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?