Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review

Every year, Dave Barry does his "Year in Review." I'm not as funny as Dave, and 2013 wasn't that funny, but here's mine!

DECEMBER 2012: Zane, despite being a Mormon man from a very traditional family of origin, told me he felt HE should stay home and I should go back to work. Surprised but pleased, I agreed. I had a job at Legacy Preparatory Academy by New Year's.

JANUARY: I start work! The teacher I replaced was fired for incompetence and was my students' third that year. I'm their fourth. Poor kids. Sabrina and Raiden start going to High Altitude for daycare on Wednesdays, and Raiden goes to Progressive Preschool. Zane becomes a stay-at-home dad, and I make the 51-minute drive every morning and afternoon. Raiden loses interest in breastfeeding.

FEBRUARY: We get into the routine of Mom working and Dad staying home. My grandma Buys dies, the last of my grandparents. I think she does it great -- she was getting older but still doing okay, they started to go downhill. She failed for about six months, then was clearly on her deathbed for about a week. That was enough time for all her local kids and grandkids to say goodbye. Dad was on a trip, but got home just in time to be there with her when she died. Either that, or she waited for him to be there! She left us to return to Grandpa and Uncle Jim. Lucky them!

MARCH: We continued our new routine. Oh, and my insurance kicks in.

APRIL: Here's where it starts getting fun. It's spring break, so I have a doctor's appointment on Monday. Hmmm, let's check out this breast lump. Mom hears about this and demands (demands!) that I get my tests at Huntsman. On Tuesday. For some reason, they squeeze me in. Mammogram and biopsy on Tuesday. Diagnosis on Wednesday. Cancer. Friday I get my PET scan. It looks local. Phew. Mastectomy two weeks later. While recovering, I check the website teachers-teachers.com. There is a job at Snowcrest, three minutes from my house. I burst into tears. Again.

MAY: I cut off my long tresses to make a wig. Students everywhere are shocked. I interview at Snowcrest, and a tension-filled week and a half later I get the job! Meanwhile, my current school is great with working with my diagnosis. The day before school ends I leave early, which has me only missing one class that has two teachers, and go get my first round of chemo, the EEEEvil Adriamycin and Cytoxan, hereafter "AC." I go back to school the next day, a little fuzzy. Raiden turns one.

JUNE: This month is full of AC. The first two rounds are okay emotionally, although the constipation (TMI, I know) is horrible the first time. The next two rounds are not okay. Mom stays with me every weekend I have chemo, despite her hectic schedule. My hair falls out.

JULY: I have my last of four rounds of AC. I have a breakdown. It is not fun. I get really sick, just in time to go to California. Sabrina turns 5, and we have her first friend birthday party. It is fun. I start Taxol and have an allergic reaction. It is not fun. I finish the Taxol dose, and it looks like I'll be able to tolerate it.

AUGUST: I continue Taxol. I have another reaction but less serious than before, so they just give me the Taxol really, really slowly to start so my body can remember that this poison is actually saving my life. I start school at Snowcrest. My commute has gone from 51 minutes to 3 minutes. Sabrina starts kindergarten, and loves it. Of course. Sasha starts "boy preschool" and also loves it. Raiden does not love going back to daycare.

SEPTEMBER: I continue Taxol and teaching. Every Saturday I leave before or during Sabrina's soccer game to go to Huntsman. Lisa, O Friend of Friends, comes almost every week to chat and watch Veronica Mars and eat treats. I gain 15 pounds. I blame Taxol. I'm on a million mgs of steroids to fight the allergic reaction, so it's really true. My hair starts growing back. Sasha turns 3.

OCTOBER: I finish Taxol. Although I enjoy having my Saturdays back from the 6-hour driving + treatment, I miss Lisa and the time to myself. I turn 36 the day after my last Taxol. Now I'm just on an every-three-weeks schedule for Herceptin. Cost per dose? Over $9000. Thank you, Altius. I start radiation in Ogden.

NOVEMBER: I continue radiation. I want to be done by Thanksgiving, but I have two more days. I get burned but it's not too bad. I get my first period since Cytoxan and have another echocardiogram. My heart is fine. Zane turns 39.

DECEMBER: I finish radiation and get to stay at school after it ends. I've been leaving about 10 minutes after school ends every day to get to radiation, and I don't like it, so this is nice. We have a lovely holiday season, which we are still in until January 2, when Sabrina and I go back to school.

This year has been enough for me to develop fear of the number 13 because it has SUCKED. However, it's over in a few short hours. 2014 will involve, I hope, another mastectomy and a double reconstruction. I will take Herceptin until July, when I will be done with cancer. Forever, I hope.

Thank you, all who read this, for your prayers, fasting, temple roll placing, and love. I have really felt the power of prayer this year. I know I've been able to get through this year thanks to all of you. Here's to a better new year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I'm done, so...

In the last nine months, I've gone through diagnosis, surgery, recovery, chemo, and radiation. I'm still on an every-three-weeks drug until July, but it doesn't have many side effects, other than an hour drive to and from Huntsman. Also, I'm planning on getting another mastectomy this spring, followed by a double reconstruction in the summer. I'm done with nausea, constipation, diarrhea, hair loss, and the "that lady has cancer" looks. I think it's natural, although counterintuitive, that I'm having the scary thoughts again.

As long as I was actively doing something for that dang cancer, I could focus on that. I could imagine that radiation bombarding any leftover cancer cells like a video game. Pow pow powpowpowpow! Now, even though I'm getting Herceptin and Projeta (thank you, Altius!), my treatment is winding down. People keep asking me what my prognosis is, and the real answer is that we assume my cancer is gone until it comes back. So every cough and sore bone COULD BE. In five years or so we can say, "Huh. Guess I'm cured." That's not really the answer people want to hear, nor is it the answer I want to give. So mostly I just say the prognosis is great, we think it's gone. That's not the whole truth, but it's not a lie either.

The whole truth is, I still get scared. I want to put this chapter behind me, but it's hard. It's been a constant in my life because of the fear, the change in appearance, the questions. Now I'm supposed to just leave it behind. How do you do that? I guess that's what the next year is for -- to figure out how to get back to normal, and hope that yes, I'm truly cured.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Gifts

'Twas the day school ended for Christmas break, and I was innocently hanging out at home. Then, out of NOWHERE, I heard honking from outside. This may be normal to some of you, but on my street? Weird. Then, about 10 seconds later, I heard it again. I looked out the window and saw a car out there with people LOOKING at my house. Weird again. So I opened the door, and the car drove off. Double (wait...TRIPLE) weird. Then I looked down. On my doorstep were some presents.

First, four gift bags. In them were fleece blankets for each of my three kids (homemade -- the best kind of blankets)and a Real Salt Lake long-sleeved t-shirt for me. Then, a picture frame with a gift certificate for family pictures. Finally, a 3-foot fake Christmas tree. The ornaments? Inspirational sayings. Gift certificates to restaurants, iTunes, Home Depot, and Coldstone. And money. Not just "dollars," as Zane called them in amazement when he got home. No, nothing so ordinary as dollars. Granted, there were some fives, but more tens, twenties, and even a fifty and TWO hundreds. Dude.

Here's the note that came with them. It needs to be reproduced for posterity.
Dear Molly,
You are such a strong and amazing woman! You are such an inspiration to me! Teaching Jr. High kids and then dealing w/cancer. I am one of your students. I hope you enjoy your giving tree. Me and my family are trying to help you in any way we can. You are an amazing person! You are my hero! You are dealing w/ something no one should have to deal with. I hope you get better!! Love/?

So, I don't know who gave this amazing gift to me. As Mom says, it really sucks that I don't know because now I have to be nice to everybody. So thank you Universe! Thank you students and parents! I am so grateful to you for your kindness. I can't repay you, and I don't know even who you are. But I promise you, and everyone who has been so generous to me this year, that in 2014 I will pay it forward.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Done and done!

I'm done with radiation. That's right! All I have left is eight months of Herceptin, another prophylactic mastectomy, and a double reconstruction! Oh, and worrying that every cough is metastases. But no more daily trips to Ogden, weekly trips to Salt Lake, nothing nearly that time consuming.

Radiation hasn't been too bad. The worst part was, as I hoped, the daily grind of going to Ogden. I've been leaving about 10 minutes after school ended every day to get to treatment. Today, my third day out of treatment, my principal announced over the intercom that we teachers should leave right away, as the roads weren't great. I practically laughed at the ridiculous suggestion. Leave early? When I don't have to? I know my mind will change in a few months, but staying until I'm done with my grading feels like the height of luxury.

Although the constancy of treatment was the worst part, I've had a few other symptoms. I've been tired, which is probably just normal. Also, my skin started to burn about 10 days ago, and soon after I started peeling. There has been some pain, too. I guess the upside is that (TMI alert!) I have a really tan boob. I mean, if you're looking for an upside?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When can I go Commando?

This is a serious problem. When can I go wigless? My hair is about 3/4 of an inch long, I think. I'm not good at the estimating thing and I haven't taken a ruler to my hair anytime recently. I don't look like "whoa, cute short haircut!" I look more like, "Look how much hair you have! What type of cancer?" But soon the hair will be a little long to wear comfortably under the wig, I think.

This would not be such a problem, really, if I worked with adults or kids. Adults would be polite and kids would say (as did my nephew Brighton), "Hey, hey, hey, you got a short haircut!" and then stop thinking about it. No, I work with pubescents. They are too young to be polite and too old to be cute when they say they don't like the short-haired me. Plus, I feel that no matter when it happens, it will all be about ME when I stop wearing a wig. That's fine and all, there's nothing I like more than MEMEME, but when dealing with 12- to 14-year-olds, I don't really want it to be about me. I'm supposed to be the teacher who doesn't go the grocery store and sleeps in a coffin in the school basement all summer.

I did want to go commando when I went to my student's mother's funeral. She died of (I think) ovarian cancer and was so, so kind and gracious to me when I was diagnosed. I wanted to go without my wig to her viewing. It felt like solidarity, sister! I didn't because I knew that in MY head it would have been about her, but it would have been an attention sucker for everyone else. Still, I comforted myself that I was bald under my hair. Aren't we all.

So, I don't know. When can I go commando?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wow. It HAS been a while.

Let's see. Since I last posted:

1. I finished chemo forever! (We hope. We had darn well better have finished chemo forever.) My last day of Taxol was October 12. My hair was already growing back in, which was great. I took a cake to my fabulous nurses at Huntsman and a card. The card was of a woman on the beach. You saw the woman from the back, and she was wearing a flowy dress and a big hat, I think because she didn't have hair. My nurses one-upped me by giving me a certificate of Finishing Chemo and a warm pink blanket. They're kind of like God. You think you're giving them a gift, and they just reciprocate with an even more fabulous one. You just can't get ahead!

2. I turned 36. This happened the day after chemo ended. What a birthday present! I don't have anything really important or witty to say about this, so I'll move on.

3. I got inked. I got tats. That's right, I got four tattoos! What's next, a motorcycle and a protection racket? Just kidding. I mean, I really did get four tattoos. They are four dots to line me up for getting radiation. Bo-ring.

4. I started radiation. They usually wait three weeks after chemo to start radiation, but I strong-armed them into starting a week and a half after finishing Taxol. Because, I told them, unless radiation causes diarrhea or hair loss (hint: it doesn't), we won't have overlapping symptoms. I didn't want to drive to Salt Lake every day for radiation, so I've been at Gamma West in Ogden. They've been fabulous. I miss my Huntsman buddies, but I can't bear the thought of two hours of driving every day. Yuck!

5. I have continued radiation. Each and every day from Monday through Friday. The worst part really is the every day constancy of radiation. I have started getting tired, as evidenced by a) falling asleep on the couch with startling regularity, and b) falling asleep while getting radiation.

Here's how radiation goes. I put on a little half-hospital gown (fortunately, I still have my pants on). Then I lie down on this very narrow platform and they move it up until I am at the right height. My head is in a specially-designed pillow that they molded to my head and arms, and my arms are above my head holding on to handles. There is a pillow under my knees and my feet are held together with a very expensive piece of equipment known as a "rubber band." Then the nurses look very focused and move me around until a laser that is shooting me from the ceiling lines up with the tattoos they gave me a few weeks ago. Then the platform moves me into a machine that looks like a mini CT scanner and they give me...a mini CT scan. This is when I visualize my hair growing back. That takes about 90 seconds. Then I'm moved OUT of the machine for about five minutes (no idea why), then back IN to the machine for about eight minutes of radiation. This is typically when I fall asleep, despite my desire to visualize DEAD and DYING cancer cells. Then I'm done for another day!

So. I'll try to do better at keeping you, my fan base, better updated.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Random Crap Update

I know it's been a while since I updated my blog. This has a simple reason: my brain is full. I've heard talk of "chemo brain" where you can't remember stuff. Frankly, it sounds like early-onset dementia. I don't have that. I have a full-time job, three little kids, a broken oven, and oh yeah, cancer. I'm beginning to understand why kids with drama at home -- divorcing parents, dying parents, a sick sibling, financial troubles -- don't give a flying monkey butt about if their reading log is done.

Let's see. I love my job. I love my commute. I even love seeing students at Valley Market and Spencer's AYSO soccer games. It does mean I'm more conscious of wearing hair everywhere instead of just a headcover, but that's a minor issue. I'm used to my wig now.

Speaking of wigs, my hair is really coming back. It's growing slowly since I'm still taking Taxol, but I'm still hoping to have enough hair to be wig-free by after Christmas break. I'll be close, but I can have a sassy spiky haircut, I bet.

I had my 9th Taxol today. Three left! My last treatment will be October 12, one day before I turn 36. Happy birthday to me! Although I don't love having to go to chemo ever Saturday, let's think about what I do. I drive an hour each way (with no kids). For four hours I sit and read, watch TV, visit with friends, family, and Lisa Gauchay Social Worker Extraordinaire, and/or eat treats. How is this a bad thing, again? Oh yeah, because I have cancer. Sometimes it's hard to remember why on earth chemo is a bad thing! Still, I'll have 13 more Herceptin treatments, one every three weeks, when I'm done with Taxol. I think that will be a good weaning from what feels like full-time treatment.

My biggest problem right now, besides Fullbrain, is that my energy is about 80%. That's so much better than when I was taking Adriamycin and Cytoxan so I feel good in comparison to then. Also, I don't have any nausea or anything. But now that I'm well into the school year, I'm feeling the lack of energy. I had someone tell me they were praying for my energy levels, and I really feel their prayer has been answered. Still, I'm not 100%. The other side effect I'm having is that my three middle toes on each foot are numb on the bottom and tips. Weird, but totally not a big deal. I have a tiny bit of neuropathy (numbness and tingling) in my left hand, but it's super minor. And I haven't had a reaction to the Taxol since treatment #2.

My insurance changed, and I did not get my card until I was very out of Lexapro. I know I could have called them and gotten my group number and member ID, but it seemed like it would take a half hour or more. So I just waited. And cried, and cried, and cried. Obviously I should have spent that half hour on the phone! I'm back on Lexapro now, and hopefully will have an easier time liking my family and being nice to them, as well as having less crying!

Sabrina is loving kindergarten. Yesterday she had two kids call to ask to play with her. So, from 4-5 she played with Lucas at the park, from 5-6 she had a horseback riding lesson with one of my students, and from 6-8 she played with Johanna. Phew! That girl loved every second and came home totally wound up. I think she's an extrovert.

I'll try to be better about updating my blog. I mean to, but my full brain makes me want to sit on the couch and play Diablo III. Besides, I'm getting really good.

Sasha: 3

Happy birthday little boy! I love you so much, and am so glad you are my sonshine!

Sasha, just three years ago, was a big, big bump in my belly. He was always awake from 10 to 11 pm, a pattern he continued for a few weeks after his birth via emergency c-section.

Sasha is a sweet boy, loving and kind to his little brother and often quick to apologize when he does something wrong. When I say "quickly," I'm talking a few minutes. That's quick for a 3-year-old!

He is good at counting to 13 (next comes 19), says letters, and loves to play pretend. He recently was playing that he was the Black Ninja with two stick swords stuck in the back of his shirt. "Pretend this is my pocket," he says.

Sasha happily gets up in the morning and wraps his little arms around my neck. He is concerned that I make sure to get Raiden out of his crib. When Zane pulls out of the driveway without me (such a funny trick), Sasha is the one saying not to leave Mommy.

I love you baby boy.


Sunday, August 25, 2013


I am 5/12 done with Taxol! Just seven more weeks, and I...get to do radiation. Well, another milestone passed off, right? And with hair, eyebrows, and even eyelashes already starting to come back, I feel that I can do this. My real life will return.

However, it's not like I don't get some good things out of having cancer. I mean, Aunt Kathleen brought me an amazing peach pie the other night, still warm from the oven. She said is was one of two good things the family got out of Aunt Suzanne's marriage to Bill Burkhart -- Tony and the recipe for The Best Peach Pie ever. I agree. Both are fantastic! I might have eaten the entire pie in about three days. So much for losing weight on chemo!

I continue to feel so blessed. My friend Lisa has come to my last two chemo sessions - with treats! Random people in the ward tell me they pray for me daily. My mom, Benn, and Cheri took care of my kids yesterday for four hours while I had chemo. My cousin Emily texts me every time I have chemo to tell me she's thinking of me. I've had so much incredible support! Thank you all so much.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cancer update

Yesterday I was casually getting ready to go to bed while mourning the loss of my eyebrows and eyelashes. They are still falling out. In fact, I have about four eyebrow hairs left. Fortunately, one can draw on one's eyebrows. Eyelashes, not so much. I have some really great eyeshadow that has a lot of depth, and combine that with my wig's bangs, and it's not so noticeable. I guess. The few hairs on my head that are still hanging on have also been falling out. HOWEVER. I noticed something where my hair has already fallen out. My hair is growing back in!!!!!! Yes!!! I might have cried as I examined my hair fuzz with the intensity of a pubescent boy finding a chin hair.

When I was pregnant, I sort of forgot that the whole point of being pregnant was not to be pregnant, but to have a baby. When Sabrina was born, I forgot the point of feeding her during the night was so she'd grow big enough to sleep through the night. And I sort of forgot that the point of chemo is to be healthy and normal again. I WILL have hair again. I WILL have eyebrows, eyelashes, and (ahem) breasts again (these may own their existence to art rather than nature, but still). I felt the first bit of a step toward normality with the existence of hair fuzz. Still, I have 8 more Taxol treatments, 6 weeks of radiation, and Herceptin until July 2014 still to go. But yesterday, for a moment, I felt hope.

Of course, I'm going to have to start waxing my arms again soon. Crap.

First week of school

School has started! Every day I wake up, get ready, get the kids up and breakfasted, put on my hair, and am out the door! About half the time I can't believe how quickly I get to work, and the other half the time I can't believe I'm not there yet. I have in my head that school is SO CLOSE that sometimes the 3 minutes feels too long. Yes, I am a spoiled brat.

I love seeing the kids in the morning. The first morning I tried to get them up, Sasha snapped, "I want to stay in my ROOM." He's so dang adorable. Seriously. So I left him with his binkie and Brown Blanky, and he was up in a few minutes. Sadly, Sabrina especially believes that the only True Breakfast is cereal, so when I make muffins she bargains, "If I eat five bites can I have cereal?" Hopefully she'll be more open to seeing Real Breakfast as True Breakfast soon.

Sabrina doesn't start school until next Tuesday. This week is all half days, so the kindergarten would go every day for about an hour and a half. I guess the powers that be decided it's not worth it. She's really ready, though. Almost every day she asks if tomorrow, finally, she can go to kindergarten. She will love the social part and I think she'll love her teacher. Sabrina's a pleaser to some extent, too, so she'll love the positive reinforcement she gets from the learning.

My school is going great. I have never taught 6 classes in one day before. It's always been either block schedule or combined English/social studies, so repeating myself so many times is tedious. However, the kids are really great. I have four 7th grade English classes and two 8th grade classes. One of my 7th grade classes is 19 boys and 5 girls. Poor things. I'd almost rather have an all-boys class.

I've already met three of my students' parents outside of school, just running into them at the park, or whatever. Without hair, of course, because the first thing I do when I get home every day is take of my shoes, then my wig. I've still been wearing my hat/scarf thingys when I'm not teaching, but I feel I may have to wear the hair if I"m going to run into students and their parents all the time. Which I am, of course.

Overall, this week has gone great. I feel so dang lucky to have this job and that Zane can stay home most of the time with the kids. I think this will be a great school year!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Taxol #2

I was promised -- PROMISED -- that the second time I took Taxol I would likely not have a reaction. Well, I did. I am sorry. I feel I have disappointed my doctors and nurses. However, this reaction was not as bad. When I started the Taxol, the nurse sat with me for a moment, then needed to take care of another patient. Fine, I said. A few minutes later, I thought I started to feel the throat-tightening. I sat up rather abruptly. My nurse, who was very aware of me, asked me immediately if I was okay. "I think...I think it's happening again," I said, somewhat incoherently.

This reaction was headed off quickly and they didn't need to give me any more drugs, other than some Tylenol. Apparently, Tylenol helps. Then they stared the Taxol slowly, then got it up to the regular speed. I was very aware of any possible trouble breathing, but I got through the rest of it just fine.

Next time, my nurse told me they'll start off really slowly, then after about 10 minutes turn it up, then turn it up to full speed. Mom suggested that, since my reaction started at 5 minutes into the Taxol both times, that they just give me the whole does in 4 minutes. Great idea, Mom.

1/6 done with Taxol!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today, Snowcrest had registration. I didn't need to be there, but I thought as a new teacher at the school it would be nice to be there. It was fun to see some students and staff, although I was the only teacher there that I saw.

I got to talk to some parents and students, but the most useful thing I did? Helped students open their lockers. What is more frustrating and scary than not being able to open your locker on the first day of school? Zombies, but that's about it.

The students came by my classroom if they have me next year. Some of them were confused by the name "Ms. Jones" over my door, until a 9th grader who is taller than me pulled it down. Then I put "Ms. Froerer" on my door since I can't reach over my door. Then a million people wanted to know "which Froerer are you." Ah, the joys of being at a small community school! They all already know and love me -- or at least my in laws! They were all really nice, and as long as I don't become a teacher zombie, I'm sure I'll have a great year.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taxol and Herceptin

I happily put the four cycles of Adriomycin and Cytoxan behind me, and enter the less stressful world of Taxol and Herceptin. I've been told that Taxol has fewer and milder side effects, so I was cautiously optimistic about it. However, a few days before I started, a woman at Cherry Hill talked to me about HER chemo, and said she took a Taxol-like drug and just laid in bed and hurt for two months. Nice. (Actually, this woman was very nice and young like me (diagnosed at 37), and I really enjoyed talking to her. I wish she wouldn't have freaked me out about Taxol is the only thing.) I was also a little worried about Taxol because I know what to expect from AC, so a new drug was a little stressful.

I can officially say that Taxol/Herceptin KICKS AC'S BUTT. Remember the fatigue and nausea from AC? Forget it! Bone pain? Not so far! General misery from constipation? Let me put it this way: Taxol is dissolved in a solution similar to castor oil. I may have a little bit of the opposite problem of constipation, but it's WAY better. Way. Way.

The only problem with Taxol (so far, let's not jinx ourselves) is that I had an allergic reaction to it and my throat swelled up and I had a hard time breathing. No big deal. At least, it wasn't a big deal when you consider I had a full bevy of nurses with drugs like Benadryl surrounding me. My sweet nurse, Deanna, told me that since my heart rate and blood pressure didn't go up, I should be able to take my 11 more cycles of Taxol. Once the reaction was under control, they gave me the rest of the Taxol, and I kept breathing and everything. So, that's good. I may ask the nurses to hang around for my first 10 minutes of Taxol on Friday, but hopefully everything should be fine.

A lot of people have been asking about what the rest of my treatment will look like. So here's a review. I have 11 more cycles of Taxol/Herceptin, which takes me to my 36th birthday in early October. Then I have six weeks of radiation, which is five days a week. Yuck. That will end right about Thanksgiving. Along with the radiation, I have to keep taking Herceptin for a year, so until about Sabrina's 6th birthday. However, my hair WILL grow back with Herceptin, so by next school year, I should be good to go without a wig and look normal. I'm looking very much forward to looking normal. I'll also get my reconstruction next summer, as well as finally getting my port out. Then I'll just have some physical and psychic scars to remind me of my Year With Cancer. I'll be dang glad to get to that point.


Last week, the family (and when I say the family, I mean my parents and their progeny) went to California to spend a week on the beach. My parents rented a beach house, and the 13 of us settled in for a week of lounging.

Overall, it was an amazing vacation. I was deathly ill very sick the whole time with a cold, so that was miserable. Also, it was a little colder than optimal for getting into the Pacific. The Pacific, after all, is an ocean, and doesn't warm up that much when the air is only in the low 70s. There were a couple of gorgeous days, though, and I was able to relive my childhood by going boogie boarding. I was the best at it of anyone. Not to brag, of course.

We also got to see Aunt Gay, Uncle Peter, and some of their progeny. Lizzie came down one day, and then was generous enough to go to Disneyland with us. I mean, what teenager voluntarily goes to Disneyland with 7 little kids and rides Mr. Toad's Wild Ride all day? Only an awesome one! Jacob also came to the beach and gave us skinboarding lessons. He was quite impressive, actually. Cy and Jared came down too, which was impressive given that they had a 3-hour drive. Well, a 3-hour drive plus California traffic, which means a 72-hour drive. (Why does anyone want to live in Southern California? The weather is a small comfort for the 62 million people who ALSO want to drive on the same freeway as you.)

We took one day from our Beach Paradise to go to Disneyland. The 62 million people on the freeway with us were no contest to the 10984383095897 gazillion people who were also at Disneyland with us, but fortunately we mostly stayed on the kiddie rides and fast passed the few grownup rides we went on. Sabrina was "convinced" to go on a few faster rides, but even I was not coldhearted enough to force her onto Splash Mountain. She would have been scarred for life. Heck, I was practically scarred for life! Looking down that last drop....

Anyway, it was a lovely trip even though Zane worked four or five hours a day for some very needy clients and Raiden didn't much like to sleep through the night and I was so sick. It takes a lot to ruin a week with a backyard beach!


Five years ago, Tiny was born. Tiny, T-bone, call her what you will, she is now a sparkling five-year-old.

Sabrina is a typical almost kindergartener in some ways. She loves pink, sparkles, princesses, and (apparently) La La Loopsy. (This was Grandma Saundra's present to her. Sabrina was very gratifying when she opened it.) She loves her brothers, except when she is bugged by them.

On the other hand, Sabrina is the most precious girl alive. Yes, this is partly because she's my baby, my oldest, my big girl. She is beautiful. She is sweet. She is so careful and kind to her brothers, especially Raiden. With Sasha, she has a more contentious relationship, but that's because they are so close in age. Mom told me siblings fight about 30% of the time, and that statistic made me feel much better. They're normal. But when they're not fighting, Sabrina and Sasha are the greatest of playmates.

With her peers, Sabrina is so social. She is the oldest child of two oldest children, so being a little bossy was somewhat inevitable. Still, although she tends to instruct others as to what they are "in the game," she is also kind and sweet, and rarely gets angry when others (aside from Sasha) want to play other things.

Common phrases around our house include "in the game," "I am the mom," and "Saaaa-shaa!" Oh yeah, and "I love you Mommy." That's my personal favorite.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


We are going to California tomorrow! So naturally, Sabrina shows up (while I'm trying to get the house clean) with a backpack full of clothes to take. Here's what she packed:

1 turtleneck
2 long-sleeved shirts
3 pairs of thick pants
3 pairs shorts
1 pair pj bottoms
0 pj tops
2 short-sleeved shirts
0 panties
0 swimsuits

Sigh. That's why Mom has to do all the packing. She really fought giving up that turtleneck, too.

In other news, I'm done with Adriomycin and Cytoxan! That's the nasty chemo that makes me sleep and take drugs for four days afterward. You'd think that would make me happy, but I had a serious breakdown when getting it for the last time. I'm not sure why, other than it was a cumulative experience. The first chemo was a novelty, the second I still had my hair so I was "normal," the third I also had a breakdown, and the fourth I had to stay with my parents for a weekend so I could cope with my life. I think I'm okay again, but geez, I'm so tired of having cancer!

Monday, July 1, 2013


Last night I had a nightmare. I was teaching my first day at Snowcrest, and it was AWFUL. I was incompetent, impotent, and my students sneaked out the door and left me with four students. One of the kids who was so terrible was my sister-in-law Vienna. The fact that she is currently going to BYU did not register in my dream. No, she was a snotty 7th grader in my dream.

I know this dream will not come true, because I am not an impotent teacher in real life. Still, I woke up planning extra work for those little buggers before I remembered the real kids in real life did not do anything.

In psychoanalyzing my dream, I think this is the cancer invading my teaching. Invasive cancer, if you will. It has metastasized its way into my teaching life, curse it. I have been feeling powerless with this dumb disease. Now I have felt that same powerlessness in other areas of my life. Well, I banish thee, cancer. Stay within yourself and stop trying to mess with the rest of my life that has nothing to do with you!

Last chemo cycle of this type is Wednesday. Just getting through.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tired. Just Tired.

I'm tired of having cancer. You know, you can be brave for awhile, but eventually it just wears on you. A few weeks ago (is that all it was?) I was driving down the canyon, crying and stroking my hair. Then it fell out. Fine, I can be brave. I knew it was coming, blah blah blah. But yesterday it was too much. I just started crying. Zane's all "What's wrong?" and I'm all "I don't have any hair." SOMETIMES I JUST WANT MY HAIR BACK, DAMMIT. I don't want to be in your stupid club. I don't want to be that lady with cancer. I don't want to get chemo again on Wednesday. I don't want to be trekking to Huntsman Cancer Institute until JULY 2014. Screw you, cancer.

That is all. For now.

Friday, June 14, 2013


So, my hair is gone. Now when I look at myself in the mirror, I see the missing breast, the c-section scar, and the tiny, tiny hairless head. So I try not to look in the mirror too much. Sometimes I can pretend. Well, for now I still have eyebrows and eyelashes. One step at a time, right? Until it's all gone.

On the other hand, I did wear my wig for about four hours yesterday. It was not as bad as I have been told. The remaining stubble on my head sometimes got pushed back and was uncomfortable, but overall it felt like wearing a hat. I haven't really been a hat person, but it's better than feeling so conspicuous. I still don't really feel like me, but it's probably the bangs. Well, and the wig is a lot thinner than my real hair, too. I think the color is remarkably close, though, so that's nice. Zane wants me to get a red wig. Maybe a cheaper one?

It seems my kids are adjusting well. Sabrina did tell me to keep wearing the wig once, but the boys just take whatever I'm wearing on my head with aplomb. It's nice. It sort of reinforces that they won't even remember When Mom Had Cancer. Sabrina will a little, but even Sasha won't. That's nice. It will be almost like it didn't happen, for them at least.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hair Loss

It hasn't quite happened yet, but I can pull out 10 strands of hair at a time. I had the kids do some too, whereupon we threw it outside for the birds to make nests. I'm planning on shaving my head tomorrow. I have my two wigs, multiple hats, and some new cute turban-y hats that will be great for wearing around the house when I don't want Raiden pulling at my $300 wigs but also don't want to walk around bald.

I went to a really great free seminar yesterday called "Look good feel better." There was an hour of makeup tips, then an hour of wig/hat stuff. The hat part was really great and she easily convinced me to make a trip to her store today. But the makeup stuff was really great. I mean, even without the free, really nice makeup, it was really comforting to learn how to draw on eyebrows. Mom says there's nothing like a naked face to feel really bald. Sounds logical.

I've been feeling really good this chemo cycle. I haven't taken many anti-nausea drugs today. I did take a nap, in the 66% of the time Sabrina and Sasha were playing instead of fighting. They were playing that Sabrina was the baby and Sasha was...the mom? Well, whatever floats their boat. They were happy and not fighting for most of that time, so I'm just as happy as can be.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Random Updates

We have been adopted. An orange cat, which has likely been dumped up here, has taken to coming into our house, purring, eating the dog food, and wandering around. Sparticus and Achilles have watched it with tolerant bemusement, which bemuses me. The reason I think it's been dumped up here is that it is hungry, slightly mangy, and declawed. No one up here would declaw a cat and then expect it to fend for itself, but apparently those city types are idiots. Did you know there is a thing called a Humane Society (pound, if you like) where you can take your unwanted animals? You don't have to let them starve to death in an environment YOU made them unsuitable to survive in. Grrrr. Look what you did. You made me end a sentence with a preposition.

Raiden is walking like a champ. He can stand up, change directions, and stay up for a long time. He's not quite as verbal as my other children were at a year, although he can say some very important things, like yum, boom, ta-da, and recently, uh-oh. On the other hand, he's more advanced than the others in physical stuff. Also, he's really, really cute. This is helped by my recent trimming of the hair that was growing over his ears. I'm terrible at stuff like that, but hey, he's just a baby. Toddler. Whatever. All I know is, he has 6 more months until nursery.

Sasha is completely adorable. I love this 2-3 year age! He runs everywhere. When he's not looking, he'll sometimes run sideways into walls and stuff. His talking is amazing. The other day, Zane turned on the TV, and one of the Star Wars movies was just finishing. Sasha asked him to keep watching the movie. When Zane came in a few minutes later to the closing credits, Sasha said, "That...was the most awesome show I have ever seen." Bwah!

Right now Sabrina is taking practice kindergarten. She gets to know some of the other kids, the teachers, the room, some of the procedures, that sort of thing. The first day I asked her about it, and she said, "First we had a snack." Then we were interrupted. When I got back to her, I asked, "What did you do after snack?" She replied, "NO. I want to tell you about snack. We had juice and animal crackers." Okay, then. I think she's having fun with it, and I think it will be really good for her to know the teacher and everything when she starts for real.

I start Chemo Round II tomorrow. I've been feeling so great the past week and I still have my hair, so my life is normal in every way right now. Well, pretty much every way. I guess that's all about to change and I'll be sick and bald soon. Can't wait.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer vacation

It's the first day of summer vacation! So what did I do? I went to my new school, Snowcrest, and spent two hours organizing my new room! Because I'm a nerd like that.

Unfortunately, the room was a mess. A huge, huge, mess. And not because the janitorial staff hadn't cleaned the room. I mean, they hadn't, but I'm sure they decided to just do deep cleaning and not worry about getting the boards erased and the room vacuumed. That's no big deal. But the previous teacher left tons and tons of crap lying around! I mean, cardboard boxes, permission slips from September, boxes of broken crayons, unopened class sets of magazines from 2010...all sorts of stuff. The novels for the kids were mostly organized, but lots of them were just stuck in the cupboards.

On the other hand, I have all my curriculum books in my room instead of in a locked curriculum room. I have an office! There are three white boards, a Smartboard, AND an LCD projector in my room. I have textbooks. I don't even know how to use a textbook! I've never had one, not as a teacher.

I also love my principal. He's always telling me how much I'll love it at Snowcrest, as if there's any doubt! He told me the parents up here can sometimes be demanding. I told him I've been at charter schools; there's no way they can scare me with their demanding-ness. He also, today, asked how my health is. I did not tell him about the cancer and I still have my hair. No, we live in a small town. I was mostly concerned about telling him it won't impact my teaching. He was mostly concerned that I come to him if I need anything. Like I said, I love my principal.

I also had a dentist appointment today. First day of summer vacation: dentist appointment and go to school! My dentist has a 7th grader next year, so I'll be his teacher. When we left, the dentist said he'd see me in six months. I corrected him. See you at Parent-Teacher Conferences, except next time I'll be in the power seat! Take that, bearer of pointy tools.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chemo: The Week After

It's been over a week since my first treatment. The first few days were okay. I took naps and anti-nausea meds, and mostly felt okay. Then. The anti-nausea medications, while preventing nausea, ALSO prevented pooping. This may be too much information, but I have never, never been so constipated in my entire life. Therefore, I have rarely been more miserable in my entire life. I apologize to all Metamusil commercials for ever mocking them, and humbly ask for their blessing.

And how do I feel now? In high school, I had a friend who once said he hadn't had a bad day in a while, so he was hoping for one. Why, crazy boy? we asked. Because, he replied, you can't enjoy the good days as much unless you occasionally have a bad one. I have not gone to the point where I WANT a bad day, but they come whether I want them or not! I woke up today (at 7:30 on the first day of summer vacation) (that's sleeping in about two hours) to a happy Sasha, a still-sleeping Raiden, and a beautiful day. I have been cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of kids, and loving it! I have energy, feel good, and have hair! What could be better?

Speaking of hair...I went to get my wig yesterday with a family friend. They did not have the one I chose in my color, so I don't have it yet, but it should be in on Tuesday. The woman who helped me was very nice, but not a very good salesperson. She kept telling stories about her own wigs and how she has such thin hair and she just started working here and her son took a picture of her without her wig and she just wanted to kill him and she just started working here and she has three wigs and just started working here. Oh, I wanted to try on a wig? I kind of wanted her to realize that this experience? It's about ME. Not her. ME. Mememememe. I'm the one buying the wig. Me. Not her. Fortunately, she eventually let me buy a wig and go home. Phew.

Now I'm done with school and prepared, physically at least, to lose my hair. I'm going to enjoy the next three days of no chemo, then do it again on Thursday. Thank goodness for this few days of feeling good.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chemo, Chapter 1, verse 1

Yesterday was my first chemo day. The nurses said I did very well. I'm not sure what there was for me to do, other than sit in a chair and be entertained by various visitors, including my Mommy. Cry? Threaten that if they put one more chemical into my body, so help me....? You just do what you've got to do, right? That's been one of my mantras this past two months.

The first thing I had to do was leave work early. In the car I put some Emla cream, a numbing agent, onto my port. A port is a little device planted inside the skin from which nurses can draw blood and give chemo. No more arm sticks! And since I have to get chemo for almost a year and a half and can't get it in my right arm, this was a no-brainer. Or so I was told by nurses, doctors, and other women who have had cancer! I didn't love it at first, since it stuck out and Raiden liked to pull at it, but I LOVE it now. Emla cream + port = no pain! Hooray!

I was a little nervous when my nurse started pulling out about 22 different "things" to access my port. She stuck me with a special needle, taped it on, flushed the port with two vials of saline, took out bloody saline so my blood draw would not be contaminated, and took two vials of blood. Easiest blood draw ever! Then she stuck the line down my cleavage. Well, my shirt, really, but that's what I have down there! Thank you, plastic surgeon Jay Agarwal!

It was then time to speak with the doctor, briefly, and then go to the infusion room. The Hunstman infusion room is really great. They have eight pods with four sections each. I was over in a corner in pod 8, so Mom's patients wouldn't, I don't know, take liberties if she was there. It really doesn't matter to me, as long as they keep it short-ish and remember MY cancer is about ME, and Mom is there for MY cancer. You want to talk about YOUR cancer? Get an appointment. (That was supposed to be 90% funny and 10% snotty. I hope you got that.)

Well, an hour of anti-nausea premeds, 10 minutes of pushed Adriamycin, and an hour of Cytoxan, I had done it! I had finished my first dose. My hairs' days are numbered, but so is my cancer's.

I started to get nauseated a little at around 7, but we had taken a walk to Emily's house, just down the road from my mom's house. By the time the meds had kicked in, it was a matter of playing catch up. Fortunately, Ativan did the trick, but then I woke up almost exactly 6 hours later (2 am. Sure, go ahead and do the math)feeling nauseated again. I really need to do the every-two-hours-take-something trick that Nurse Marcia told me about. I really think it will make a big difference in keeping ahead of it. I feel mostly fine now, although every little twinge MUST be nausea. Ugh. I'm glad I wasn't a hypochondriac before, because I'm already on the edge now!

Mom made me a lovely breakfast of whole-wheat toast, boiled egg, and fruit smoothie: frozen banana, milk, and strawberry ice cream. As you can see, she put just the right amount of kale in it. My mom rocks!

I'm hoping this weekend goes well and I can live a relatively normal life. However, I am determined that next week will be just fine. I think it's important to have this belief, because Mom told me chemo nausea is literally all in the mind. The brain registers poison in your body. "Out, out!" it demands. How does the brain know how to get rid of poison? By throwing up, of course. Thus we see that the brain, while correct in some principles, does not understand modern medicine on a cellular level. I'm trying to explain it to myself, but mostly just take Zofran, Ativan, and various other anti-nauseas that trick that part of the brain. Hey, whatever works!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New Job

Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have had so much good in my life! It's almost like the karma scales want to balance out. Last week, I applied and interviewed for the job at the only junior high school within 25 minutes of my house. In fact, it's about four minutes from my house. I really, really wanted this job. I could wake the kids up, do Sabrina's hair, and make breakfast for children who think cold cereal is the One True Breakfast. Once I made them German pancake, which they ate, upon which they asked for cereal. Sigh. Anyway, they told me they'd be done interviewing on Friday and get back to me on Monday.

Friday. I wait by the phone (actually, with cell phones, it's more like the phone waits by me). I know they said Monday, but they also said the interviewing was over Friday. Why wait? Hire me immediately! The phone rings! It's...another school, 28 minutes away, offering me a job! I put them off until after the weekend. They're a great second choice.

Weekend. Waiting.

Monday! I wait, the phone tethered to me. Ring! Ring, curse you! Ri...it rings! It's Snowcrest! They want to tell me...to wait until tomorrow for a final decision. They have to wait for word from the district. It is speculated by various interested parties that they need to place teachers who have taken a leave of absence.

Tuesday. I wait. And wait. And wait. At 3:15 I get called to my principal's office, who tells me the principal of Snowcrest has called her and she has given me a stellar reference! And I wait some more. And wait. And at 5 pm I call the school. No answer, of course.

Wednesday. Day three of waiting. Food supplies and morale are low. The phone rings several times, mostly from the hospital confirming my various appointments. Dad calls. That was nice. Mom calls. Nice nice nice. Where is Snowcrest? School ends at 1:15. At 1:20 an aide comes into my room. "Have you heard anything?" she asks. No, I reply. The phone rings. Is this it? It is! Do I want to be a Skyhawk? Why yes, yes I do! Hooray! I spend the next 90 minutes on the phone with anyone who will listen to me. Oh, and praying prayers of thanksgiving. How blessed I am! Good thing, too, because I start chemo tomorrow and need good things to think about. This will do!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ready...Get Set...

Thursday. That's D-Day for chemo. (Did you know the "D" in "D-Day" just stands for "Day?" Our government sure is uncreative. I bet Calvin could come up with something better. He wanted to change "Big Bang" to "Gigantic Space Kablooie." ANYWAY.) Mom says the first step in the cancer journey is being diagnosed. Check. Then is surgery. Check again. Next is chemo.

Chemo is sort of hard just because it is almost synonymous with cancer. Got cancer? Ah, then, you must be SO looking forward to spending some quality time with your toilet. At least, that's the old story, and it sure does have staying power. Supposedly they have really great anti-nausea drugs now. I have three sitting on my microwave. No, make that four. One is Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug that also has some anti-nausea powers. Maybe because it puts you to sleep, so you can't throw up? I don't know.

The other thing chemo is famous for, of course, is making you lose your hair. I think I already mentioned that a sweet woman hugged me and told me our breasts don't define us, to which I replied, "Right. Our hair does." I got my hair made into a wig at www.hatswithhair.com. I put it on the other day, right the very second I got it, and Sabrina said "Mommy, you look like yourself again." I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so in the spirit of fairness I did both. She was right, though. I did look like myself again. I'm going to get a full wig soon, but I love having my own hair. It's not as thick as my real hair, but it's long and soft and real!

I'm pretty sure I can get through this with my sense of humor relatively intact, for the most part. My dignity is already nonexistent (besides being highly overrated), but I'll need my sense of humor. Someone once said a sense of humor is a sense of perspective, and I'm trying to keep mine eternal in this matter. But I'm really, really not looking forward to chemo, although I'm eager to get going on it. It's the next, longest, and most infamous part of having cancer. Bring it on, if only to get it over with sooner!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Boys v. Girls

Watch a girl at play. It's all about pretend. "Let's pretend that I am Rainbow Sparkle and you are my honey. I am the mom in the game." (Honey is what I call Sabrina a lot. I guess "honey" is Rainbow Sparkle's child?) Watch a boy at play. Raiden can already make truck noises and loves to sit in Sasha's dump truck. Watch a boy who has an older sister play? "Let's pretend that I am a ninja. This is my sword. Let's pretend that this is my pocket." Me: "The pocket is on your back?" Sasha: "Yeah." Me: "The pocket is for your sword?" Sasha: "Yeah. Pretend there is a shark (shawk) on you. I will save you. I am the black ninja. I have a black mask and black clothes."

So, naturally, I say, "help, black ninja, there is a shark on me" and Sasha pulls his sword off his back and swipes the imaginary sword in my general direction, complete with sound effects. Rinse, wash, repeat about eighty-three times. He's just so darn adorable!

Just now, the kids were in bed but Sabrina came out and said she had a scary dream about a dinosaur. After reassuring her that there are no dinosaurs now, I walked her back to bed. She was still a little nervous, so I told her when she is scared she can ask Jesus for help and asked her if she wanted to say a little prayer. Yes, she said. Here is her totally unprompted prayer. "Dear Heavenly Father, I had a scary dream about a dinosaur. Please help me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." I mean really. What more is there to say?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

I don't want to talk about cancer. It's depressing and chemo is almost here, and I'm not feeling that optimistic and brave anymore. Not now that it's the next step. Instead I give you a special Mother's Day edition.

I went to all of church today. This was only made possible by the boys napping during church. When church is at 9 and Raiden is 1 1/2, we could conceivably make it to all three meetings as a family. Now? Very little chance. However, I wanted to make it to sacrament meeting to a) hear Sabrina sing "Mother I Love You," and b) to get chocolate. In that order. I could always buy chocolate. I haven't eaten the chocolate yet, because it's too amazing to just eat. Or to share. Zane would eat the whole truffle in three bites, whereas I will likely take 70 or so. Sabrina was adorable in her white dress that once was mine, and sang 50% of the words of the three songs they sang. Not bad, not bad at all. She sang 85% of "Mother I Love You." As well she should.

We had a wonderful Relief Society lesson about how we Mormons think we have to be perfect, hence Utah's high rate of plastic surgery and panic attacks on Sunday night. I feel blessed that I have always had wonderful wards where people seem okay sharing their flaws, at least to some extent. I did get a little frustrated when a sister expressed how she would like to bear testimony of how when we are depressed or unhappy we need to get our life right with Jesus. Of course, sometimes this is true! And sometimes we need Vitamin P(rozac), because this is a mortal world. Fortunately, our teacher immediately said that sometimes Jesus can lead us to doctors who can provide us with the necessary vitamins (like Vitamin P). I don't think the first woman was anti-anti-depressants (ha ha), but the way she said it sort of sounds like the depressed person is at fault, a sinner, and needs to get more perfect. It's hard, because she wasn't wrong, but the way it came out could be taken wrong by someone struggling with depression.

In talking to my SIL, Breklyn, about this, she mentioned something to the effect that the natural man being an enemy to God was not just that we have lust or greed or whatever. It's sometimes us feeling sad when we should feel happy. I mean, we have the plan of salvation, knowledge of the preexistence and life after death, eternal perspective, all of that. We know about eternal families and supposedly have a close relationship with our Father in Heaven. And yet, our bodies, our natural (wo)man, through an imbalance of serotonin or whatever, cause us to be unhappy. This idea really makes sense to me.

I have the day off tomorrow, so I'm going with Sabrina to see the baby lambs on a field trip with her preschool and cleaning my house. Sounds like a great day, coming right up!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Next Step!

Woohoo! My drains are out! I am untethered!

Seriously, drains are a pain. I was so happy to get the second and last drain out today. My students had finally started asking what that green little pocket was, and I told them. They were grossed out, because they either have no scientific curiosity or too much imagination.

The next step, of course, is chemo. Actually, I stand corrected. The next step is HEALING. My plastic surgeon says the longer the better, from his point of view, before chemo. I assume he doesn't actually mean that. I wanted chemo to start next week, but he says he'd prefer two weeks. Fine, doctor. But every time I finish one step, I want to go on to the next one. When I still have drains, my goal was to get them out. Now I have to wait two weeks until chemo, and it just feels too long.

On the other hand, I saw the infusion room today, and chemo feels a little more real than it did this morning. The infusion room is very nice, with personal TVs for each patient, and lots of old people sitting around. Lots of old people plus me, that's what it's going to be.

The Race for the Cure is tomorrow. I still don't want to join your club.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Drains and Steps

After surgery, I had two drains put in. A drain is a hand grenade-sized and shaped (just kidding, I have no real idea how big a hand grenade is) plastic bulb attached to a long plastic tube. The tube, about two feet long, is literally sewn into my body to drain lymph fluid and blood. A couple of times a day, I have to empty these drains, record how much...stuff is in them, and the color of the...stuff. The worst part of this is that I can't sleep on my side. Either side. I just lie on my back all night long. When I was at my mom's house it was okay, but sleeping in the same bed as a restless sleeper who likes to take up 2/3 of the bed, minimum? I've been sleeping on the couch.

In other news, Raiden has started walking and talking! Well, you know, like 11-month-old children do. He took his first steps while I was in the hospital. Of course. He can do two or three steps at a time, although he still prefers to crawl most of the time.

Additionally, Raiden also has started saying words. My dad was up the other day, and told me Raiden could say "boom" and "ka-boom." Sure Dad, I thought. Sure he can. But after Dad said "Ka-boom" to Raiden four or five times, out comes Raiden with a "A-boooom." So. There you have it. Raiden is officially a boy. Two of his first five words are "boom" and "vroom" while holding a car. Who says boys and girls are the same?

Sabrina and Sasha seem to be doing well. In an effort to get them to be gentle with me, I showed them my "owie." Sasha was especially interested in it, and wants to see it constantly. I put him off when we're in front of the living room windows! They seem to be adjusting well, and I think it's been really important that I've been as upfront as their ages and maturity allow.

I'm going back to school tomorrow. I think I could have gone back on Thursday, but since no one except me wanted me to go back then, I took the rest of last week off. That's right, I bowed to peer pressure. Well, to doctor pressure. Still, I will go back tomorrow and I will finish out the year. Take that, cancer!

Friday, April 26, 2013


There will likely be more details later, but here are the high points of the mastectomy:

1. I no longer have a right breast. Yay! The surgeon didn't mess up and take the wrong one! I've been thinking about that scripture "a hair on your head shall not be lost." I know it sounds like I'm trying to be cute here (maybe just a little, but only a little) but I'm changing it to more current relevance. Of course, after a couple of rounds of chemo, the "hair on the head" maybe will sound more relevant too.

2. Margins are clear. I can't tell you how marvelous this is. If the margins were NOT clear, that would mean the surgeon didn't get all of it and would have to do more surgery. Awful.

3. The mass he removed was big (9 cm) but most of it was NOT invasive cancer, which is what they worry about most. Not that there wasn't cancer, but the cancer masses were all small. The biggest was only about 2 cm. WAY better news than we thought.

4. There were lymph nodes involved. This is the bad news. The four "sentinel" lymph nodes, the first four that drain(ed) the breast, were all "involved." They did another 13 lymph nodes, and three had microscopic cancer in them. On one hand, it is bad that there is cancer there. On the other hand, there is not a lot, and most of the lymph nodes were NOT involved. That is to say, chemo and radiation should get the little buggers. Hooray for chemo and radiation!

Thank you all so much for your prayers, good thoughts, love, lighting candles, fasts, and putting me on the prayer roll at the temple, depending on religious preference! I have been so grateful for all of you. Please don't stop! I feel the first big step has been taken, but I still have a long road of...unpleasantness to deal with. I can't express how much you have strengthened me. I feel so lucky for the support I have in this crappy situation.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Hair

I really need pictures for this post, but I don't have them yet. Still, I can document the story for posterity!

Today I got my hair cut. I have a few weeks -- maybe eight-- before my hair falls out. But when it does, my understanding is it's like the cartoon leaves that basically go whump! and are on the ground. I thought that if 18+ inches of hair fell off like that, well, it would be harder than necessary. Also, I like my hair. So I decided to cut off my hair preemptively to make a hat with hair. I'm planning on getting a wig, too, but I thought it would be psychologically comforting to actually have my own real hair. It also won't be as hard when only 2 inches of hair falls out. I hope.

Today, then, I went to see Lorna, who has done Mom's hair for basically forever. At Mom's suggestion, I also took my kids. There are family legends about Benn seeing Mom's new haircut or (worse!) Dad after having shaved off his mustache and sort of freaking out. Sabrina and Sasha watched the process. Sabrina told me I looked like a boy. Sigh. But no one freaked out (until Spencer saw it, that is). Raiden didn't care, because apparently I sound the same, or smell the same, or something. Regardless, he wasn't bugged, and thanks to them watching the process, the Twokids weren't either. Sabrina also got her hair trimmed, so that was another thing that helped her be okay with my hair cut. I did tell her I was getting my hair really short, and she told me she just wanted her hair "a little bit short." It took me a little while to realize she wanted her hair still long. A little bit long. Of course.

I'm exiting denial. It sucks. Denial is a nice place to live. Nice climate.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Today, I met with the plastic surgeon. When I have a mastectomy in a couple of weeks, he will put in a tissue expander to make room for eventual reconstruction. Because I'm having radiation, he does not want to just put in an implant, since radiation kills both cancer cells and perfectly good cells. There are two options.

1. Use tissue from the abdomen. Tummy tuck plus reconstruction? Sounds great! However, there are downsides, most notably FIVE days in the hospital and six weeks of recovery. Plus, surprising as it may sound, I don't have enough tissue in my abdomen to reconstruct this baby. Strike option number one.

2. Use the latissimus muscle. The downside here is that I'll never again be a world-class swimmer or rower. My public will be disappointed. It looks like option two is the winner.

I have had so many people call and email to check on me. Thank you all so much! I feel so loved and taken care of. Thank you especially for your prayers and fasts. I feel incredibly humble that so many people are taking my cancer problems to Heavenly Father. I don't know what I need yet from my family and friends, but right now the prayers and love are the best things I could ask for. Second is that those of you who know my children, please love them. They are my biggest concerns right now. They are almost my only concerns. I cannot bear the thought of leaving them. This is what breaks my heart. Fortunately, it looks like that won't happen, which is why I really am doing well right now. I can do it. I can do the physical pain and discomfort and reconstruction. I will miss my hair and breast, but as long as I still have my health family and friends, I will make it through this hard time and come out the other side. I plan on looking back at this year from the age of a tree. An old tree, maybe an olive tree.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Treatment Plan

I realized I did a whole post about the day, but neglected the treatment plan! And, of course, everyone wants to know!

1. Mastectomy in a week or so. Family pictures previous to this, so I can remember me.

2. 4-6 weeks after surgery, 4 cycles of yucky chemo, every other week.

3. 12 weeks of not-so-yucky chemo, weekly.

4a. Six-ish weeks of radiation, daily, after step 3 and concurrent with step 4b.
4b. Continue not-yucky, hair-growing, no-vomiting chemo for a year, every three weeks.

5. Be cancer free. Burn the ashes and stomp on them gleefully. I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but you get the general idea.

Tests and pricks

Today was the big day. I got to Huntsman this morning at 8:30 for labs and lots and lots of tests, as well as meeting with my distinguished doctor, John Ward, M.D. & G.P. (Great Person).

After getting an IV, I went for my first ever MRI. (This is a week of firsts.) The MRI was very noisy, and more boring than a c-section. That was just of the breasts. By the way, if you're scared of the word "breast," you may want to skip this blog for, I don't know, the next year.

When the MRI was done, I met with Dr. Ward, G.P. He really is the greatest. I might say I am already be doing the "fall in love with the person saving your life" thing, except that I've loved Dr. Ward since I was Sabrina's age. He did the new patient interview and a quick physical, including tests I think are only for the doctor's amusement, like touching my nose, then his finger, then my nose again. I had a hard time with that one because I was laughing so much. He told me that other than the ENORMOUS MASS in my breast (there's that word again!) I was the picture of perfect health. No other masses, great blood work, negative tumor marker, etc., etc.

Then, everyone offered me food, juice, whatever I wanted. I can't, despite the fact that I'm starving, due to a PET scan at 1:30. (Mom likes PETs better than CATs, because she is non-speciest.) Instead, I met with a woman who just happened to be in for her yearly I-don't-have-cancer checkup. She got cancer almost identical to mine at 36. It was nice to talk to someone who went through it, although she didn't have kids at the time. She adopted the day she finished Herceptin. Or whatever that drug is.

At 1:30 I went back to Radiology for my PET. First, you have to get a radioactive sugar thing in your IV. Then, you have to sit and not do anything (except, of course, think about your cancer), not read, not work, nothing, for over an hour. They don't want your brain too busy, because they want the sugar to go to the tumors, not your brain. Whatevs. Then the PET. I think I fell asleep. It was quiet, soothing, and moved me back and forth. Also, more boring than a c-section.

After the PET, I went back to Dr. Ward to get my results. In the room, besides me, were Dr. Ward, his nurse, his PA, and my mom. A tight fit. Looking through the PET, he told me there is some lymph node involvement, it looks like, but nothing else. Combined with my negative tumor marker, it looks like this cancer can be sucker punched and beaten into submission. Hooray! I honestly didn't know what good news it was until I saw my mom's face. Then I knew. This is great, great news. This impression was seconded by a nurse walking by and giving me the big smile and thumbs up. Yes, cancer, we will pummel you until you die.

I know this post is long already, but I wanted to put in this poem. I've always liked it, now I love it. It's how I plan to live my life from now on. It's how I always planned on living my life, but the minutia of life got in the way. Cancer sure has a way of boiling life down to its essence. Oh, and I, like the poet, plan on fifty more springs.

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A.E. Housman

Thursday, April 4, 2013


It's been a long time since I posted. I have great excuses about being busy, working a lot, getting up really early. They're all true. However, it's time I started posting again. I've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and what is more therapeutic than writing your innermost thoughts about your breasts for the consumption of the general public?

Here's the timeline.
Monday, pap smear and oh yeah, breast exam.
Tuesday, mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy. The hell of waiting.
Wednesday, more hell. Then the results. Cancer in the breast, hopefully not the lymph nodes. That's good news!
Thursday, hooray! The waiting is over. Now I can plan. Far fewer tears than any day since Tuesday.

I really like my breasts. And my hair. I think they're two of my best features. I can face it, though. I can face the chemo, surgery, radiation, losing some of my favorite features, reconstruction, nausea. It's all going to be okay. The thought of leaving my babies, though, is unbearably painful. It has caused 95% of my tears. Happily, I don't think it will come to that. Everything looks pretty good.

Humor, naturally, is the way I am going to cope with this. I'm sure I was totally hilarious during the ultrasound of my lump. I did not, however, ask if the lump was a boy or a girl. It seemed too cliche. And, heaven knows, we don't want our gallows humor to be cliche. I do want to say, however, that I showed those doctors. They told me no showering for 24 hours after the biopsy, and I showered after 22. Boo-yeah!

I don't have many answers right now, and I don't even know the questions to ask. I would appreciate all your prayers. I know I'll get through this, hopefully with my sense of humor intact.

Monday, February 18, 2013

New Job

About 7 weeks ago, Zane told me he wanted to stay home with the kids. About 6 1/2 weeks ago, I got a job that happened to be open in January, starting immediately. Divine plan, or stars aligning? Is there a difference?

So I have been working at a new charter school, Legacy Preparatory Academy, since January 14. It's a very different experience that SLArts, I must say! The school is K-12, with 6-12 in my building. The high school is small, and I have all the 10th graders in two classes, one of 16 and one of 26. I also have a 12-person 6th grade class, and a couple of correcting reading and writing classes. The corrective classes are more of a challenge, and I don't always know what I'm doing. I love the kids (in general), though, so it's all good.

I guess the teacher that(ahem) had the job before me didn't make the kids work much, though. I have a whole crapload of 10th graders failing, all because they go, "Homework? What's that?" Well, your teacher doesn't have time to let you write a whole essay in school, so....That part is very frustrating.

Zane is home with the kids now. He is not quite as good as a wife (especially because he takes the kids to daycare on Wednesdays and works at the office), but he does keep the dishes done, made taco soup the other day, and has Sabrina practice soccer and do her letters. And he only forgot preschool completely once.

I have, overall, been very happy back at work, and Zane is much, much happier being mostly at home. It's nice to have the flexibility to mix up the gender roles a bit!

Friday, February 15, 2013


It's been a long, busy month since I've posted. But right now, instead of catching up my new job, I need to write a tribute to my grandma. My last surviving grandparent, Grandma Buys died on February 10th.

Grandma was an artist. As a child I never appreciated it fully, partly because, well, I was a child, but also because her art not flashy. It was knitting Christmas stockings for every grandchild and great-grandchild. She made porcelain dolls that were truly of heirloom quality. All her kids had handmade nativity scenes.

Grandma always remembered birthdays. Until I was 12, she always gave me clothes, impeccably wrapped with the boxes taped closed. This was annoying. When I turned 12 I started to really look forward to getting clothes -- and she switched to money. She sent me money for my birthday well into my 30s. She always sent a card that I could tell she took time to pick out, with a message that began "Granddaughter."

Grandma and I shared a birth month -- October. She loved opals, and therefore so did I. As The Oldest Granddaughter Born In October, I was lucky enough to inherit her mother's opal engagement ring. The gold was thin from years of being worn, but Grandma got the stones reset. The jeweler apparently explained that opals are very fragile. Grandma said, "You'd better be careful, then!" He was, and the ring is perfect.

When I was young, Dad was a teacher so we had lovely long summers together. We'd often go to Grandma's house for the day or to sleep over. I still love to go to the dentist because, when I was young, our dentist was in Tooele, and we'd make a big production out of going to sleep over at Grandma's, go to the dentist, and go to the Fourth of July parade. For all I know we only did this once, but it obviously made a big impression. When we slept over, I always had Fruit Loops (yum!) and grapefruit juice for breakfast. I had this combo once as an adult. Once. But it was very nostalgic.

Although Tooele got farther away the more children I had, I always loved to go to Grandma's annual Memorial Day picnic. No matter who she was married to, the whole Buys clan came over for puffed rice balls, lemonade mixed with grape juice, fried chicken (later years it became wings), and a visit to the cemetery and Grandpa's grave.

Grandma had a huge park behind her hedges. At least, that's what it seemed like to us grandkids. I was disappointed in recent years to realize it was a tiny water conservation lot. She also had a great basement with a secret passage between a bedroom and the playroom. To say nothing of the paneled walls that figured heavily in the play that Michael, David, Benn, and Lindsay and I created. My childhood, that's what my grandma's house looks like.

I love you Grandma!

1924 ~ 2013

Geneve R. Buys Gubler, 88, passed away peacefully with family by her side on Feb. 10, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
She was born to George Thomas and Margaret Catherine Rasband on October 3, 1924 in Heber City, Utah. She married Roland Lindsay Buys on August 18, 1945 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Solemnized in the Salt Lake City Temple on August 18, 1953. He passed away on December 10, 1977. In July 1989 she married married Earl G. Bain, who passed away in February, 2000. She later married Dr. Kelly H. Gubler on March 31, 2001.
She was active member of the LDS church and served in many callings. She was a leader for many decades with the 4-H program, the Civic Club, and the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. She enjoyed sewing, knitting, ceramics, and making porcelain dolls. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will enjoy the Christmas stockings, dolls, and nativities made by her loving hands.
She was preceded in death by her parents, five brothers, two sisters, her loving husbands, and son James C. Buys. She is survived by her children Marlene (Jerry) Pulsipher, Joseph L. (Dr. Saundra) Buys, D'Anne (Ed) Tonn, Ronda (Dr. Bruce) Lee, and daughter-law Carole (James C.) Buys. She is loved and respected by her children and her 20 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.
Friends may call from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15, at Tate Mortuary, 110 S. Main St., Tooele, Utah or from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the 14th Ward LDS Chapel on the corner of 200 West & 200 South in Tooele. Funeral services will follow at 11:00. Interment will be at the Tooele City Cemetery.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


I got a job (more on this later -- the person I'm replacing hasn't been fired yet and I haven't signed a contract, so when I start the job, it will receive its own special attention). I was supposed to go do all the new-teacher stuff on Friday. I was a little worried, because the snow started up here on Thursday around 4 and wasn't supposed to stop until Saturday. Well, I thought, I'm sure I'll be fine. At the same time, I was praying to make the right decisions and not, you know, die.

Fortunately for me and everyone else, the school was closed that day. So I sat at home and looked out the window as the snow fell ALL FREAKING DAY LONG. I'm not convinced that we got as much as at my parents' house, which apparently got approximately twenty-seven feet. But when snow is falling all over the Wasatch Front and you live on a sparsely-populated street in a rural community, well, you get plowed twice in 24 hours. Maybe. That is not enough to keep up with the snowfall. Not, I am quick to add, that it is the fault of those paragons of virtue, the snowplowdrivers. No, they just had a lot to do.

Zane took Sabrina skiing yesterday near the end of the storm. He said she did great on the groomed areas, but the powder, in some places, was up to her waist. She may have whined, just a little.

It was nice to see the snowplow last night and the sun this morning. Although I do feel a strange yearning to read The Long Winter in the comfort of my warm, well-lit, well-stocked house with no animals to take care of. The best way to celebrate Snowmaggedon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Yay! I'm a bad mom!

Raiden had his supplemental because-he's-tiny doctor's appointment today. Guess what? After two weeks of frantically shoving a bottle in his mouth every time he opened it, as well as giving him magical Seven Star Tea, a magical Chinese formula designed to magically fix WHATEVER is wrong with your child, Raiden has gained 1.2 pounds. In fourteen days! (I'll pause here for your awed silence.)

So, it turns out that there is (probably) nothing wrong with Raiden. I was just starving him. Great news! His doctor was actually really nice about how I wasn't actually a bad mom and I shouldn't think of it that way, but we all know the truth. Still trying to figure out how to blame someone else, but now that he's back on the weight chart, the need to do so is fading.

Now I guess I'll stop crying on my keyboard. Or at least take a hiatus until his 9 month appointment, where I may well find another something to panic about. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Beautiful Boots

For the past six months, Sabrina and Sasha have been in contention over a pair of cowboy boots. They are Sabrina's (once they were Jane's), but Sasha lurves them. Sabrina was usually good about letting him wear them, but when she wanted to wear them, well, they were hers, after all. So, like all good mothers, I solved the problem by asking my parents to get each kid a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas.

My first problem was that I don't know the sizes of my kids' feet. I know my size -- they've been 7 1/2 for, I don't know, two decades. But kids? Their feet just keep a-growin'. Because I didn't want to get boots too small, I said sizes 8 and 10. I think this is probably at least a size too big.

My mother, being the wise woman that she is, didn't want Sabrina's boots to be too small, so she suggested that my dad, who was tasked with this important job, to get size 11 for Sabrina.

Dad got the boots. Sabrina's were pink, which gave her flights of ecstasy. Sasha's were dual-color, super cool. They only had size 8.5. Well, the BOX said 8.5. Inside the box, there was one boot that was an 8.5 and one that was a 10. And they were both left boots. Oops.

So Dad got to make another trip to the boot store. Thanks Dad! He took Sabrina's boots as well, to get a smaller size. Oh, her face when she found out the boots were going to be taken away! Only quick assurances that she would get other boots that would fit her better and would STILL BE PINK averted tears. Sasha was more okay with his boots being taken, partly because he never actually got both boots on his feet. However, he got his new boots yesterday and has worn them all day long both days, including for both naps.

Here he is in his new cowboy boots. Notice how he wants his pants rolled up so they don't cover any of the glory that is the boots.

Can you say "I look beautiful!"?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Little soccer star

Who wants to see the cutest little soccer player in the world? You? Okay, here she is:

So? Cute! I swear, the hair is not my fault. It is fine and wavy, so it will not be contained. Will. Not. But check out those eyes! And smile! Who wants to see another one?

So. That's my girl. To make it even better, she's also beautiful on the INSIDE.