Thursday, May 24, 2012

Little Miss I Can Do It

It's official:  all the kids can swim now.  What a relief!  Clearly, they still need to be watched while in the pool, but the years of having a baby or toddler on the loose who would immediately sink if dropped in are officially behind me.  Yippee!

Enjoy this video of Natalie's newly minted swimming skills, along with the running "me too" commentary from big brother and sister Tony and Bella, along with some comments from mom along the way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Busy, Busy Month of May

May is always a busy month.  We have two birthdays in our family, someone is always graduating from somewhere, Mother's Day is in there and school is wrapping up (unless you happen to attend one of the Catholic schools that have gone to 200 days this year in which case you have another month to go).  It seems unfair that one month of the year should have so much good stuff, doesn't it?  It's certainly a challenge to those of us who have to run around like crazy people to get to it all!

Nonetheless, as crazy as it may be, there have been so many amazing blessings jam packed into this one little month that I thought I'd devote this post to them all.  This way you don't have to suffer through a dozen separate ones!

The first weekend brought our goddaughter Lucy's First Holy Communion.  It was a joy to see her receive the Eucharist for the first time, and nearly as great a joy for me to see Sam holding her baby sister Georgia.  Can you say, "Awwwwww?"

The next weekend was Julia's birthday, which fell on Mother's Day this year.  Julia turned 9 and I can hardly believe she is half way to being an adult already.

This weekend I am in San Antonio for Jennifer's daughter Hannah's high school graduation.  I have known her literally since the hour she was born and am wondering what happened, when exactly she grew up.  She is going to Truman State in Missouri in August.

Other miscellaneous items included Joey being promoted for the second time in the Civil Air Patrol (here he is in the BDUs) and having his second opportunity to fly a plane.  Tomorrow he will turn 14 years old.  Again, how did this happen?

Finally, I could not resist adding this photo of Tony who went to his Western-themed playday dressed as a Three Amigo.

Only in our family would the six year old even know who a Three Amigo is.  He must certainly be the only one ever with a cast (he has since had it removed).

Lindsey competed in her first Mathletes competition and was very happy to have made the team.  Bella will be graduating from preschool at the end of the month and Natalie...well, she is busy figuring out how to take over the world.

The month is only a few days past half over and we still have Joey's birthday tomorrow (as I already mentioned) and his 8th grade graduation on May 30.  A truly crazy month.

How happy I am to simply be participating in the normal events of our lives, no matter how tired I am at the end of each day.  Simple blessings are everywhere.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Bella Belly Laugh

Bella is always asking me for gum and I am always saying no.  I don't like gum chewed in my house because somehow it always ends up on my carpet, stuck to a wall, or going through my laundry, no matter how many times I pre-admonish the child I allow to have the gum.  I am not a fan.

Nonetheless, I am only human and after days and days of asking to have a piece of gum that a friend gave her, I reluctantly gave in and allowed Bella to chew the gum.  I gave her a long list of rules about taking it out of her mouth, disposing of it properly, bubble blowing, etc.  She happily agreed to all conditions and acknowledged my threat that if that gum went anywhere other than the trash can she wouldn't get gum again for a very, very long time.

Off she skipped, delighted with her situation, chomping away.  I felt pretty good about the decision, thinking she is getting older and more responsible and perhaps it would work out this time.

Sure it would.

Not 10 minutes later I hear a minor crash downstairs and Bella comes running up the stairs sobbing her heart out and rubbing her head.  My poor, clumsy child had tripped over something and fallen on the tile; upon impact, the gum flew out of her mouth and landed who knows where. She was absolutely hysterical, thinking she would never chew gum again as long as she lived.  Poor thing, and she was trying so hard to be responsible with it.

As she was gasping for breath and shaking her head in disbelief at this turn of events, Jay told her to turn around.  She stopped crying for a second and asked why.  He told her to just do it.  Darned if that gum wasn't stuck to the back of her hair.  He pulled it out with only a minor loss of hair

I can't remember when I laughed that hard, full from the belly, tears and all.  She looked so miffed as to how this could possibly happen.  Her reaction to my laughter made me laugh even harder:  "It's not funny!"  When I assured her it was at least a little funny, she sobbed, "I don't like when it's funny!"  Finally, she capped it off with, "It's zero funny!"

Between snorts of laughter I told her that since she didn't actually lose her gum, she would not be penalized, and her relief was palpable.

Her immediate next question was, of course... "Can I rinse this off and keep chewing it?"

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Side Effect Smorgasbord

Quite unfortunately, I have not been feeling as well as I think I should be.  (Don't I have a lot of nerve suggesting that I, a Stage IV cancer patient, has any claim on feeling well at all!!)  This has been going on for several months now.  I am in a pattern of feeling great for a few days or more followed by a few days or more of being exhausted, sleeping more than usual, and feeling more nauseous than usual.  I have been miffed by this since I was on such an amazing trajectory of healing after the horrors of last fall.  This "getting better" lasted for at least a few months so I definitely resisted the new pattern when it made itself apparent.

Sometimes I ask Jay, "What do you think is going on?"  and he always answers, "Maybe it's the cancer."  It's a joke actually, because I have very little in the way of cancer going on in my body right now (thanks be to God!).  There is nothing in my liver, brain, breast, lung, kidneys or abdomen, so why should I be so fatigued and nauseous?  It makes no sense.

Until you consider all the medications I must take to remain in this happy, cancer-mostly-dormant state. I am on three cancer drugs:  Herceptin is systemic every three weeks, in the Omaya Reservoir every six weeks.  I usually have a dip in how I'm feeling about three days after systemic treatment.  I take Tykerb daily, to fight the cancer that is trying to make a home in my brain.  That has lots of side effects that have happily lessened over time for me.  Yet I have to be very careful about what I eat because some things can cause the medicine to dose stronger than it should, resulting in the kind of toxicity that landed me in the hospital the first time.  Finally, I just began taking a new drug for my bone mets called Xgeva.  This should, over time, help dissuade the cancer from rooting in my poor skeleton and hopefully promote healing in the already-damaged areas that are painful for me.  My first dose of this was Tuesday and I have had a hard time staying awake all week.  The primary side effects of this one?  Of course, fatigue and nausea.  I will receive this every six weeks.

In addition, I take a blood thinner injection twice a day to deal with my blood clots and another drug called Megace to help stop the bleeding from my recent surgery.  I should get off of that one soon, I hope, though I don't think that one is a big contributor to my general malaise when it is present.  Next, I have what I'll call my comfort medications, ones I take as needed for pain or nausea just so I can function some days.  Finally, I receive a decent amount of IV contrasts and nuclear tracers for scans, along with anesthesia for surgical procedures or biopsies, which never make a person feel very healthy.  Altogether, that's a lot of medicine!

So anyway, I write this not to complain in any way, but rather to help myself come to the understanding that not only is it not unusual for me to not be feeling 100% all the time, but it would be pretty remarkable if I did.  I have become so comfortable with having cancer that I sometimes forget what a serious disease it is and what serious drugs I am on to control it.  How could anyone feel normal with that many chemicals coursing through their veins?  Every minute I am on my feet doing dishes or laundry, awake and watching American Idol with my kids, driving someone somewhere they need to be, watching my kids do their sports and activities, is a small miracle, and the fact that the cancer has, for now, receded is simply icing on the cake.

If this is my quality of life going forward, I'd say I am very blessed.  To want to feel like I did before all this happened is only human, but I am officially going to align my expectations appropriately to my situation and try not to get so frustrated and grumpy when I am having a bad day, and I certainly won't continue to worry that the cancer is on the attack again every time I have a hard time getting up in the morning.  Par for the course.  Why did it take me three months to figure this out?  It doesn't seem that complicated!

I could not agree more with what one wise soul posted on the breast cancer discussion boards:  My favorite side effect is being alive!