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! rings! It's Snowcrest! They want to tell 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 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!