Who needs armpits?



When we told the kids that I had cancer, they were of course worried that I would die.  Being scientists, we opted not to tell the kids I had cancer because of some “icky yucky germs” like one children’s book we’d been given suggested. (Seriously?) Instead, I explained to them that cancer cells grow out of control, they don’t stop when they’re supposed to like normal cells.  I told them that people can die from cancer, when the cancer cells are in a part of your body that you need to live and the cancer takes over so that part can’t do its job. They didn’t need to worry, though, I didn’t need my breasts to survive, the doctors could do surgery and take the breast tissue out and I’d be fine, no cancer, and it wouldn’t change the way my body worked.

Last night I was wearing a tank top.  When I stretched, the kids noticed the scar that’s in my armpit from where they sampled my lymph nodes.  They asked about it, and I told them that’s where the doctors checked to make sure that there wasn’t any cancer, and reassured them that there wasn’t.

Turner’s response: “Oh, because you don’t need your armpit.”

I guess he thinks the doctors removed my armpit.

Farewell, Google Reader

I’ve been a big fan of Google Reader for years. It has been a great way to keep track of all kinds of blogs– I didn’t have to check daily on all the blogs I enjoyed. Instead, I could scroll through Google Reader see what was new at each of my favorite blogs at a glance. I could read the full article there or quickly skip to the next article. Sadly, Google Reader will be no more as of July 1.


Other bloggers are taking note, and when Ashley mentioned she is using bloglovin‘, I quickly signed up. That was a simple decision, I love nearly every thing she does! It’s easy to transfer all your blogs from Google Reader, and it’s easy to add new blogs. But it only lets you see one picture and read a snippet of each post. To read the whole post, you have to click through to the blog, and let’s face it, that takes extra time. They send a daily digest email, not sure if that’s a plus or not. It’s a lovely format, but I wasn’t 100% sold.

feedlySo today, I saw that Leisl, another blogger I’m just crazy about, is using Feedly, and I thought it was worth looking into. Again, it quickly imported all my blogs from Google Reader, and I really love that it will let me choose if I want just a list of recent posts, a single picture with a little tease, or the full post. Um, full post, please. So far, I haven’t found it quite as easy to add new blogs, though it’s completely manageable, and I can’t find a way to search within my blogs. (It does look like that’s in their future plans, though.) But it does let me group my blogs so that if I can quickly scan my favorites if I don’t have time to look through the new posts on the roughly 150 blogs that I follow.

I’m sure that there a lot of great blog reader services out there, I’d love to know if you’ve found one you like better. But for now, I think I’m sticking with Feedly.

Sweater Weather

sweaters breast cancer hot flashes northern virginiaOk, I know that it’s finally officially summer, so not the normal time to write about sweater weather.  But I was rather attached to this stack of cardigans a few months ago.  In fact, after Christmas, I went out and bought three of four of these, along with a several tank tops to add to my stack, in the same trip.  They were just that important.

Chemo does lots of things to a gal’s body.  Not many people mention it, but one of the lovely side effects is chemically induced menopause.  That’s right, ladies.  Hot flashes.   (And a few other undesirables…)  But the hot flashes nearly drove me nuts.  They started at night, and so I’d just take off the hat I slept in to keep my head warm and stick in in my windowsill.  That way, when the hot flash had passed and I was cold again, I could reach for it and grab it in the dark.  But managing them during the day got a little tricky.  I have so many lovely bulky sweaters.  They didn’t get much wear this winter.  It was a lot of cardigans and blazers for me this winter so that I could shed a layer when I got hot.  I’m sure a bald chick with a scarf on her head and a wearing a tank top with jeans looked totally normal in December.

My oncologist asked about the hot flashes, and I was reluctant to take any more meds, I thought I was managing fine.  But when she asked how I was sleeping, I had to admit that between the hot flashes and whatever else was going on with me, it wasn’t great.  She gave me something to take at bedtime that would control the hot flashes but might make me sleepy, and it made a HUGE difference.  It’s not a drug without side effects, but it really didn’t bother me.  By the time I finished chemo, I was taking a different medication in the morning to keep the daytime hot flashes at bay, and I could actually start wearing something other than the tank top/cardigan combination.  I’m so thankful for the support meds that have been developed– there’s no reason to avoid them and be a martyr.  Quality of life is so important, and they made a huge difference in mine.  So worth it.

Before I had a great handle on them, I was at chemo and was fanning myself through yet another hot flash.  The French girl mentioned that she was usually cold at chemo, she couldn’t believe that I was hot.  I told her it was just a hot flash, that if she wasn’t having them, she probably would be soon, she was just a couple of cycles behind me.  Apparently, she’d missed the part of chemo camp where they’d said to expect hot flashes.  She was actually planning to call her landlord that afternoon because she thought her heater was broken– kicking on super high randomly through the night!

This Too Shall Pass

this too shall pass run lipstick chemo northern virginia
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since I read Ashley’s post entitled "This Too Shall Pass."  That’s a phrase people use a lot.  In fact, I found myself using it last fall as I realized that my school year would be filled with trips to the doctor, chemo, surgery, recovery.  At the onset of all that, I took a deep breath, and took comfort in the fact that when school finished up for the year, I’d be pretty much finished with all that cancer stuff.  This too shall pass, I’d tell myself.

And it has!  As I prepare to send my littles off to school one last time this year, I realize that I’ve been thinking of that phrase often, but in a completely different way.  More in the way Ashley talked about it.  And it makes me a little misty-eyed.  Through everything this year, we’ve always headed to the bus stop a little earlier than necessary.  The kids play and the moms (and a few dads, too!) drink coffee and chat.  After school each day through the heat, the cold, even a light rain, we stay, usually an hour or more.  The kids have come up with the most elaborate games– first there was the Olympics, the ever popular natural disaster scenarios, fairies, city government, mud puddles, and now warrior cats.  They’re like siblings and sometimes there are fights, but mostly this group, aged two to nine, has great fun together.  For the parents who sit on beach towels in the grass while the kids play, this is valuable time.  Some days, it may be the only adult conversation we get until after the kids are in bed.  And yet, the last few weeks as I’ve watched the kids, I wonder how long it will last.  Emma Clare is the eldest of the brood, and she’s started asking to walk home early or sit with me and read instead of play.  I feel like it’s a bit of a golden time, one that I know I will look back on so fondly.  I always seem to get a little contemplative at this time of year.  But it’s so funny to me that I genuinely believe that I’ll be looking back on this year with a misty-eyed smile.  In spite of the cancer, maybe even because of it, this has been a precious year to me.

But for now, there’s no more looking back.  I have just under four and a half hours to enjoy the kids’ school time before we head to frozen yogurt with the crew and then come back for bus stop night.  And I will enjoy every second of those four and a half hours.  Because I am certain of it, this too shall pass.

Finally a Haircut

I was so excited last week to head back to Georgetown for my first haircut since the “big cut” last fall. Since I didn’t take along my photographer, the picture’s not so hot. I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay so much for cutting such a little bit of hair, but it was so worth it. Dragan did a great job and I really love how it turned out.

Warrior Spirit


The day I had my head shaved, it was cool, so I wore this leather jacket. When I donned my soon to be favorite scarf, I realized that I had a bit of a bad-girl biker chick look going on.  And I liked it!  As soon as I put the scarf on, Sally and I knew that we’d need pictures of that look!


Upon seeing the pictures from that day, one friend commented that I looked like a warrior, ready to head into battle.  I liked that analogy, and somehow “warrior” got attached to this photo in my mind, too.  More than one friend who’s gone through breast cancer has commented that she never wanted to go out without her wig, fearing that she would look weak, sick.  That people would pity her.  I’m sure some people pitied me, but they never treated me like that.  I told these friends that I always felt like it showed strength to put on a scarf, some good lipstick, and a smile.  And now with more hair and little air of “sickness” to me, I think I’ve never looked stronger than in these pictures.  (Many thanks again to Sally for capturing such lasting images of strength.)


Photography by Sally Brewer Photography

Lipstick: Dubbonet by MAC

More medical forms


I had a regular, non-cancer doctor visit today. I couldn’t help but giggle when I saw the first line on this section. And I couldn’t resist drawing a smiley face. Yes, there have been some changes…