Monthly Archives: February 2014

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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A Days Work

Have you ever been super excited to go to work? Walking with a serious pep in your step, practically skipping, with a stupid grin stuck on your face? I haven’t either… until today. Yes, my friends, today I went to the office for the first time since December 18, 2013. It was glorious.

Why, may you ask, would I do that? Because I CAN! I don’t feel good, I feel like ME. I can’t over express that in the absence of feeling sick, pain, nauseous, weak, yaddah, yaddah is a blissful sense of- being.

Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges. My first meeting this morning I walked in and surprised my colleagues, including my boss, my senior vice president, 2 VPs, lawyers, directors and a few worker bees like myself. Everyone was so kind and generous with their smiles and words. Not wanting to distract too much from this meeting I quickly take the nearest seat, next to my SVP. As I pull myself up to the conference table, with everyone still looking and smiling at me, these gigantic new, unwieldy, tissue expanded mounds of not-yet-reconstructed boobs knock directly into the table for all to see. Somewhat embarrassed that I feel like I can’t control my body I immediately let out a nervous laugh and go into a completely inappropriate diatribe about my new fake boobs, resplendent with a full description of my last fill, where they have grown into my arm pits and how misshapen they are. Silence. Absolute silence as I see a few smiles, more than one mouth agape, and once I exclaim “I still got it”, heartwarming laughter.

For one day, today, I was someone other than cancer. I’ll take that.

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My Road To “Recovery” Is Full Of Potholes

I’m learning rather quickly that what I have planned for how this is all going to go down means absolutely bubkis in all of this. So here what was supposed to happen:

  • Surgery Dec 20, 2013
  • Approximately 2 weeks later, I’d be feeling pouty and sore, but I have it all worked out to go into the office where I have been granted an additional desktop computer. 1 for work, 1 for home. I’ll nary miss a minute of all the social media drama and action.
  • I will spend the next week or so slowly building up to regular business hours while simultaneously determining what my chemo regiment will be and determing my very orderly chemo schedule.
  • I will begin chemo. I will allow myself approximately 2, no let’s say 3 days to be kind to myself, to feel sick, then back to run some hours in the office. Not too many. I’m not a complete nutter. Just start with 4. Then work the 3rd week before my next round a regular office schedule.

What happened?

Cancer. That’s what happened. First, the mild depression the first week after surgery that the pain, the pill popping, the weakness, drains, aches, pains, stitching, oh-my-god-when-can-I-take-a-shower, day after day with no end in site. I was not prepared for the mere fact that I could wake up the next day and not feel at all better. Not one bit.

Week 3

Finally, after you will take anything as confirmation that you’re getting better, I was ready to brave the office and see someone, anyone, other than my family. (Sorry. Love to you all and for all you’re doing, but you know it’s true.) I finally had 2 of my 4 drains out and was ready to get up and around. My poor children spent their Christmas Day watching me sit in a chair in a haze, barely able to fake-enjoy it for their sake. I woke up that morning with a huge increase in pain and stiffness, ready to rip the tissue expanders out with my bare hands. I called the office and have the best nurses ever. I explained clearly that this makes no sense. I have had 2 significant surgeries with my children and at the end of 2 weeks you’re up and around. Kim did all she could not to laugh at me while she patiently explained that c-sections are quite different. I had just had pieces of my body removed, and between weeks 3-8 the severed nerve endings start regenerating. This, it seems, is all quite common and a positive sign. Back to narcotics land we go. Drains pumping, no driving, napping in mid-day, and you definitely don’t want me on social media sites on Lortab.

Monday, bloody Monday

After a strong week at home, the pain subsides and I finally get the other drains out. Ah ha! Ready to implement said plan. I feel pretty good. I’d say cocky even. I’m going to shower, with no adults around and alone in the house with my 4 year old. Getting out of the shower I am inspecting the incision on the cancer side (right) where we have been nursing some soft tissue that is still really mad it doesn’t have the former blood supply and isn’t sure it wants to continue to stay with me. While I’m looking down and pulling gently on my skin
*Graphic Content Warning*
my itty bitty little booby pops like a zit, squirting bloody fluid 12″ in front of me. When the gushing pressure subsides, it turns into a slow tidal wave of the stuff, pouring all over my bathroom. Confusion and total panic set in. I grab towels to apply pressure, as my flight attendant training clearly says you’re supposed to do while pouring fluid out of your body. As I stand in the bathroom I realize it reminds me of a scene out of some bad horror movie. While I’m bleeding through the towels, I text my poor sister who just got off a plane from London to hurry, because I think I’m dying. OK, not really dying. But I did tell her I’m home alone with Hannah (the 4 year old), still unable to drive, and I don’t want her to walk in. It all worked out just fine, but just two days before my first chemo and I suddenly have a new drain, which equals a new hole in my body.

The moral of this story?

I don’t really have one, sorry. I could give you some lemon analogy, but so far that’s crap. It’s drugs, naps, tears, watching the kids from afar, and driving my poor hubby to the brink of near insanity. But I do plan to go to work this week.

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