Introducing: Killerboob, Chapter II

Hi! It’s been awhile, I know. Killerboob hasn’t been quiet for over a year, but something has happened, and I think this is a great place to share it.

Unfortunately, that thing is my sister getting her own breast cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, she’s willing to share her story, too. For all the purposes Killerboob ever served, it’s about to up and do it again, with a new driver at the wheel! This time I’m on the outside looking in at a loved one who’s sick and the cancer journey is coming from a different angle.

It’s almost eight years later, a different kind of cancer, a different life situation (a husband and two young, crazy kiddos!) and a very different personality. Introducing: Killerboob, Chapter II

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Just What The Doctor (didn’t) Ordered

It’s official. Chemo is OVER! And I must admit, it was very anti-climactic. While something as momentous as this period in my life feels like it should be heralded as a rebirth, a moment to exhale, to celebrate the spirit of the fight, it was just another day in the chair hooked up to the whir of the IV poison going in my port. Oh well. That’s why I planned this huge family trip to Tuscany. I needed something to look forward to the past 5 months of feeling like crap. I need to hear that trumpet in my own heart, if not that of my family. So against the wishes of my oncologist, and after having to push it back a week to allow of my unexpected expander replacement and lavage, we were off!

I’m normally the kind of traveler that can’t sit still. I don’t really care for the beach, and the idea of vacation where you sit on the beach all day sounds like a form of torture to me. But this vacation I planned with a somewhat-out-of-the-way historic farmhouse in the somewhat-out-of-the-way historic Garfagnana region on Tuscany. Surrounded by panoramic views of the foothills of the Alps with an infinity pool and a home that dates back to the 18th century (but foundation much older), we didn’t leave the property for the first 3 days. I cooked. We picked and ate cherries straight off the tree. It was glorious. And peaceful. And calm…. And for the first time since November 15, 2013, after hearing the words “we found a mass, and it’s going to be cancer”, I remember who I used to be.

This is what relaxation looks like.

This is what relaxation looks like.

Staying shady

Great trips start with London

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Not So Sweet Dreams.

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been successfully able to think of other things to do. It’s not that I can forget I have cancer, in fact, I haven’t been able to make it to work or to do anything in my old life. I’ve just been better at distracting myself with other things. Until tonight… Or should I say this morning. Here I am, 3am and counting, and wide freaking awake.

My second round of chemo went OK. It was more or less discovering that it had the same symptoms as the first, but different days. So while you’re able to expect the same things, you still aren’t able to anticipate when or where or how you’ll feel from one day to the next. Maddening, right?

Then I started round 3, and thought I’d at least know what I don’t know. I’m learning that’s the only thing I do know. Only now I’m working up some kind of funk to go with it. And I going on day 5 of fatigue that makes it really hard to want to sit up, much less get up, from whatever prone state I’m in. It’s actually quite dumbfounding that you can be so tired you don’t want to eat or pee, but you can’t actually fall asleep. So here I sit… wide awake…but tired to my very core…rambling.

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How To Tell Your Four Year Old You Have Cancer

Let me state emphatically that I’m sure people will say there is no right or wrong way to talk to your children about something like illness. Let me also state that I’m sure I did it wrong, but it is right for me, and for my children.

As a child, I remember vividly knowing that my own mother was suffering. There were hushed conversations, whispers, tears and anxiety that I knew and could feel, but my parents choose to do what they felt was right for the family. Back then, illness and disease were secrets kept in the family and not something that were openly discussed. A persons business was their business, and good for gossip, but it was very impolite to discuss openly or ask questions. Even when my grandmother showed us her mastectomy scars I remember feeling this was wrong; I shouldn’t know or see this. I remember her telling me when her prosthetic boob fell out of her bra in mid-sentance, while gardening and talking with a male neighbor. Like any self-respecting “gal” of her stature, she just covered it up with the dirt she was digging in and kept on with the conversation. I remember around the age of 9 or 10 when I finally asked the right question, or enough questions, when my parents finally told me my mother had Multiple Sclerosis. Wow… Still hurts to this day. I had so many questions and no where to start.

Based on my personal experience, I took a different course. My three year old (Holland) is really too young, and frankly not interested enough, to really be a part of a sit down conversation. But I wanted my 4 year old to have a different experience. I wanted Hannah to not hear rumors and whispers, and not be afraid of words like cancer. I wanted to tell her and take that power.

The night I received my official diagnosis and we knew what we thought to be the extent of the disease, we decided to talk to the kids together. Hubby really left it up to me to pick words to use, and how to shape the conversation, but he sat there by my side showing support and comfort.

Right after dinner, November 26th, 2013, I told Hannah that Mommy has something wrong with her. That there is something bad growing inside my boobies and the doctor is going to cut them off. It’s called cancer. I’m going to have to be in the hospital, but I won’t be gone long. When I come home, I’m going to feel bad but it will get better every day. Then I’m going to have to have medicine for a long time that will make me feel sick and make my hair fall out, but when it does we know the medicine is working. We talked about how she can help me with picking out hats and wigs, and since it’s only for a little while it can be fun.

It really stuck, and she has taken time to ask questions along the way. Neither of my children show any fear of the words, or of cancer. In fact, I may have done too good of a job. When my father arrived for Thanksgiving, Hannah proclaimed that “Mommy has cancer in her boobies and they’re getting cut off”. Poor Dad. But she is loving and supportive, and very in tune with how I am feeling on any given day. And my little Holland is doing just as well with such a hard topic. When her daycare director asked her how her mommy was doing, Holland stated emphatically “My Mommy got her boobies cut off! (Lifting up her shirt and showing her chest) And now she looks just like MEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Out of the mouthes of babes…

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How To Tell Your Friends You Have Cancer

I highly recommend Facebook. Don’t forget that not everyone of your friends will see you post. And be sure to tell those that actually love you, like your dad, that you have cancer before posting in Facebook. He likes to hear these things from you rather than from “friends of friends” that he’s also friends with.

This is my actual Facebook post. It was pretty cathartic.

OK people… Here’s the deal. I have cancer. In my boobies. We are parting ways forever on Friday. Sorry if I didn’t get a chance to tell you in person, on the phone, or means other than Facebook. You will hopefully understand when I tell you that if it upsets you that I didn’t tell you, sorry, but you will get over it. I promise. But I still love you and we’re still friends. Announcement over. Carry on

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The Hardest Job Of All

It’s not hard to understand that I have the “easy” part in all of this. Yes, it sucks. Yes, I get sick and feel horrible for weeks at a time. But you know what? I get to DO something. I “get” to be the one who is active in all of this. I have people supporting me at work, at my doctors visits, in Facebook and at home. My poor husband doesn’t get that. He doesn’t look like his world is crumbling around him. To look at him you wouldn’t know that he is losing sleep, worrying, driving back and forth and back and forth, all while working full time managing his office and employees, and the stress of managing the house and kids. He just has to take the scenic route, watching the mother of his children to see what it’s going to be like today. Yup… observer and loved one is definitely the hardest job in all of this.

God bless my husband…

Hubby and me

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Follicle Follies

It’s that time… the time in nearly every chemo patient’s life when your hair starts to go. I had thought I might escape this part, even though my oncologist assured me that the chance my hair won’t fall out receiving my chemo regiment was only 1%. So let’s review for you follicley full friends what it’s actually like to get to bald.

My normal lush locks

My normal lush locks

I’m sure every woman reading can empathize with always wanting different hair. If it’s curly, you want it straight and spend countless hours with a flat iron to achieve that look. If it’s straight, you want curls, and spend countless hours with curly hair product, curling irons and curlers to achieve that luscious, movie-star look. Nothing will make you appreciate what you have, like someone telling you you’re going to lose it in approximately 3 weeks.

I’ve been working hard to ensure that my babies (3 and 4 years old) aren’t surprised when Mommy has no hair. We talk it up as something new and ways we can have fun: wigs, hats, scarves, etc. I think, though, that I may have talked it up too much. My first day of chemo I came home from the hospital and Hannah exclaimed  (with some disappointment) “Mommy! You still have your hair!” Well that morning,  Sarah and I went upstairs to let Hannah know that we were starting this new step in my treatment. We talked about medicine and things that will happen, and hair. Luckily for me, Sarah keeps a photo in her wallet from her bald days. She asked Hannah if she wanted to see what Mommy might look like with no hair. Hannah took the photo and looked at it for a while, without saying anything. Then she looked at me and quietly said, “Mommy, it’s beautiful!” Well of course Sarah and I both well up with tears. (Hey! Don’t judge.) And since then she’s been on Hair Watch.

Transition hair

Transition hair

No about how it feels to lose your hair; it hurts. It feels like you’ve had your hair in a really tight pony tail for 2 weeks and then take it out. My actual hair hurts,  not to mention my scalp. There are those that will argue this, as clearly your hair doesn’t have nerves, to which I say pblblblblblblblblbl. YOU have chemo and lose your hair then tell me it doesn’t hurt.

True to my whack-a-mole analogy, my hair literally started falling out all of the sudden, in a meeting on Wednesday. I decided to cut it short so it won’t be so hard to go my normal hair to bald. I like it. It will be great when it starts to grow back in.

For now, all we can do is sit and wait to see how many days left until we take it all.

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Radioactive, Radioactive

If you’re going to get a PET scan, you should know that they insert an IV line and inject you with radioactive dye. You lie in a chair for 60 minutes, as still as you can, while the dye courses through you body. They then come and get you, allow you to pee, then take you to the imaging room. The scan itself takes between 15-20 minutes, and it’s best to close your eyes if you’re claustrophobic.

On another important note, you should know your discharge papers will state that you should stay away from small children and pregnant women. Ummm… yeah… As a mom, it really would have been nice to know that before going.

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