a 50 percent shrinkage! And after five rounds I think it was 70 percent or so. I had no reason to believe this time would be any different. I certainly suffered the pain and exhaustion. In my small mind, that was proof it was working right? I saw Dr. G for results. Well, the results were not what we were expecting. It would seem the desired the results are remaining a bit illusive this time around. Essentially, the ct showed no shrinkage. I sat there stunned. What the hell? How is this possible? I was so ridiculously confident I went to this appointment solo…never again! Of course, the unshakeable Dr. G remained confident and positive. We would continue with the new chemo regimen. We would remain confident that while there was no shrinkage, there was no growth either. That was good news. I needed that good news. I tried to look at this news as maybe a boost of confidence in the treatment choice we had just made.

This week I finished treatment two of 12. I sat there in my chemo chair slightly buzzed on my pre-meds thinking about things when next to me a girl rattled off her birthdate for her chemo drugs, she said 1/14/82. Did she really just say that or I am ripped on these pre-meds? Tears welled up in my eyes, 1/14/82 – that is/was my brother Joe’s birthdate. I took it as a sign and the next 2 1/2 hours I kicked back, closed my eyes and knew this was the right course. There he was letting me know from the other side he was right there, right there with me.

Chemo #4 and so much more

So, before chemo #4 (the last of the hardest stuff) could be played out in it’s normal Tuesday scheduling slot -things got a bit, well, all over the place! A few weeks ago my lovely onc Dr. G had suggested heading to a “research hospital” to get a second opinion for the potential of a future breast surgery. I feel certain Dr. G was trying to open up my horizons. I greatly appreciate this.

Time goes on and I check with my insurance Milwaukee or Madison – I have the option. Ok. Well, it just so happens that I have this incredible friend in Jeanine Patten-Coble, founder of Little Pink of Houses of Hope (www.littlepink.org) an incredible nonprofit. Incredible. Anyway – I remembered when Jeanine came to visit my town last year she had mentioned this outstanding surgeon. The surgeon had left Duke and landed right here at UW-Madison! Jeanine had said, she felt so strongly that she would come to UW-Madison from NC just to see her! Fast-Forward to Tuesday of this week (7/7/15 – a historical date for me, this was my first NED PETSCAN I had ever had in 2011).

The hubs and I packed up the car for a little trip to meet Dr. W and I have to say, it wasn’t a wasted trip. Walking through the halls, gave me so much promise and hope. For once, the hubs was out of place with that luscious head of hair! Ha. Yep – bald, scarved, hatted, we all RULED. Refreshing to “fit in”. The meeting with Dr. W went incredible. She will be presenting my case to a board by next Tuesday. We will see what types of recommendations will follow. I am anxious.

With the hope and excitement of Tuesday settling in, the promise of one last hard treatment was ready for Weds. Remember this is my lifetime supply of these lovely drugs. NEVER AGAIN! Would the clotted port work? I know some drugs they don’t like to put in a vein because of the toxicity. Will Dr. G work with UW? Will I need 12 more weeks of hard chemo? Will the plan change? Will radiation be needed? Is this chemo working? How do we know? Oh, oh, the questions I have. Soooo= trying to lift my feet right now.

I am going to try to ride out the roid rage from chemo. I am going to try to cross some items off my list. All my awesome friends who have dropped of meals, drove my kids around, taken care of my family, loved my family. I sure would like to pull myself out of bed and see you all! I feel as though this first half of summer and the debilitating chemo has kept me hidden away. I miss your beautiful faces. Walks with friends, tea or coffee on the deck, book club, family trips to the lake with our kiddos, family trips to Sunset beach with our kiddos, movie Tuesdays!, or sometimes just sending our kids to the park and binge watching something. together! Oh – how I have missed you all.

Until then – thank you for everything. I am blessed and my family is blessed with some incredible people around us. We are forever grateful.

on wiscsonsin

A real pain in my jugular

Ever get the feeling that something  “not right” is about to happen? Ever follow your instincts, based on zero scientific evidence but a feeling, your own intuition? Ever just feel that strongly that you say hell, this is worth looking into, even if it is a pain in the ass to check out?

I am so thankful I did just that last week while the kids and I had our great escape out of town, alone up at the lake. We headed up ready for adventure. Swimming, kayaking and just some relaxed fun before the hubs and other friends and family were to meet us on Thursday evening and Friday for the holiday weekend. It started out well. All three kiddos and I snuggled in comfortably on Tuesday night. I had an aching “kink” or “Crook” in my neck but I was certain it was from sleeping funny the night before. Nothing a great big bed sans the hubs couldn’t fix. By Weds. this kink or crook or whatever  you want to call it was not good. My head was no longer on a “swivel”. Hell it was barely turning side-to-side at this point. Thank goodness my “littles” were cool with a little movie time in between swimming. By late Weds. afternoon the hubs had made the decision he was coming up TONIGHT.

Fast forward to Thursday morning, waking up a bit swollen, with the “kink” or “crook” warm to the touch. Ouch. This was looking not so good. And swallowing was hurting a great deal. Then there was my internal banter happening: “Don’t be dramatic, it’s probably nothing, but if it’s something you’re going to ruin everyone’s weekend! And we really didn’t want to ruin the special, ultimately AWESOME delivery of Lou Malnati’s Pizza making it’s voyage to see me with my BFF. Ugh! The back and the forth! But- seriously for the love of all things sacred, I NEEDED to be able to swallow this pizza by Thursday night. Ha.

After all that-This required a drive back into town to my cancer center. An ultrasound was ordered ASAP and alas there I was on the table. The tech Katie was just who I needed, soothing, calm and very matter of fact. A quick drive back to the cancer center and Voila! I had a 5-6 cm blood clot in my jugular vein. Yep, just hanging around! WHAT IS THAT?!? Totally nonchalant they tell me, pretty common around the catheter for the port. What? I played it pretty damn cool sitting in the chair by myself. Some blood thinners, and some promises to nurses and doctors that I would be “a good girl” for the weekend – ‘aka I wouldn’t get too wild and crazy’ and I was on my way back to the lake as quickly as I had come (and as quickly as that sweet Lou Malnati’s was making it’s way up there!!)Wow. Who knew? I am pretty sure the cutting me loose part had a lot to do with my general look of exhaustion highlighted by my bald dome, black bags and general lack of  sparkle in my eyes. I know it will come back eventually, but let’s just say my illness is making itself known to all those who look at me. Ugh.

So – the holiday weekend was terrific. Friends, family, fireworks,  ‘smores, campfire cones.  Swimming, grilling, bags, boat rides, “deep swimming” from said boat rides. It was all a blast with great people around me. Of course, I changed a few of my fave activities around a bit. There would be no jumping off the back of the boat in my finest belly flop or swankiest dive this year. No, no – the fear of “popping the clot” took over and my graceful ladder entrance took away all my stret cred at once! NEXT YEAR! Scattergories became a new adult fave! And the kids ran around feeling very “Lord of the Flies” so I am thinking my cancer didn’t affect things horribly. EPIC WIN!

When it came right down to it, I felt all those friends and family no longer with us dancing alongside us around that fire. I felt them in every laugh, every smile, every story – they were there. I can’t thank the friends and family who shared this weekend with us enough. Bringing so much love, activity and joy to a place so special was just another EPIC WIN!

Happy Belated Fourth All!

Oh and importing this beauty just made it taste extra special!!
Oh and importing this beauty just made it taste extra special!!

Hair today, gone tomorrow

kate scarfAt last post, I was in limbo on when to shave my thinning, disappearing tufts of hair. Well, I did it and I am glad I did as the strands were hanging on by mere threads. And as I had thought, scarves and hats have come a long way since my last foray into baldness four years ago. Thank goodness this is the case since tying head scarves was not my forte – – at all! Either my eyes were bulging because my scarf was wrapped too tight or bald patchiness was poking out the sides of my too-loose scarf? This delicate balance never came to me?

So, round #3 of the hard stuff went as well as expected this week. The side effects are beginning to become annoying, baffling and downright silly looking! It would seem I am rocking a little bit of an “Oompa-Loompa” orange tint (yes you read that right, Willy Wonka style) to my right side chest and neck where I previously had radiation. They call this “radiation recall”. Well, if nothing else, that movie is one of my all time favorites and immediately noticing my tone as “Oompa-Loompa” orange has been entertaining to say the least.

Another strange side effect is what I refer to as “crying eyes” yes, it would appear that I am walking around in a perpetual emotional breakdown. Fear not! This is a lovely side effect I have dealt with before. Maybe it’s blocked tear ducts or maybe it’s all that pollen and dust not being filtered through my absent nose hairs and eyelashes. Yes, those tiny hairs actually play a huge part in filtering out particles, who knew? This side effect paired with a bald head and general “chemo palor” is NOT a good look! Throw in some black bags under the eyes, due to sleep continually eluding me, and you have a recipe for disaster! Ahh, but those are just appearances – nothing a pair of giant sunglasses and huge floppy hat can’t fix. So, if you see me wearing my “sunglasses at night” please just let me ride this wave out, because I won’t be able to tell who the hell you are with these things on at night! And who knows what I will find in my grocery bags when I get home and can actually SEE what I bought! Ahh, surprises, surprises.

The last side effect I’ve experienced has me bummed – total exhaustion. My sleep cycle is all messed up with these steroids! I could count on my “roid rage” energy after a chemo but lately it would seem my body needs the “roids” therefore I am not getting that breakthrough energy to push me through. I’m taking it in stride. At least it is sweet summertime, when laying around with a good book in the yard, at the pool or at the lake is a socially acceptable tradition. Ok – and if your attention span is limited a bag full of mindless magazines. My kiddos seem to be accepting these limitations as well. With so many wonderful family friends picking up my slack. Making sure my kiddos are taken care of right now, whether it is through car pools, play dates, meal delivery and countless other random acts of kindness. It really does take a village and we have been blessed with our village.

So, I have slapped down three of these harder chemo regimens now, only one more of the really hard stuff to go! Then 12 weekly chemo sessions that should be a bit “lighter” than my current regimen. Oh, I am hoping they are right on that assessment.  Going in for fluids on my chemo weeks has been helping and I am so thankful that something so simple is providing such great relief.

In the meantime, I am going to rock some questionable head fashion with some very large sunglasses and a bit of an “Oompa-Loompa” orange tint and hope for the best.

Feeling all that love and support

shoes for blogSupport, just a ton of love and support is what I have felt for the past two weeks. So many have offered their services from kid-sitting, to meal delivery, to car-pooling. Very humbling is really the only way to describe it.  And when my friend’s wonderful Aunt Connie sent pink ribbon shoelaces and hair bands for the girls, we all thought the girls would be “on top” of the laces. Turns out, I found the pink laces in Jack’s baseball cleats. When asked about this revelation he, very casually, said, “Just showing my support for you ma.” Melted my heart!

So chemo #1 was interesting. It was a different kind of “sick” than my previous chemotherapy treatments. And while round #1 was rough, I have some ideas going into round #2 that may ease the discomfort. First and foremost, I will be asking to make “getting IV fluids” as part of my treatment post chemo. The dehydration was probably the very worst part of this treatment. I was up to drinking almost 80 ounces of water a day and still was sick with dehydration. The sheer exhaustion was disappointing as well. The first time around, a few days down and I was back to myself. This time the toll seemed to linger for a bit longer. So, this time around I will make sure to take EVEN more advantage of my “roid rage” that directly follows chemo. Ha.

So, the hair, oh the hair. It turns out those “drug interaction” info sheets, well they are scary accurate in their assessment on the timing of hair loss. On our way home from the store last night, on the eve of the “ominous 14 day mark” the wind blew and we all gazed in horror as a clump of my hair blew out the window. My lovely middle child noticed first, “there it goes mom” she yelled from the back seat. Oh good grief, with tears welling up behind my sunglasses I felt horror, shame and denial all at once. Luckily, my kiddos are not “newbies” when it comes to my bald dome – they remember it, the remember it well. So, sitting there laughing with them, while a full on panic attack was building beneath my sunglasses, made things a bit more at ease for them. For me, however, not so much. I started “zoning out” trying to figure out why, why was I so panicked? I am not a hair person anyway? It is either short, with no style or long with a pony tail, again no styling happening. (It’s a good thing I have a great stylist in the lovely Miss Leah, she puts up with my lazy styling shenanigans!) But I digress, what was it that was causing so much discomfort? Then like an epiphany it hit me, it’s fitting in with society. It’s going to the stores or for a walk and being like everyone else. I was about to lose that. Being a cancer patient, well it kinda sucks. But – chemo anonymity, well that is kind of welcoming. Soon, there would be no hiding. Everywhere you go, everybody knows. I shall miss my hair, but I will miss my primary role as a mom, wife, friend, sister, etc… that will soon be replaced by cancer patient. Strangers will see me and that is what they will see first. I know I am still all those other roles but that bald dome or pretty scarf is a beacon for stares, questions, and the inevitable – “you’ll beat this”.

I realize a few months of a bald head is well, a small price to pay, and I need to find the silver linings, no shaving my legs all summer long! Boom. I’m over the panic and fear and on to deciding when I will shave my head? Yes, what day would work best for us? Should I try to hold off until after the kid’s baseball games next week? Or will that just be unsanitary? We shall see how it goes. Scarves have come a really long way since my last run! Heck, I couldn’t sleep last night and all I could do was peruse online, yes, I have ordered several. Pre-tied scarves were rare during my first run of baldness and today they are everywhere with different soothing fabrics and all. We shall wait and see…only time and literal “clumps” of hair blowing out in the wind will tell when head shaving is right. Until then, don’t mind my trail of hair, I will try to keep it sanitary…

The fast fade

Well, chemo #1 started out a bit rough, I must admit. Or maybe it was the port placement procedure that got the ball rolling the wrong way? I can’t be sure. At 6:30 a.m. yesterday the hubs and I registered at the hospital. Now, I was under the silly impression this would be outpatient, which I have had enough of and knew where you typically went. However, I found myself being directed to a room on the dreaded 7th floor – – oncology. My heart was skipping all kinds of beats as we entered the hallway and headed straight to the room my brother Joe was in for 10 days before being released to hospice. Yikes, a full on panic attack was making it’s way to the surface. Crap!  “No, no, why are we here?” I settled myself down as we entered the room right next to Joe’s old room.

My lovely, compassionate surgeon Dr. V came to get me and away we went. Now, here’s the thing about placing a port, they are digging a little area in your chest to insert a tube in said “area” and they don’t knock you out? I mean you are numbed and talking a little crazy, but you’re still talking?!?! True story. For about an hour – who knows what the hell I said? I faintly remember talking about lake houses and family cottages, something about Adrian Peterson being mooned by the Packers Bus in Minnesota? WTH? I remember rattling off – at the very end not by coincidence- that Adrian Peterson and the Packers weren’t my forte as I was a Bears fan:) Ha. So, I must have had a few wits left in me:)

Then it was to recovery. The hubs was relieved by one of my besties, the lovely, Mrs. K for our afternoon of chemo. It was a day. After pre-meds, the chemotherapy agents and a quick change to the port dressing, we slipped out about 4 p.m. Of course the lovely Mrs. K couldn’t leave me hanging on just hospital food so we dined at a fav, SAP! Riding that steroid enhanced appetite, I ate way too much. I found myself back at home ready for bed at the same time as my kids. Little did I know this was simply a nap to steroid rage that would follow! I should have recognized the signs.

So from about 3 a.m. on as the rest of my family slumbered peacefully…I banged out several loads of laundry, every permission slip that could be found was signed, sealed and ready for take off, concussion forms for summer sports, printed and organized. Toilets and sinks cleaned for my impending vomit. Dishes done put away. And after all that it still wasn’t time to wake the kids up yet! A quick run to Starbucks for me and an unmentionable fast food place for the kids for breakfast sandwiches, talk about a great wake up for these kids! Hey I figure it’s a peace offering for them, this roid rage isn’t gonna last forever:)

And the light is fading now -I could have lifted up a small compact car a few hours ago. Now, my head is pounding my legs heavy. It was a helluva run while it lasted!

Today – I shall head into my oncologists’ office for a dressing change, port flush and a quick shot to increase my white blood cell counts and then it will be lights out for today.

Thanks again for all your love and support. One down feels damn good. Onward!

The course

After less than two weeks of tests, tests and maybe just a few more tests, my team is assembling. They are looking good so far, everyone seems confident that the treatment plan will work. We are going to start with a hard chemotherapy regimen that is going to have me sporting a bald dome this summer. On the upside, since I’ve already done this before, I know I have a perfectly rounded dome:) And frankly, the baldness may be more liberating than I realize with my perpetual hot flashes. I shall sport sweet scarves and do-rags-and rock a little street cred.

Dr. G is confident that the remainder of my “lifetime supply” of these chemotherapy agents should be used now. Thank goodness new drugs are always on the horizon.

The course, well the course is going to be rough but I know I can stay on it. Now, my body is a bit older this time around and well, it got banged up by that first course of hard chemo, so I am praying that my body can hold the course as well. We will start next Tuesday, right after Memorial Day. I shall enjoy a weekend with friends and family before signing my summer away to treatment. If you know me, you know you haven’t heard the last of me on summer fun – chemo or no chemo!

Tuesday morning I will have my central line port placed, recover and head down to Dr. G’s office for my first round of chemotherapy. If all goes well we will do 4 rounds of this cocktail every two weeks. The plan is to follow it up with 12 weeks of another chemotherapy weekly. Then potential surgery followed by radiation.

I would be lying if  I didn’t admit I am a bit overwhelmed as I look forward without two of my primary “players”. The last time I did the “hard stuff” I had my dad and my best friend and brother Joe by my side. Their absence is felt every day. I know they would both encourage me to give it what I got. And I am blessed as one of my best friends told me, “Hackett – you still got yourself a team here, the roster has just changed a bit”. Damn good way of saying it!

It’s also daunting to think about my sweet kiddos. They are so much older now. They have seen so much cancer and death at such young ages. I am hoping the hubs and I can provide what they need right now emotionally. They are now just about  9, 10 and  11.

So – here I am ready to take on my new roster. A new oncologist – who by the grace of God found the cancer…although I’d like to think my angels had a hand in that as well:) While I am missing a few players, I have been blessed with incredible friends who are willing to just do what needs to be done. I am so grateful for what I have as I embark on this  journey…again!

Now – I am going to just “pick up my feet” and pray that the chemo works.IMG_0490[1]

A storm is rolling in

IMG_0900[1]Well, that five years, that milestone I have been holding my breathe for, it’s going to have to remain illusive for just a bit longer.

A couple of weeks ago, my regularly scheduled CT scan showed everything looking pretty good. And my new oncologist Dr. G seemed encouraged. As he looked over the scan results once, then twice, then three times he looked at me and said, “any pains? Anything unusual? ” I told him I thought I felt something in my left breast while on vacation, but I wasn’t sure. He sort of sat up to attention at this point. ( I have only been with Dr. G since Dr.B’s retirement in December so I am still learning his “tells”. ) He scoured over the CT pictures again and decided it was strange that I had enlarged lymph nodes on my left side under my left arm, near the breast. At this point the radiologist had not read my results yet. Dr. G reads the film which Dr. B never did, so this is a whole new process to me.  It was then that Dr. G made the call to investigate the lymph nodes “just in case”. He ordered an ultrasound-guided biopsy. Naturally, my biopsy was on a Thursday (they always are!) which means waiting through a long weekend until Monday to get the results.

Monday came and so did a phone call just before lunch, well Dr.G was personally calling me how nice? Not-so-much, he was calling to let me know that yes indeed the lymph nodes show cancer. Damn! So, close – I was literally 5 short months away from that 5 year mark!

I panicked, I cried, I got mad as hell and then as quickly as it all hit me I found my “Zen”. I found my sweet spot that says, we will just do it all over again. We will pick ourselves up and we will move forward. I say “we” because the kicking, screaming, crying that whole thing, well it was a group event. Yes, with the help of some kick ass friends and family all those lovely phases were worked out. I mourned the loss of that 5 year cancerversary, accepted the fact that the cancer was back and tried to just move forward.

Ah yes forward,  forward would mean dozens of invasive, sometimes completely uncomfortable doctor appointments, procedures and diagnostics. Certainly, all totally worth dealing with for more days with my family and friends. The past 10 days have included a PETscan, CT scan, a breast biopsy, a mammogram, an MRI, a colonoscopy, an echocardiogram and waiting for dozens of different results and pathology reports. Frankly, after all this I am shocked I am not walking around in a halo of green radioactivity.

The worst part? Oh – it’s the waiting for sure. Does it suck that this stupid cancer is back? Heck yeah. But, I must admit that I am just so grateful that I have the opportunity to give a treatment plan a shot. My dad and brother were never given that opportunity.

Now, it’s the waiting, the wondering, the “googling” medical conditions. Good Lord, the googling! I need to stop maddening myself! I can’t thank my lovely husband and friends enough for putting up with my insanity. Soon, Dr. G will have a plan in place and I can commit myself to said plan.

It really reminds me of my first run at hard chemo back in 2010/2011. The hubs and I decided the kids could use a break and so could we, it was winter time and we decided a trip to an indoor waterpark in the Dells would be just what the doc ordered. Several things were learned from this experience – 1. Being a bald woman in a waterpark will illicit stares and gawking – making said bald woman hyperaware of her cancer.  But – the more positive takeaway was simple – 2. When on a tube in the lazy river just pick up your feet! Yes, so simple, stop trying to fight it, pick up those feet and let the lazy river take you. I feel treatment is my lazy river, once I have a path I am completely willing to just “pick up my feet”.

Holding my breath for that illusive five years…

On Nov. 1st, 2010 I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer with the “mets” meaning they found it in my bones. I was a fresh 32-years-old at the time. My mom had died almost exactly a year before my diagnosis from cancer.

For the past four years, I have seen, like a mirage in the desert that distinct hope of making it five years. I have known the outcomes if I could just stumble to that five year line. Maybe it’s more a mental thing than a scientific one. All I can say was on that fateful day in 2010 percentages for my survival were not in my favor, but they drastically changed if I could live, without major recurrence, to five years. The years have gone by and I have had a solid maintenance treatment plan, one that had me crossing my fingers, knocking on wood, to get to five years. Unfortunately, that time was witness to the devastating loss of my dad and my little brother, Joe, to yet again, cancer. Cancer, it was all around me, in fact not just around but inside my body as well. But, with all that loss, each scan allowed my heart and mind to grow a little more settled. I tried to embrace change and living in the now every. single. day. In my mind, I was just one scan away from my house of cards feeling a breeze! Whether it was vacations with the kids, a hike when I really didn’t want to go, a bike ride when I was tired, I embraced it. I embraced it only to think it could all be taken away at any time, make the memories with the kids because if tomorrow a bad scan comes up, you know they are going to have awesome memories. Take the trip, eat dessert first every now and again, leave the laundry in lieu of heading to an amusement park. Breathe in and appreciate all that is around you right now!

The new year, 2015, came roaring in and from the very first day of the year my mind was ahead to Nov. 1st. Crazy to skip right over glorious summer in Wisconsin and set my sights on Nov. 1st. But, I had a plan, my big five year “Cancerversary” a trip with my husband. We would celebrate this major milestone and essentially a “rebirth” with a grand trip somewhere fantastic! We were secretly plotting, not wanting to say anything too loud, wouldn’t want Cancer to find out our grand plans. Wouldn’t want to jinx this momentous event. The New Year found me with a new oncologist, my beloved Dr. B was hanging up his stethoscope after many years of fighting cancer. It wasn’t easy thinking about how celebrating that five year with any other doc could possibly have the same joy and accomplishment? Could it?

Moving forward my first meeting with Dr. G went well, he spent a ton of time reviewing every piece of my medical record. He was extraordinarily intelligent and very thorough. My first maintenance infusion went well. I missed Dr. B, but maybe, just maybe, Dr. G would work out. Plus – -I still got to see all those wonderful nurses, schedulers, social workers, etc..these were my people. They had been with me like family. I can’t really explain the bond that is forged when you have cancer and you continue to live, they see you in your good, your bad and your downright ugly! They are the faces that you remember and you know what? They remember you too, they remember your kids names and how your brother passed, they show up at funerals and go above and beyond when you NEED test results sooner, PLEASE. They call you to make sure you are ok. These, these are my people. Maybe headed into 2015, this make or break year would be okay after all?