Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy Birthday T-Bone

About five years ago, my cousin Emily said something about Sabrina to her husband. He was confused. "Who?" he asked. That's because for the first year or so of her life, we called Sabrina "Tiny" or "T-Bone" because she had tiny bones. Well, that tiny girl is now six years old!

This past year has sucked for me on all kinds of levels. Sabrina is not one of them. She fights with her brothers, yes, and cries when she doesn't want something or wants something she can't have. But she is tender and sweet, and loves fiercely. She hugs me when I'm sad, protects me from the enthusiastic excesses of her brothers when I'm recovering from surgery (all too common!), and bands with her brothers when they are challenged by any outsider. Sabrina is learning to read and is sometimes giddy with her newfound skill, nascent though it is. She loves her friends and can always be found in the middle of the big group of kids.

Sabrina starts first grade in three weeks. I know she will be loved by her teacher because she wants to be good and do well. She will be loved by her friends because she loves them. (Although as the oldest child of two oldest children she comes honestly by a certain amount of bossiness!) And she is loved by me because she is my precious girl, my Squanto Oglethorpe, my Tiny Bones. Happy birthday baby girl.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Surgery Update

Content Alert: I talk about my breasts in this entry. You have been warned!

I'm home from reconstruction. Expanders out, implants in. The pain here is really not bad, as they basically just opened up the previous incisions and swapped out basically the same size fillers. The left side is really fine. The right side is where the cancer was and therefore has been radiated, so they needed to do what is called a latissimus flap. That is, they made an incision along my back of about five inches and pulled the muscle over to my right side so the reconstruction would have good blood supply. Apparently, due to the radiation damage to the skin and tissue, there's about a 50% complication rate if you don't do that flap. I don't have time for complications. School starts in less than four weeks. I need to be healed, danggit!

Anyway, I'm home with food from the Relief Society, help from my mom, and babysitting from all. Oh, and Percocet. What more could I possibly need?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Like mother, like daughter

I remember reading something my mom wrote about me when I was 4 of so. She said every time she did my laundry she needed to check my pockets because they were invariably full of rocks, sticks, little toys, and other treasures. Every night before I go to bed I check on my kids. Raiden is usually on his belly with his little bum in the air. Sasha is sprawled out on his back. Sabrina...Sabrina is in a bed shared with books, stuffed animals, My Little Ponies, and other treasures, occasionally including rocks, sticks, and other little toys. Like mother, like daughter.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Product or Process?

There are two types of people in this world: product oriented and process oriented.

Product-oriented people are concerned with getting the job done, emphasis on done. We want to finish the hike, get the laundry put away, do the report.

The process-oriented are less concerned with finishing something. They are more concerned with the doing, not with the finishing. If they are doing the dishes and the kids want to play a game, they play a game. Even though the dishes are four minutes from being finished and now won't be done for another hour. No, that doesn't matter to them.

I guess you can tell I'm a product-oriented individual. My mother (a process-oriented person if ever there was one) once asked me to turn off the vacuum to ask me a question. In the middle of the question she stopped and asked me what my t-shirt meant. I wanted to finish the dang vacuuming, so I was highly irritated with her. My response made her justifiably irritated with me.

ANYWAY, I think most people believe their way of being is the best way. I believe my way is best, myself, but that's because the thought of spending three hours to clean a light fixture makes me crazy. Get 'er done! On the other hand, my fixation on "finishing" things is sometimes a problem. I'm trying to enjoy the process more, especially when the product is not important.

Today I took my kids to Beus Park. This is a big park with a playground, but also a big duck pond and some little hiking trails. A product person (i.e. me) wants to walk around the park, perhaps stopping once to feed the ducks illicit bread, then get back in the car and go to Burger King. Process people (i.e. every kid ever) want to check out the little river, throw leaves in the stream, play on the playground, take a hiking trail, throw some more leaves in the pond, walk backwards, check out the bird feather, and so on into infinity.

So that's what I'm working on. Enjoying the ride. I'm trying to remember that we didn't go to the park so I could walk around the duck pond, but so the kids could have an experience. I'm getting better at focusing on that!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Last Treatment

Yesterday was my last Herceptin, my last cancer treatment FOREVER. (It had better be forever!) The nurses sang me a song to the tune of Happy Birthday and presented me with a blanket and a certificate. My friend and social worker Lisa pointed out that certificates are few and far between when we're adults!

Finishing treatment is bittersweet. It makes you think and reflect on your past one year, three months, and six days (or whatever) since diagnosis. I've had some scary thoughts that I remembered yesterday, as well as some really amazing experiences. My family and ward really have been amazing. One cousin cooked me so much food it took Mom two trips to bring it to me, because Mom only has one cooler. My ward provided meals and babysitting and so much love. My mom was amazing in how much support she offered me, and my dad did whatever was needed in his quiet way. I am everlastingly grateful to you all.

I think the love that I received was my greatest cancer gift. I feel such a part of my ward and neighborhood after getting so much in time and words. People would just send me notes to tell me they were thinking of me. What! I'm going to try to do that too. I'm not very good at it because it's not really something I've done in the past, but I'm going to make the effort.

The hardest thing was worrying about the future. I don't want to dwell on it now, but those moms with young kids will know what I mean. Moms with older kids -- that's different. At least you know your kids will remember you. I'm not saying it's easy, I'm just saying it's different. I've really enjoyed my bonding with other moms with cancer who have young kids.

Overall, assuming I just had the last cancer treatment of my life, or at least of the next 40 years, I would say my experience with cancer has been more positive than negative. I lost my hair, but that's temporary. I lost my breasts, which really sucks, but at least I'll get some pretty ones next week, although they won't have any sensation. I lost my sense of security, but security is an illusion anyway. A beautiful illusion, but unreal nonetheless. I gained lots and lots of friends and love. Awesome. I spent time with my mom and appreciated my kids and husband more. I found out I can do hard things. Now, if I can just have an easy couple of years, that would be great.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


I can't believe it, but the summer is half over. Amazing.

I spent some time yesterday in my classroom doing bulletin boards. I'm having surgery in a couple of weeks so I won't be able to lift up my arms for a bit. I think I'll be pretty much recovered by the time school starts, but to do those stupid boards requires standing on desks, contorting myself, and swearing. Okay, just kidding on the swearing. Sort of. Of all the reasons I'm glad I'm not an elementary school teacher, doing multiple bulletin boards each year is probably top five. Really.

In other news, Mom reminded me of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson about how hard it is to go to bed when it's still light outside. My kids would wholeheartedly agree. Therefore, I have sent both Raiden and Sabrina to bed right now, and banished Sasha and Spencer downstairs. Ah. My house is quiet now.

Bed in Summer
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?