Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Was...Interesting

Jay does not insist that I do much for him; as far as husbands are concerned, he is pretty low maintenance. He likes his food to be hot, and that is really about it as far as his "must have" list. (Yes, I know I am blessed in this, and of course it makes me want to do all sorts of things to make him happy since he is so easy to please!)

So, imagine my surprise last week when I received an email from the producer of X-Factor (Simon Cowell's American Idol-like singing competition) confirming my audition in Los Angeles for Sunday. I thought it must be a mistake, because I would never, EVER sign up to audition for that show or any other reality circus that would require me to be on television, subject myself to riddicule and, most importantly, keep me away from my family who I leave often enough for medical reasons.

Then I scrolled down and read the entire thread. Apparently, Jay received a general notice of auditions some time back and took it upon himself to contact the producers to let them know that his wife has "a beautiful voice" but that, due to her cancer treatments, she could not stand to wait in the kind of lines required to obtain an audition. The producer then wrote back to Jay assuring him that he could get me a special, confirmed audition due to my condition that would minimize my wait time substantially and allow me to sit most of the time. Once this was in place, Jay decided to let me know that I would be auditioning, in three days' time.

After I scraped my jaw off the floor, I immediately launched into the million reasons I had no desire to do this. For one, I may sing fine in church, but I am no American Idol (nor do I wish to be). I don't perform or dance when I sing--I pray! When I don't pray a song, I don't sing it particularly well. Jay agreed that I sing best when praying and rather than excusing me from this farce he instead went to work assisting me in selecting songs that would allow me to show the judges who I am--a Christian genre singer.

Knowing that a Christian singer of any caliber would most likely not have the "X Factor" they are looking to share with a very secular, often musically offensive public, I refused to do it. I could see no point: I didn't want to audition, I didn't want to compete, I didn't want to be rejected, and I didn't even want to win a recording contract to be a pop star--not that I could have ever seen it going that way. Nonetheless, what else could this be but a complete waste of time?

But Jay looked at me, smiled sweetly, and said, "Please? I really want you to give this a try. For me."

What could I do?! Nothing, I tell you. I was doomed.

So, off we went on Sunday to the LA Sports Arena where I joined 15,000 hopefuls being herded and sorted like cattle. I tried to be cheerful and not grumble, because if I was going to do it to please him what would be the point in being grumpy about it? But I did let him know--sweetly, of course--that he owed me big time and that he had better not leave me alone for even a minute!

And you know what? I'm glad I went. It was really an experience like no other. I saw every type of human, and, sadly, what many of them would do to get on camera. I don't understand that desire at all, so I watched in a completely detached way the antics, outfits, and plotting that went on around me. I was partly amused but mostly horrified at what reality television has done to our society. I asked Jay, as we watched the scene around us with our jaws half open, if he thought God might be regretting his promise to never send another flood. Because, looking around at what the human race has become, it seemed like it might be a good time for another one.

Thankfully, there were a handful of normal, actually talented people there too. I got to talk to some of them who just wanted a platform to launch a legitimate singing career. This was in stark contrast to the man dressed like Michael Jackson and the girl group wearing blue wigs and satin pants.

Needless to say, I got to say "I told you so" to Jay when the judge told me, immediately with his body language and soon thereafter with his words, that I am most definitely not what they are looking for. Hmmm, who could have predicted that? Oh, that's right, I could have!

The best part of the experience for me was seeing how truly disappointed Jay was that they didn't see in me what he sees. That confidence and support of me was worth the entire day, so how could I regret it?

So what if I don't have America's X Factor? I have Jay's, and that is all I need!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Good to Know Your Lines

Sam's 4th grade teacher recently had a talk with the kids about personal hygiene. Apparently a warm up in the weather caused some unpleasant odors in the classroom, so they gently learned--many of them for the first time--about the wonders of deodorant.

Sam came home in a fever to get some Old Spice deodorant of his very own. At first I thought, "Old Spice?! Really?" I remembered Old Spice in our bathroom when I was very small and so I associated it with older dads and grandfathers. In fact, I remember that our Old Spice product had an old-fashioned brush for shaving with it. So, I hardly think of it as modern, and I certainly don't think of it as something a nine year old would aspire to.

Then I remembered the Old Spice Guy, that handsome gentleman who has been ceaselessly promoting Old Spice on TV. As someone who's career was in marketing before becoming a mom, I can most definitely appreciate the concept of brand repositioning, and Old Spice has certainly done that. They are now appealing to women, who do most of the decision making at the grocery store, and are advising them to ensure that their man smells like one. So, it was with admiration for the marketing team at Old Spice that I was pleased to ensure that Sam got his own deodorant.

The next morning, Sam came downstairs, lifted his arm proudly and said, "Mom, how do I smell?"

Luckily, I knew my line: "Like a MAN!"

Yep, that was the correct response. I don't think he stopped smiling for an hour.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's Ahead

If you are interested in knowing what is ahead for me as I enter the world of radiation treatment, take a few minutes and watch this excellent summary put together by the UCLA Radiation Oncology department. Not only does it explain in detail what I can expect and how radiation works, but it features my own doctor (Dr. Selch) and the very same office and treatment rooms I will be seen in.

My spine will be treated with high-dose stereotactic radiation therapy, while my rib will receive the more traditional multi-dose beam over a period of somewhere around two weeks. I should get started in a week or so, after my insurance processes all of this.

So, here is everything you ever wanted to know about cancer radiation therapy. May you never need it yourself, but rest assured that, like almost everything in life, the concept is far scarier than the reality. I can definitely do this!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boys are NOT Girls

Yesterday I heard some alarming noises coming from the trampoline area so I bolted out of the kitchen to see who was hurt. As I rounded the corner I saw Sam and his friend rolling around in the middle of a circle of other children (some mine, some visiting).

At first I was confused--I couldn't tell which one was hurt. Then, it occurred to me that they were fighting. This was very difficult to process, as these two are good friends who spend a lot of time together and I could not imagine them in a physical fight.

I finally cried out to the crowd in a desperate attempt to see what was going on, and they all looked at me like I was from Mars. "Mom," Lindsey said, as if I were the least intelligent person she had ever encountered, "they're playing tap out wrestling."


No, wait. What's that?!

I watched in horror for a few moments as they rolled over eachother and jabbed at one another, fairly evening matched from what I could tell. I finally couldn't take it any more and said, "This can't possibly be fun for you, can it?!"

The wrestling came to an abrupt halt. Sam grinned at me, blood oozing from a (small) cut on his lip, and said enthusiastically, "YES!" His friend agreed with equal enthusiasm, just before he lunged at Sam anew.

I looked pleadingly at the girls in the crowd and said, "Have any of you girls ever felt the need to do this?" Again, they looked at me like I was dumb as a fence post. "No!" they chorused. Of course not. But it didn't stop them from enjoying the show, I noted.

Boys will be boys, I guess, but this girl will never, ever understand them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring is in the Air

It may still be Winter officially, but at our house we ushered in Spring today. Amidst the blossoming trees and warm beams of sunshine could be heard the delighted shouts of my children as they opened the pool for the first time since Fall.

You couldn't pay me enough to get in that unheated water (although I could be convinced to join them in the 99 degree thawing tub). However, seeing my children truly worn out from several hours of hard core swimming? I would pay plenty for that.

I've missed you, sun! Welcome back.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Annual Torment

Why, oh why, do the Girls Scouts time their cookie season to match Lent?

Every year I look longingly at boxes of Samoas and ponder the question of whether this is a cruel joke or a complete coincidence. I currently have two girl scouts who badger me to order cookies in January, when it seems like a really good idea. However, when the order arrives during Lent I wonder what I was thinking. For weeks these boxes sit on the pantry shelves while I shoot loving glances their way, counting the days until they can be mine.

Today, as an added bonus, I got to spend three hours with Julia outside of Lowes staffing her troop's cookie booth. We sold dozens of boxes to happy people while I imagined them, somewhat resentfully, ripping the boxes open the minute they got back to their cars (which is exactly what I would do if I were them, no doubt!). Julia, like me, gave up cookies for Lent, so she abstained along with me while the other girls of her troop liberally sampled their products. I was proud of her, especially her cheerful disposition about the whole thing.

It helps that we always exclude Sundays from our Lenten promises. They are, after all, feast days in and of themselves, so we treat them as such. We were both imagining tomorrow when we would be consuming the box of Samoas we tucked away for the occasion.

It also helps that Easter is late this year so we had a little time to enjoy a few cookies before Ash Wednesday happened upon us.

Still I want to know. Why cookies at this time of the year? There are 11 other months that would work just fine. I'm just saying.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doesn't This Just Say It All?

At the moment, I have many friends in need of encouragement. From marital issues to health problems, from unemployment to children with disabilites, everyone, it seems, has their crosses to bear. My prayer list is getting longer and longer, and my heart simply aches for each person on it. Please know, dear friends, that I am with you through it all, and that all of this will pass in time. In the meantime, please consider this beautiful quote that has inspired me.

"For a son of God, each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love.

That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then with God's help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!"

-St. Josemaria Escriva

One day at a time, my friends. One day at a time.

Monday, March 07, 2011

One Less Thing to Cry Over

I'm speaking of spilled milk, of course.

I came home a few nights ago to a pile of wet kitchen towels on the floor of the laundry room. (Incidentally, this is exactly where I ask the children to place things that need washing, as I find their sorting skills somewhat lacking in precision.) I didn't think much of this, and carried on with serving dinner and helping with homework.

In the context of a completely unrelated conversation, it came out that Bella had "helped" earlier that evening by bringing in a gallon of milk from the garage, and that she had accidentally dropped it by the hall closet. Naturally, the plastic split and an entire gallon of milk spread itself across the tile.

As I questioned the children about this, completely stunned that there was virtually no evidence of this having happened (other than the wet towels), I learned that Sam, hearing the spill from upstairs, dashed down and set to work cleaning it up without hesitation. No grown up asked him to do it. He had nothing to do with the mess. He just fixed it, and did a great job doing so. If I hadn't seen the towels, I wouldn't have ever known it had happened. That is a real first for me.

Sam definitely earned "kid of the week" in this family. May this helpful trend be contagious and oft repeated!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Just A Bump In The Road

Scan results are in...

The good news:

1. My liver is still completely clear.
2. My doctor continues to be delighted with my response to treatment.
3. I continue on the clinical trial of T-DM1.

The less good news:

1. I have some new, active skeletal metastases in my rib and thoracic vertebrae.
2. They hurt.

The good news in response to the less good news:

1. I will receive radiation on these spots to relieve the pain and hopefully zap this cancer into total oblivion.
2. The clinical trial I am on does not consider progression of cancer in the bones as "worsening of disease". In other words, I get to keep receiving this drug that has done so well for me for so long.
3. I have been advised that activity in the bone does not pose a threat to other organs. Apparently, bones behave differently than tissue.
4. My doctor is not even slightly alarmed by this turn of events and still believes I am doing amazingly well.

In other news, I have begun to receive a weekly iron infusion to combat a hemoglobin deficiency that has caused me great fatigue of late. I am thrilled that the problem has been identified and that we can now address it, as my energy levels have been sub-human the last few weeks (and don't the kids know it--they smell weakness a mile away!)

Although it is difficult to not become alarmed by progression of any kind, my entire medical team has assured me that this is really not, in and of itself, a big deal and is really par for the course with a Stage IV diagnosis. While we all, of course, had hoped that we had beaten things back completely and permenantly with our first strike, the reality is that I am living with a chronic disease. It will rear its ugly head occasionally and we will just have to beat it back into submission each time it shows up with whatever tools we have in our arsenal. And there are plenty of things in that arsenal.

We will tackle this bump in the road head on with every expectation of success and the ever-present knowledge that God is ultimately in charge of it all.

So, let's bring on the radiation, continue with the drug that is keeping my liver healthy, and, above all, keep the faith!