Monday, August 30, 2010

In Other News ...

I've heard that Pakistan is experiencing devastating flooding.

And, is it possible that more troops were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend? God I hope not.

I also believe someone mentioned that we're in for another slump in the housing market; wait? did the first one actually end?

Don't ask me. This past week, I've had a BIG old case of "the-world-revolves-around -me - head-in-the-sand-itis"

It's probably just me, but when receiving chemotherapy treatment, there are times when the only thing you can think about is yourself and the way you feel.

Definitely a bad strategy, because listen to me sister, you prolly ain't feeling so good.

So why dwell on it?

In my case, it's about all my damn feeble mind can do to think about the fact that food doesn't taste at all like it should and my beloved coffee stinks like something from the gutter; and don't you come near me with those cookies mister. And especially not that glass of wine.

But good Lord. I am hungry. So hungry. Let me just try some of that whatever it is. Maybe if I can just catch a satisfying taste of something, my stomach will feel satisfied and stop it's funky growling-nausea dance. No matter if it makes my mouth feel like I just swabbed an open sore with fresh squeezed lemon juice. I'll keep trying with the food until I get it right.

I shouldn't underestimate my my mental capabilities so much. There are other things I do think about. Like how cold it is on sixty-degree August night when you have very little hair on your head. I'm sure I probably look very sexy sleeping in a knit hat.

And I do spend an awful lot of time pondering the wonderment of my bowels. What on earth are they doing with all that food I'm ingesting? What exactly dear bowels, would be the precise combination of Colace and Milk of Magnesia to get things, ahem, moving? Without mimicking that torrential flooding in Pakistan, that is. Any indication at all, would be appreciated.

Then there is that wound on my right hand that causes nurses and oncologists alike to exclaim "ewww" when looking at it. What kind of comfort am I supposed to derive from the squeamish look that appears on their faces? You've determined it's only a spider bite - so suck it up. It's not that bad.

Yes, I spent way to much time over the weekend dwelling in my woes that really and truly aren't all that bad. It's just when you feel kind of sick and your energy is lower than a slug's ass, it's real easy to get all wrapped up in your own little pity party.

Thankfully, as silently as the insidious side effects begin to reappear, so they begin to disappear.

One morning, about a week after the infusion, you wake up to find the enemy has retreated ever so slightly. You notice that foods taste a little more like they should. That climb upstairs to your bedroom after your morning shower? It isn't like scaling K2 after all.

Then, even though you never really forgot, you remember all the amazing, helpful, kind and loving people in your life; surrounding you, banning together to hold that safety net beneath you. You revel in the joy and gratitude of receiving their cards in the mail and the delicious meals that have kept your family supped whilst you lift nary a finger.

And you remember, ever so thankfully, that not one of your loved ones is overseas fighting in a different, more ridiculous kind of war in which their survival is in jeopardy daily.

You remember too, that unlike so many others, you have a safe, warm home in which to sleep while wearing that "all gangsta" pink and white hat that grandma knit for the homeless.

And best of all, your children and their lives come back into focus. You notice all the great jokes they've told over the last week and how one of them sat in bed with you and played Gin Rummy until all hours.

Finally, you realize how patient they've been waiting for you to remember that sometimes the world actually does revolve around them and the very real fact that they are about to embark upon their own amazing milestones. In just a few short days, you consciously acknowledge (just in the nick of time I might add), that school will be starting and one will be a Senior while the other begins her first year in middle school.

Inevitably, gratefully, the focus will shift to other news.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Going, Going ... Not Quite Gone

I thought by now, I'd be able to write a "Who Loves Ya, Baby" post and pass out Tootsie Pops to honor the occasion of my impersonation of Kojak. Nope, not yet. I'm a little premature, turns out this hair loss process is a lot slower than I thought.

Though I've shed clumps upon copious clumps of hair, I'm still not bald. Make no mistake, things are thin up top; so much so, my shadow looks different.

But like the oil spill in the gulf, the hair just keeps coming out with no end in sight. And like the oil, I had no idea there was so of it! (Note to self: add "good hair" to gratitude list).

I guess I'm in transition. As my niece so wisely pointed out - "hair in transition is never a good thing." She is right, right, right about that; so these days, you'll find me sporting a couple of chic little hats I picked up at where else? Target.

Update: Above entry was written 3 weeks ago, when the oil in the gulf was still flowing and the plug theories seemed to be a joke. The following is from my thoughts today, August 22nd; a few things have changed:

For the past few weeks I've been watching the natural part-line in my hair grow wider and wider. I think it's measuring at about an inch wide; almost qualifying me to join the "comb-over" club. Anybody got some Brill Cream they can loan me?

Strangely, the length on the sides is about the same as it was before the hair loss began: below the ears. Thin, very thin, but still on the long-ish side. Pair that with my pale skin and I've got a look that has "cancer poster child" written all over it.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided it was time to take charge of the situation and tell Chemotherapy who is in charge here. "Buzz cut for Bon," says I.

Mr. Bon promptly retrieved the clippers from the linen closet. Yeah, we're cool like that - we definitely have the same kind of electric shears they use at Rudy's. We even have the sweet smock to keep the hair from getting all up in your clothes.

Then it was time to decide the length. Were we going drastic and cut with the #1 fence attached - or keep it on the longer (it's all relative) side, with the #4 fence in place?

In the end, conservatism won out and I chose a #4. With our daughter right by his side helping with clean-up, Mr. Bon shaved me right down to an almost stylish nappy little cut. It feels great; I can hardly keep my hands from touching it. And, it doesn't look too bad either.

Surprisingly, I look about 46 years younger. No kidding. As my family will confirm, when I was a wee pup, my short, blond toddler hair stood straight up on end. Even though it is very, very short today, you can see that tendency is still there. And somehow my brown hair has given way to blond roots. I mean, I think those roots are blond. Surely, they're not gray ... right?

Now for the cute part. Did I ever mention to you that I'm actually married to a Saint? I only call him Mr. Bon here because he is so humble. Trust me, his real name is Saint Jim. I'll explain the reasons why later. Yesterday was just another demonstration of the countless acts of kindness, love, support and sweetness he has shown me in our 28 years together.

As soon as I stepped out of our makeshift barber's chair, in hops my man! "Number Four" says he. So daughter and I commenced the shaving ... right down to the wee bits. And of course, he looks freaking cute in his #4. What a man ... getting the buzz cut whilst in the midst of a job search (note to Universe: that last line was for you - Mr. Bon is still attracting job offers - hoping for your help here - in a big, generous way -thank you kindly).

When I woke up this morning and looked toward the other side of the bed, I saw not only my husband of 25 years, but now a man who dares to be "my hair twin."

I had to ask myself:

"Who loves you, baby?"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week 4 Update

According to the handy treatment calendar I received from the nurse last week, tomorrow is my "Week 4 Treatment."

This is a mostly welcome event.

I welcome each treatment because, of course, they are part of the game-plan that get's me one step closer to getting the"cured" stamp stamped across my ever-fattening medical file. I welcome and respect (odd word choice, I kno, but when you are going toe to toe with a 6'8" bully you better show some respect) the chemotherapy, because it is after all, my friend (with friends like chemo, who needs...) and it is here to help. I welcome the fact that it is Week 4 (already!) and things are moving along at a rapid clip.

I don't welcome the fact that tomorrow will be the infusion of Taxotere and Carboplatin; two substances, er "friends," so vile that one is advised to wash clothing not only separately, but twice, should any bodily fluids end up on your clothes in the 72 hours following the treatment.

I can only imagine what's happening inside my body.

Actually - I'm avoiding that kind of visualization and focusing on positive and restorative healing thoughts; lots of beautiful images floating around in my head these days. Rather, much time is spent dwelling in the gratitude of all the blessings, abundance and delicious meals that have come my way.

So far, positivity is working. Up to this point nothing has been horrific; not a walk in the park mind you, but all very manageable.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Crafty Side of Chemo

I have a lot to say about the first week of chemotherapy and believe me, I will.
I'll share what I've learned, what I've endured and few humorous moments along the way.
I might even reflect on the interesting changes - physically & emotionally - that are already beginning to take place.

But not right now. Tonight, I'm tired.
I only stopped by, because I missed you - and I have a favor.

Do you have any old Scrabble Tiles you're no longer using?

I've got a craft project I'm itching to do (chemo side-effect I'm sure) and I need a lot of Scrabble Tiles - the wooden kind. You've so been generous already and I hate to ask for this favor, but if you have an old box of Scrabble just taking up space on your shelf, maybe I could help you for a change and take if off you hands.

Got Tiles? Get in Touch.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Update: One Down, Fifty-One to Go

Wednesday? Feels like Tuesday - I think.

Only one week into official treatment for cure and I've already lost a day. Probably shouldn't complain too much; I'm going to lose a lot more over the coming months.

Any who, just wanted to give you a short update on the fascinating world of modern, western medicine as it applies to me.

In a nutshell, Mr. Bon & I arrived at 10:00am sharp Monday for first injections of chemotherapy treatment. Upon arrival, learned that the scheduler had mistakenly scheduled me for unneeded lab-work. We're not needed until 10:3o doctor's appointment to review and chat about upcoming events.
11:00am sharp, the doctor herself comes to the well-appointed lobby to invite us in for consultation. Just as we're entering the exam room - reception calls doctor away for urgent phone call.

More waiting. 11:something, doc comes in tells us many things we've already heard - most of which we understand and can almost recapitulate - and writes out a few more prescriptions that will help to counteract what ever shit is about to rain down on me. Call me a coward, but I began to worry when she mentioned the yeast infection that will surely inhabit my mouth by week's end.

Close to noon, we're sent upstairs to drop off the additional prescriptions (did I mention she'd already sent up orders for 3 others) and then to check-in at treatment center.

Checked in, sat down in another nice lobby and commenced waiting. Nothing like waiting for the unknown and watching others in various stages of their treatment enter the lobby and commence their wait for what they courageously already know what is about to come down.

One look at my full head of hair, told all that I was a newby. Some gave me a sympathetic, heartwarming smile. No one was in much of a mood to chat. I choose to believe that this was due to the drizzly Seattle weather we were experiencing.

Finally, a very kind nurse came to get us. I believe this was around 1:00pm. She showed us to our room - this time we chose a private room with no windows. Next time, we'll take the windows and curtains in lieu of actual walls.

Nurse Jeanne, sat us down & made me comfy with warm blankets and began to explain everything once again. Today's treatment, she reminded us was a 3-med infusion, and because it was the first treatment, all would be on a slow load drip to watch for unacceptable reactions.

Two of the meds have heavy duty side effects, so she loaded me up with a large menu of coping meds: Benadryl, Zofran, Pepcid; you'll have to ask Mr. Bon for the rest of the list because after she gave me the drugs and my sack lunch (next time I'll bring my own - though the apple and cookie were tasty) and I plugged in the movie, I was out like the light.

Sometime around 5, Nurse Jeanne informed us we still had another two hours of infusion time.
What could we say? Obviously, nothing was bothering me and Mr. Bon was engrossed in Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. Better to go with the process than add to the stress. As if we had a choice.

By 8pm we were back home - getting much needed hugs from the kids and throwing together left overs from the super-fun family barbecue the day before.

Oddly enough, though there was a giant clock in the room staring at us the whole day, time really didn't stand still. In fact, the day seemed to slip right by.

Maybe that's where I lost that day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Countdown: T-minus 12 hours

Actually, my internal countdown to the commencement of chemotherapy treatment has been going on for a full week.

I've kept it internal - I hope.
Mr. Bon and the kids, might say otherwise when considering my frequent mood swings and compulsions to pack our calendar with good living and of course, lots of house cleaning. Hmmm, wonder why my eldest is spending so much time at the neighbors?

With twelve hours to go, I think it's time to bring a bit of it out into the open. If you are like me - a bit of a voyeur - I'm sure you'd like a peak into what it might be like to be "walking the plank." Ah don't deny it - I know you're out there - I know I'm not the only one watching those reality shows.

Metaphorically speaking, I've use the analogy to space travel to convey the feeling that tomorrow morning when Mr. Bon and I walk into that treatment center, we are entering territory completely unknown. Life will be different. Not just for the next few months - but from here on out.

I didn't have chemo when I last danced with cancer twenty years ago, but I can tell you that experience was life changing. As will (and already is) this experience.

Anyhow, back to my connection with space travel. I imagine when the astronauts leave their training facility to board the van that carries them to the space shuttle that will propel them the hell off this fine planet, their minds are filled with many conflicted thoughts:

Utter pride at the efforts accomplishments that have brought them to this doubtless apex. Utter fear - "dear lord, don't let this be another "Challenger." Sadness - I'm sure they miss their families at the fact that their families can't witness first hand the magic they'll experience. Excitement at finally fulfilling their lifelong dream of going into space.

I'm not going to lie, receiving chemo therapy is not a life long dream.
But, on one hand I am at complete and utter peace with our decision to go forward with it and - truly - excited to begin. Half of my brain has been consumed with it since April 14th; it's time to stop wondering and get the show on the road - 'er launch this rocket.

On the other hand ... long pause, real long pause ... I am scared.

I ask you, what can be fun about drugs that take 6 hours to administer?

Some people report very little in the way of discomfort, while others report just the opposite effects from chemo drugs. I so hope to dwell in the former.

And that's the root of my fear: I'm not good with the unknown.
Notice my modest lifestyle? Not a real risk taker here. It's why I'll never bungee jump, take a peyote trip or sky dive. Certain results too unknown. Too scary in my book.

In the case of my breast cancer diagnosis, the option not to take the chemo drugs is, in the end, an absolute guarantee of unknown results. Proceeding with the chemo gives me certain results: a cure - most certainly.

I'd rather live the next twelve months in some unknown form of discomfort, than live the next ten or twenty years wondering if somethings festering away inside of me.

It's now about T-minus 11 Hours and I'm a little bit closer to boarding that shuttle. Before I go, I want to begin to try and express my gratitude to all of you. I don't think I can ever convey how nice it is in those moments of utter fear to take a deep breath, lean back and feel soooo much love and support. I never know how much love is out there for me (if you're beginning to feel squeamish - I warned you in the header).

Thank you for making this journey so much easier. Without all of you, I'd be curled up in a puddle somewhere.

I want to start with a shout-out to Mr. Bon. If you ever find yourself in a situation like mine, give Jim Namba a call. He did, with out a doubt missed his calling in life; no one could be a better caregiver than good ole' Mr Bon. He is so caring - very few people know just how caring he is. He's an expert at preventing me from over-doing anything, even worrying. He, without out a second thought, has taken over most of the household chores. He knows just how tuck the comforters around me just right when I'm shivering so badly I can't stop. He keeps my muddled brain in line and reminds me when to take my meds or get to an appointment -or work- on time. He doesn't even seem to mind that my conversation level doesn't go beyond that of a gnat. And still, through all this, he tickles me with his sharp wit and comes up with new jokes about the days current events.

My kids are pretty amazing too. Ahhh the Bonlets. Alex is 17. A fine age for a boy. As such his prime activities in life do not revolve around the family; he's more interested in gaming with his friends, looking for a job and he's even considering a getting a driver's license. While he's not hovering over me every second, I do get a lot of hugs. And when I call his name, he's right there for me. He's got his father's caring ways and also a terrific sense of humor with a big, big smile that would melt the heart of any mom.

Miya. She is my hoverer. At 11, she is about to embark on her own journey - in September she'll be entering middle school. I don't have to tell you all that that entails. She'll be fine. One bit of silver lining to this diagnosis is that I'm on a very much reduced work schedule and am home more and get to spend more time with her. Nice. I can't tell you what a wonderful caregiver she is. She has a knack for balancing being a kid and being a world class nurse. She keeps me hydrated, helps me monitor my med needs, and, I dare you to find a more loving child.

I'm also grateful for the support of my sisters and brother and mother. Not to mention my nieces and nephews, and my in laws. Their gifts have been many and unending. I only hope that if ever needed, I will so gracefully and generously reciprocate.

I am particularly grateful for my job, my excellent bosses and all the people I work with. Ours is a small, (20 employees) locally owned company. Since this diagnosis came down, I have spent more time away from work than at work. My boss has been very clear that the goal is to get cured, no matter what that takes - even a wacky schedule. My position, in the past, has been somewhat pivotal to the the day to day operations of running the company. Jobs descriptions have been altered and sacrifices have been made all so I can embark on this journey worry free.
My boss has also been very clear about the security of my position - amazing.

A word about gifts of food. Family and friends have been amazing. Would you believe that for 3 weeks after my first surgery, we never once had to cook a dinner. Amazing. Happily, we are blessed with foodies in our midst. We've been treated to enchiladas, Greek chicken, paella, homemade mac & cheese, two types of lasagna, chicken marbella with the best-ever oven roasted broccoli, souvlaki, lots of pies - including if you can believe it - a Dahlia Lounge Coconut Cream Pie. I'm not gonna lie - I shamelessly requested that one! I know there is more, but in this late hour I'm forgetting a few.

Cards. Nothing like going out to the mailbox and finding a greeting card mixed in with all the correspondence from the various labs & hospitals. I keep a basket of each of the cards I receive from friends, family co-workers and vendors; when I'm feeling a little down, I look through them and breath in the support. I'd especially like to thank Pam & Jim in Davis for your card. I was so surprised and touched ... thank you for thinking of me - and for reading this blog!

When I was first diagnosed, I was so filled with worry about how we could make this all work out. I wondered how my children and husband would fare, my job security ( I am the only employed one right now - anybody out there hiring top-notch guys), life with one breast, the sure to be astounding costs, the courage needed and so much more.

Over a delightful, though somewhat teary, cup of coffee in those first days, my sister told me and this a direct quote "people will come out of the woodwork." As always, the wise one was right.

That very day, I received my first card in the mail. It was the beginning of so many gifts - so many humble reminders of how lucky I am.

So in these waning hours of feeling normal - I can peer through the cloud cover and can see a few stars (a gift in itself), and am once again reminded of how lucky I am. Though I'm embarking into what is for me (and us) unknown territory - I am at peace. Much like the astronauts, I have so much support, technical and otherwise, that I can safely put my worries aside and focus on my work at hand -healing.

T-minus 10 hours.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ad Links? Please Advise.

Who put those ad-links on my blog?

I know I didn't put them there.

Or did I?

Know how to get rid of them? Please advise by leaving a comment.

Unless of course, I'm getting paid for those links. If that's the case I don't mind them too much. Kind of cute aren't they?

Hmmm... maybe the money can be directly funneled to my good friends at the Swedish Cancer Institute. Or, better yet, The Bon Family's 'Post-Cancer Mega-Vacation' fund.

Seriously, what fine print didn't I read this time? Do advise all you smart bloggers out there.