Monday, December 24, 2012

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out...

This blog post comes just in time for you to watch "A Christmas Story" for 24 hours straight.  Do  yourself a favor and watch it at least once.

Catching the Christmas Spirit is a little harder as I've grown older,  left teaching and yet to have kiddos of my own.  Last year my tree was a tiny ceramic one I'd painted in Elementary School.  It looked like Christmas would be an after thought yet again this year.  That is, until I won tickets to this...

Thanks to my friend Cristie at The Right Hand Mom and the movie quote skills of the Hubs, these tickets came as a MUCH needed break from reality.  

Arguably the best Christmas movie ever, it took its leg lamp, pink bunny suit and Red Ryder BB gun, set it to music and hit the stage. Trust me, it was every bit as fabuous as it sounds.  I wasn't allowed to take pictures in the theater so my descriptive powers will have to do.  

After buying a $16 Oohhhhh Fudge martini we settled into our 8th row center seats.  I had no idea the seats would be that good.  The Lunt-Fontanne Theater is beautiful and spacious which this tall girl always appreciates.  The stage was framed in a sparkly snow picture mat, the curtains opened and out walked the Dad from The  Wonder Years. That's right, Dan Lauria (yup, I had to look that one up too) played Jean Sheperd, narrated the scenes and spent most of the time on the sidelines of the stage moving the story along.  

The highlights of the play were many.  The real dogs that played the Bumpus Hounds (Dolly would never behave that well) cracked me up every time they chased the father and ran through the stage.  The "Ralphie to the Rescue" number was every child's dream of standing up and saving the day.  Ok, maybe it was just my childhood dream of saving my class from a bad guy (or yelling at the school principal).  But when Ralphie jumped onto his desk and the other students cheered, I might have been  a bit jealous.  The hands down best act of the play was titled Fantasy 1930's Speakeasy where the teacher, adult cast and children sang "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" while doing a kick line with leg lamps.  Mike and I kept looking over at each other in surprise as each scene got better and better.  

We left the theater feeling like kids again.  We took a few pictures in the lobby with the FRAGILE crates and ventured out into the City.  We hit up Times Square and Rockefeller Center and filled up on all of the lights, sights, and Christmas Spirit.

Thanks again Cristie from The Right Hand Mom.  This girl found her Christmas Spirit and we had a Blast.  Merry Christmas everyone!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chemo Round 2: Success!!!

Let's just say Chemo Round 1 was a bit traumatic.  We're  not gonna talk about it at this point.  But Chemo Round 2, that was smooth as butter.

Round 1 (ok so I'll talk about it a little) there were a bunch of women in the room that came in, got hooked up to the IV, put their feet up on the recliner, took a snooze, finished up and left.  These poor women had to hear whining, complaining Round 1 me.  By Round 2, I was one of those women. 

The visit starts with a chat with the nurse practitioner.  She reviews the side affects I had last time and the duration.  I was happy to say that I was off of any anti-nausea meds a week later and basically resumed normal life.  Side affects also include constipation and diarrhea which I was able to manage as well.  Other than the allergic reaction to a change in laundry detergent that took over my life,  I was fine. 

There are two blood tests that are taken in between rounds. The first one is taken 10 days after treatment to measure red and white blood counts and platelets.  At this point, they should be the lowest they are going to get and then build up.  The next blood test is the Friday before the next treatment (or the day for some patients) that makes sure the blood cell counts have come back up.  If they haven't, the next round of chemo is delayed until they do.

 For me, the ca125 levels are also checked.  While there is no test or screening for ovarian cancer (that's a problem isn't it?) ca125 can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.  It can also detect a bunch of different things, you can look it up and have someone smarter than me explain it.  Anyway, my ca125 level was 36 which is a bit above "normal" but the number can soar into the thousands.  Our goal was to get that number into the single digits.

When the NP got to my blood results she said the blood counts were all right where they should be but the ca125...(my heart stopped right here) had decrease 4 fold from 36 to 9!  (My heart soared right here) SINGLE DIGITS BABY!  As my NP pointed out, it is not only great that the number went down, but it proves that the chemo was necessary and the right choice.  Perhaps someday I'll write about the great chemo debate, but it was a big one and I can't believe that the decision has been affirmed so quickly. 

So I walked into the chemo room, got my chair in the corner, got my port hooked up, took a snooze, talked to my mom and Mike and left by 2pm. I like to say I had a port installed in my chest for chemo.  Apparently "installed" is the wrong word but its the one I use.  A port is "a small round metal or plastic disc is placed under your skin through an inch-or-two-long incision. This may be located on your upper chest or occasionally your upper arm. This port is then attached to a catheter tube that is threaded into one of the large veins near your neck, such as the subclavian vein or jugular vein, and ends near the top of your heart." Source  

They start with IV fluids, including steroids and  benadryl to prevent allergic reactions.  This part is usually nap time as the room starts spinning and my words tend to slur.  After that there is a machine that gets attached to the IV pole that regulates the chemo.  I have taxol and carbo combination.  The taxol take about 3 hours to administer, the carbo takes about 30 minutes.  There are two nurses that are specifically assigned to the chemo room and they monitor the administration, change the speed and deal with any surprises.  They teach us all about the medicines and what we can expect.  We all chat throughout the day and its a pretty nice atmosphere to be kicking cancer's ass. 

After that, we went home, ate, slept, ate, slept some more.  I gotta to tell you, it was fun to wake up and remind myself that I am in the single digits and that this is actually working!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Joining the Survivor's Club.

The Survivor Club is getting a new member. Me.

Better pictures to come...I promise. 

This journey started back in August.  A large ovarian cyst, rarely a problem I was assured.  Surgery to remove it led to that big scary word.  Cancer.  Then even scarier descriptor:  Ovarian.  Ovarian Cancer, the one that whispers.  The girl who physically can't whisper and is known to be the loudest in the room has a cancer that barely utters a peep.  I barely uttered a peep about it as well.

We circled the wagons, my family and I, my incredibly loyal work friends.  We let a few people in a time, worried about their reaction.  Unsure of what to even tell them.  It was early stage and at first it looked like I dodged a bullet and wouldn't need additional surgery just close monitoring.  Could I even call myself a survivor if that was the case?  A visit to a gynecological oncologist proved otherwise and I was whisked into major surgery to remove my appendix, omentum, lymph nodes and to check out the other ovary.  I am proud to say it all came out cancer free, a tremendous blessing.  I was in the hospital for four days and out of work for three weeks.  In a small town and small office building rumors spread like wildfire, and still, not a whisper.

I toyed with the idea of telling more people, I told everyone it wasn't a secret, they could tell who they needed to tell.  Cards came in the mail, from the nurse practitioner of my primary doctor, my sister's boyfriend's parents, wives of the firemen, my cousin Jenn's best friend.  People were starting to learn, to reach out in support while still protecting our privacy.  When it looked like I didn't need chemo, I thought I could get away with the whole thing. A second opinion and a lot of soul searching proved that wasn't the case and on Tuesday November 20th I went in for my first session.  It was Thanksgiving week which I though was convenient as I wouldn't miss much work and I'd get to be surrounded by family throughout the first treatment.

I had an incredible week, including a great big teal fest at a nail salon with my cousins, amazing food and family. For the first time in the history of Thanksgiving, I actually lost weight because I was asleep before dessert.  And on Sunday November 25th, while I was waiting for one of the best friends a girl could ask for to come over with some brunch, this was on CBS Sunday Morning by Joel Sartore.  Please take a moment to watch.
 Read it here
Watch it here

The first watch was hard.  I thought, "Like I need THIS right now."  Then I hit rewind and watched it again.  Later after brunch, I showed it again to my husband, sister, her boyfriend and our friends.  It was good.  It was right.  It was exactly what I needed.

"At our house, we hold hands tight these days."  And hug closer, call more often and say I love you more.

"We are doing well, even thankful."  Thankful for each other, love and support of friends and family, health insurance, flexible work schedules, extended sick leave, good karma and great people.  For the oncology nurse practitioner my uncle married that would get me through each day of this to the hair dresser I went to elementary school with that let me cry in her salon.  For food and gift cards and cookies in the mail.  For being on the prayer list of my best friend's grandma, Friars in Philadelphia and the woman who works in the mail room.  We are doing well.  We are incredibly thankful.

"There has never been a better time in history to have cancer…look around you, we are all surrounded by survivors." I come from a long line of cancer survivors, both grandmothers, both grandfathers and my Aunt Jane.  My Aunt Sue fought a hard battle and I am strengthened by the courage and grace she showed until her last day.  Everyone I meet tells a cancer story.  Sometimes it's their story, sometimes the story of someone they love.  Every time it is filled with strength, courage and hope.  We are surrounded by strength of survivors.  That is something we shouldn't be quiet about.  The more we tell the stories, the more we share the hope and courage of survivors, the less the disease has control over our lives.  

"Ask anyone of them if they are thankful.  Everyday they’ll say, every day."  I've been more thankful lately.  For the little things and the big things.  Mike and I have been living life to the fullest (most would argue we already did that).  We went to NYC, I rocked my shaved head to work on Friday and wore a chemo cap out to a party for the first time on Saturday.  We are not hiding.  We are thankful every day.  We are living every day. 

By February, I plan to join the survivors club.  I am grateful, thankful, and ready to hit this session head on this Tuesday.  Who do you know in the survivor's club?  Feel free to leave their (or your) story below. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

WIP it Up: What I've Been Up To

I guess this blog is a WIP so I'm happy to give you this little update...

I love writing.  I started this blog in hopes of becoming more disciplined in it.  I thought if I made up themed days of the week I'd write more consistently.  Mentor Monday, Soapbox Saturday/Sunday but I haven't stuck to that.  I thought having themes in general like WIP it Up or Local Flavor would give me direction.  Thing is, I dislike discipline and I'm terrible at directions.  Truth is, I write when I feel inspired, when I have time, when I have something meaningful to say.

I have something meaningful to say, but I'm avoiding saying it.  I working on it and will show you soon.  Have news but not the news that most people expect (ie the news that a crying, pooping, spitting up mini human is moving in).  Stay tuned and I'll let you know.

What I have up to is creating hats for my friend's and family's crying, pooping, spitting up bundles of joy.  I feature them over at a different blog called Pumpkin Head Knits.   Below are pictures from that.  Right now I am working on Christmas hats.  If you see some cuteness you can't live without, shoot my an email with you order.  I am having fun and love the excuse of watching TV marathons while "working" on my hats.

Thanks for sticking with me, I'll be back soon : ) Until then, enjoy all this cuteness...