Laundry Doesn’t Stop For Cancer

I met a new friend a couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend, who has just finished her battery of treatments for breast cancer. I enjoyed talking with her, she gave me some tips and even a few hats! She’s a writer and commented that if she were to write a book about her experience, it would be entitled Laundry Doesn’t Stop for Cancer. Not that I’ve been doing nothing but laundry for the last week, but it’s been a “normal” week. And being a mom doesn’t stop just because I have cancer. So I’ve been keeping busy with normal mom things, and am thrilled that I’ve been able.

I’m still holding my afternoons sacred for naps, but have managed to last this long and still have no nausea, so we’ve been able to reduce my steroids (which help control nausea) in the hopes that I’ll sleep better– they make me pretty wired!
With the holidays coming, there are plenty of “normal events” to keep me busy: concerts, parties, dinners. As long as I can, I’ll keep napping my afternoons away so that I can keep up with my family during this busy time of year. And so I can keep up with all this laundry.

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Chemo #3: Cryotherapy by Slurpee

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My third trip to chemo took me back to one of the common rooms.  There are three, and it’s pretty easy to tell which is the sad, quiet room.  Obviously I don’t choose that one!  There was another woman in this room who I’d met the first day, and so it was fun chatting with her again. In this photo, you can see my slurpee.  During my first trip to chemo, my nurse told me that I should suck on ice or keep something cold during part of my infusion.  Adriamycin is a particularly nasty drug, instead of letting it drip in over time, she would “push” it directly into the line into my port.  It takes about ten minutes for her to slowly inject it into my line.  Studies have shown that cryotherapy—bathing the mouth in ice—will help prevent mouth sores that are a common side effect from chemo.  So after I put on some lipstick (Dubonnet again!), we head to 7-11 to pick up a big slurpee.  I stash it in a little cooler so that it’s cold and icy when we get to the Adriamycin push.  I love a good slurpee, but by the time she’s finished, I’m usually freezing and sick of my beloved coke slurpee.

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So Very Thankful

I am thankful for so much this year. It would be easy to complain about the interruption in my life– the time and energy that I’m losing to cancer. But it’s just an interruption, and complaining would only use up more time and energy.

Strangely, I’m oh so thankful for a cyst. Over and over again, doctors have told me how shocked they are that I presented with a cyst and was diagnosed with cancer. But the wonderful thing about the cyst is that it got big quickly and got me to a surgeon right away– nearly five years before I would have had a normal mammogram. The crazy formation of the cyst allowed me to be diagnosed while the cancer is still very treatable. I’m thankful for a surgeon who wanted to aspirate that cyst even though many doctors wouldn’t have encouraged me to do so. I’m thankful for a team of doctors who have coordinated all kinds of appointments and tests for me, just telling me when and where to show up, and for the fact that they have personally ensured that everything is scheduled in a timely manner.

I’m thankful that both kids are in school now and I’m able to stay at home, managing all the appointments and chemo is so much easier when I can schedule everything and rest while they’re at school so that I can be “on” when they are home. And I’m so grateful for a super huge bus stop– it’s a whole community where the kids play for an hour after school most days, even on holidays and weekends. I always know that someone (usually several someones!) will look out for my kids if I can’t make it. I’ve made some great friends there and it’s so wonderful to live in a community where you run into friends all the time.

I’m thankful for an army of friends, relatives, and friends of friends who pray for me, encourage me, and take care of me and my family. Even though I’ve felt relatively well so far, I lose a lot of hours each day to napping and appointments, so not having to worry about cooking dinner every night is such a weight off my mind. I’m collecting a whole big box of the kindest cards and notes, I wish I could thank everyone personally, but there are far too many. It’s so touching how many think of me and take the time to write me.

Of course, I’m thankful for my dear friend Sally. She’s blessed my family with the most special photos of us all together, and I know so many appreciate the photos she’s taking of me to share along the way. She’s made time to come along with me to appointments, chemo, wig shopping, and when I had my head shaved. She’s got her own family to take care of, yet she makes sure that I don’t walk a step alone. We have a lot of fun, honestly, but every once in a while shake our heads that this is how we now fill our mornings out. And yet, I’m sure it never crosses her mind not to tag along. My parents and brother check on me all the time and I know think of me even more. I’m sure hardest of all, they’re letting me have some independence to try to keep things normal for my family. I couldn’t be more thankful for two kids than I am for Emma Clare and Turner. They play together so well– I’m sure they argue and occasionally there are tears, but for the most part, if we’re home, they find something to do together and I have to ask them to come hang out with me! They’re great at letting me nap, they’ll watch TV or play together quietly enough for me to sleep for a couple of hours, even if Clay is at work. They love me so much, and have dealt with everything from missed field trips to my bald head with such graciousness. And I’m so thankful for Clay. He takes care of me when I need it, lets me be normal when I can, and tells me I’m beautiful (and means it!) even now that I have no hair.
God continues to make my body strong. Every day I am thankful for the strength I have. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, knowing that even in a difficult situation, I couldn’t ask for more.

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Not bad, eh?

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And here is the “after,” the wig after a little breaking in and with no extra hair underneath. It really looks so much like my real hair.  But, it feels like a step or two above American Girl doll hair.  I’m a fiddler—I’ve always played with my hair, tucking it behind my ears, pulling it up off my neck…  This is going to take some getting used to; long, curly, synthetic hair is not for a fiddler.  I’ll never be able to run my fingers through this “hair,” so I need to learn to leave it alone.  I’m ok with the scarf look, though, and I’m so glad the kids are, too.  Putting on all this hair feels a little like playing dress up to me—it feels too fake.  And somehow it makes me feel stronger to go out sans hair.  So I’m betting this lovely wig may not get a lot of wear…  And that’s ok.

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Race Report

What a great day—today’s race will definitely go down as one of my favorite runs ever.  We arrived early enough that Emma Clare could decorate my head before we joined the rest of the girls from Tuckahoe.  We sat in the comfort of our warm car and she busted out the washable markers and emblazoned my head with the Girls on the Run logo.  photo 3
We had fun with friends before the race.  It was a cool morning to stand around, but perfect weather for running.  We had a good race—we ran the whole time and I only had to slow her down a couple of times. Better yet, we finished strong and could have run another mile!  We both worked hard and I couldn’t be prouder.
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The Final Cut

Enjoying my coffee with Sally and Crystal on Wednesday, I ran my fingers through my hair like I always do.  Only this time, I usually came out with a strand or two of hair. Thursday, it was several hairs at a time. I called to see when Dragan could squeeze me in to shave my head. Actually, I put off calling him for a couple of hours, I wasn’t ready. But he could put me before his first appointment on this morning, which would be good for Sally to meet me and the kids wouldn’t miss much school. I took the appointment, though still wasn’t sure that I was ready. But this morning, I was ready. Just washing my hair and attempting to blow it dry to go have it cut left far more hair on the brush and the floor than I wanted to deal with. That’s just what I needed to see, it was time.
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Dragan braided it and cut off the braid so that I can donate it.  The kids did great, they’d wanted to come along.  We had fun and not a tear was shed. Though, as Dragan prepared to start shaving, my compassionate little guy came over to love on me just in case I needed it.

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Part of what made the day a success was the markers.  Thanks to Ashley’s video, I thought to take along some washable markers for them to use to decorate my newly bald head.  It gave them something to look forward to and they loved it!

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I thought I’d be at least a little upset over the loss of my hair.  But really, I’m ok with it.  So far, I’ve gone out in my wig, a scarf, and even bared my bald head a little. I was completely ok with it, and so were the kids. They love to massage and pet my bald head! I was worried about their reaction, and couldn’t have been more pleased with how they’re doing. I knew that being without hair, makeup was going to be more important than ever to me.  I’m so glad I took the time to do a good job, it really does feel like it made a difference.  Since lots of people on facebook asked, this lipstick is my current favorite, Dubonnet by MAC.  Seeing these pictures, I think a strong, bold lip will be important in the upcoming months, and I’m betting this lipstick will get a lot of use.

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It shouldn’t go without saying that these images are so special to me.  I worried seeing my hair fall to the floor might be hard. Mostly, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold it together if the kids fell to pieces.  Watching Ashley’s video gave me confidence that we would do fine, and it made me realize that I wanted those special images of my own.  I’m so grateful that Sally came along and captured this fun morning for us.  I feel truly blessed to call this talented woman my friend.

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Photography by Sally Brewer Photography

 

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I Am Beautiful

I read a very compelling blog post today (thanks to Stephanie for sharing it with me!) by a woman who was determined to tell her daughters that she thinks she is beautiful. Having grown up with friends who struggled with eating disorders, I’ve always been very careful to make sure that Emma Clare knows that her value as a person is not linked to her beauty. But she is beautiful, and I tell her that often. The article questioned how we can expect our little girls to still think of themselves as beautiful young women when they remember their mothers constantly putting themselves down.

And so as I run my fingers through my hair and find each time that a few strands remain in my hand, I see cancer threatening my ability to tell Emma Clare I am beautiful.  It will take my hair, it will leave me scarred.  And yet I am determined that the author of this post was right.  I am beautiful, and I will stay that way.  Emma Clare will believe it, and if I say it enough, I will too.

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The Best of Friends

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Sally is a dear, sweet friend.  I have a feeling that in the coming months, I’m going to learn even more about what it means to be a good friend by seeing all that she does for me.  There are a few perks to having that dear, sweet friend also be a professional photographer.  For one, I have some super fabulous family pictures! Another perk: meeting more photographers!  Today we met up with Crystal of Lily B Photogrpahy, who took this lovely picture of the two of us.  We had a great morning corralling kiddos and taking pictures, followed by yummy coffee at a favorite coffee shop.  I really love this image Crystal captured of me by myself.

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But the funny thing is I was really just posing to goof off a bit, Sally wanted to capture this image of her own:

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Yes, Crystal took our pictures that close to a busy road while her infant hung out (pun intended!) in her Ergo carrier.  Because that, my friends, is how we roll.

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Awaiting the Next Round

I had a good visit at the oncologist’s office today. They did my bloodwork and all my counts are in the normal range, so I’m good to go for chemo on Thursday. We talked about how my last round went, I was eager to hear her opinion on whether my reaction to chemo was likely to change. She said that some of the fatigue may increase throughout the process, but the fact that I didn’t have any nausea and little bone pain was encouraging. She said it looks like I may not struggle with those side effects.

I feel so fortunate that my body is handling this so well. I’m also very thankful that I have the opportunity to take a good nap every day, I’ve no doubt that is making a big difference in how I feel. I realize how I feel could change any day, but somehow, every day that I feel well is such a pleasant surprise, a true gift.

I continue to pray that my body will be strong. But do you every pray for something that you know is kind of silly– not really important in the big picture, but it matters to you? This week, I’m praying extra hard that I’ll be able to run this Sunday in the Girls on the Run 5K with Emma Clare. (I should be able to– I’ve been running since starting chemo, so I’m ready!) We have been talking about it for a long time, and she understands that I might have to go slow or walk. She’s been dealing with my cancer diagnosis much better lately, but last week one night, she came downstairs after she’d headed up to bed, crying. She was worried about me. It broke my heart. We talked for a while, and I did my best to reassure her. After she was all calmed down and I was about to send her back to bed, she said, “I’m so glad you’re going to be able to run with me.” It’s kind of a big deal to me, but that’s mostly because I know it’s a big deal to her. So if you’re looking for something to pray for this week, I’m praying that I’ll be in great shape to run with her on Sunday.

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A New Schedule

There’s not been much new to report in the past few days. I’m still feeling pretty well and certainly am not going to complain about anything. I did miss my afternoon nap one day, and I was pretty worn out, but that’s so much less bad than I’d expected. I also figured out after eating a bunch of fruit last night that my mouth might be getting a little sensitive, so I’m laying off things with too much acid for the time being. After that incident last night, all I could think about was how much I wanted a milkshake, so I stopped and got one today at Chick-fil-A– they make really good milkshakes! I made Sally taste it several times and she said she thought it might be a little “off.” I think my tastebuds might be starting to be affected though, it seemed a LOT off to me. At least I won’t end up gaining a ton of weight from all the milkshakes!

I was next door to the Chick-fil-A because I was picking up my wig. It still needs some breaking in, and it’s hard to really tell how it’s going to look since I have so much hair for it to cover right now. But I think it looks a lot like my real hair, so I was pleased about that.

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This week was nothing like I’d feared, and so I’m eager to go to my appointments next week to find out if the week is an accurate representation of what chemo will continue to be like. I’m definitely back to the schedule one keeps with a new baby– do what you can in the morning because that afternoon nap is essential– but that feels like something I can handle. And I know that it might continue to get harder, but I’m so thankful for the unexpected gift of an extra good week.

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