Cancer Just Sucks

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a fellow survivor who lost his battle with cancer.  This person was part of my “extended” family – my brother’s father-in-law – and it hit me pretty hard.  This was not his first round with cancer, but this time around he and I were diagnosed around the same time.  We both fought.  I beat it.  He did not.  And it just sucks.

I went in to visit the social worker at the local cancer center to see if she had any pamphlets or something I could get for my niece, who is seven.  As we began to talk, I realized his death affected me more than I realized.  And I also realized that among the sorrow and sadness I was feeling, there was another feeling buried deep.  Guilt.  I felt guilty.  Why did I survive and he didn’t?  Why did I beat it (against all odds) and he didn’t?

These are new feelings for me.  I know that our situations are different, and I know that he is now home with our Lord and Savior, no longer suffering.  But this is the first death due to cancer I have dealt with since being diagnosed with cancer.  I am working hard to make my life a real life again, not one revolving around cancer.  But sometimes it just hits me.  Life is ultimately changed when you get a diagnosis like cancer.

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I’m Still Alive!

I know it’s been a looooong time in between posts and I apologize.  At first it wasn’t intentional, and then it was.  I am not someone who can write just for writing’s sake.  Actually I generally only write when I need to work through something, and occasionally for updates.  

By far my greatest feeling since being declared cancer-free is overwhelmed.  It’s hard to sit down and write when you have no idea what to say, where to start, and you have a million other things to catch up on.  When I was sick, I rarely cooked a meal and I almost never did laundry.  Forget about cleaning.  Little Man went to school and day care and I had most of the day to myself.  

Now, Little Man is home with me 24/7.  I’m slowly but surely getting a handle on cooking again (though I am terrible about remembering to thaw the meat).  Grocery shopping and laundry are still overwhelming.  I feel like I’ll never get caught up.  Our finances are slowly but surely getting smoothed out.  I feel really blessed that all we did was run up some credit card debt, especially after seeing articles like this one.  Family and friends were amazingly generous and kept us going.  

Stepping back out into life has been interesting.  Some things are not a priority and others are.  For awhile, my priority was enjoying life to the fullest – spending time with Little Man and my hubby, drinking good wine and enjoying good food, and spending more time playing and enjoying friends.  But I’m beginning to see now that I need to do more.  

I joined a gym for water aerobics, weights & machines, and hopefully some visits with the nutritionist to learn about balancing meals better.  I plan to take a “beginner” tennis class in the fall.  I decided to join the Junior League.  I am the PTO representative for my son’s program at his school.  And I’m going to volunteer in (other) classroom(s) on the days he is in school.  Just little steps that help me live life, not just experience it.  

I can’t promise I will continue to update regularly, but I will do what I can.  I am focusing on getting healthy and loving my family, but if I have an update, I will.  I did go back to MD Anderson in June, and I continue to be cancer-free, so that is an amazing blessing.  Thank you for being a part of my journey and for your prayers.  

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NED

“No evidence of disease.”

Yep – cancer-free!

This is the best news ever.  I was so not expecting it either.  The doctor told me he never expected it to completely go away.  And yet here we are.  I am floating on Cloud Nine.

It’s really a crazy feeling.  You read about miracles; you don’t expect to BE one!  Thank you, God!

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love being home with my boy.  I really, really love it.  It’s a busy time and I find I’m exhausted at the end of the day, but it is so wonderful.  I lost most of last year with him and this time is so precious to me.  On Monday- Thursday, he attends the local elementary school from 7:45-10:15, which gives me just enough time to have my quiet time and get caught up on my e-mails, Facebook, etc., and hit the gym or the chiropractor, depending on which day it is.  On Monday, we go to Kindermusik, on Tuesday we go speech therapy, and the rest of the week is fairly open.  We spend a LOT of time talking about Thomas and Percy and James and Emily and Gordon (trains from Thomas and Friends) and a couple of afternoons playing with A, his buddy and my best friend’s son.  He plays in the nursery at the gym on Fridays and Saturdays.    My plan is to add some library time in there and eventually get around to potty-training him completely, but for now we are content to spend time together.  He is making big strides with his talking and has become a much happier child.  And I feel like a much happier mama.

My health is slowly recovering.  I am still pretty swollen, so I’m now up to five water pills a day.  We’ll see what kind of progress it makes.  I am exhausted at the end of the day every day, but I seem to be doing well keeping up with Little Man, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  (Dishes still kill me though…)  I’ve weaned myself off of my sleeping pills and couple of other pills, but for the most part my doctor wants me to stay on the others.  I need to go pick up Little Man now, but I wanted to give a quick update!

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What’s Next?

Ever since Dr. P. mentioned the possibility of a break from chemo, my mind has been reeling with, “What next?”

Before chemo, I was in school, working part-time at a copy shop on campus.  Now, knowing that I will eventually be back on chemo, I don’t see the point in going back to school.  I didn’t earn enough money at work to make it worth going back.  Day care is our biggest expense and I can’t earn enough to pay for that.

We’ve been talking a lot about where Little Man is, mentally.  There’s something called “reading readiness” and he is exhibiting all of the signs.  He can point at words as we are reading.  He knows that books are read top to bottom, left to right.  He can name every letter and the sound it makes.  And lately, without us asking, he will look at a word and make the sounds.  (For instance, he will say, “Buh- Aa – Tuh” if he sees the word bat.)

I took enough classes to know what reading readiness is, but not enough to know how to teach reading.  I taught fourth and fifth grade, so my kids were way beyond that point by the time they got to me.  So I’ve been doing a lot of research about how to teach my kid to read.  Apparently there’s a movement out there called “home preschooling”.  A lot of the moms in my local moms group are talking about doing it with their kids.

So after a lot of research and a lot of discussion, we have decided to pull Little Man out of day care.  He will still attend public school in the mornings for his speech therapy, but I will pick him up afterwards and bring him home.  We’re going to give my body a few weeks to recover first, but I think I feel good enough to be able to handle this.  We will be able to put the $152/ week we were paying for day care towards paying off the credit card balances that have accumulated throughout this process, and Little Man will get a lot more one-on-one time.

I’m going to sign him up for a couple of activities around town so he is still able to socialize and we’re going to have a couple hours of “structured” learning time each day.  This also means I have to get my butt in gear and create a schedule and stick to it.  My boy NEEDS a schedule or he falls apart.  He’s been that way since he was an itty bitty baby.

That’s about all I know for now.  I’ll try to keep you posted as I work out more of what the future holds for us.  I’m not sure how much this blog will change now that I’m no longer receiving treatment.  Perhaps I will update with all the normal, everyday stuff or perhaps I will let it be until something cancer-related comes up again.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Good News!

I just left the doctor’s office and he said I looked good enough to stop chemo for now!  I’m so excited!

A few clarifications: I am not “in remission” or NED (no evidence of disease).  The doctor said the nodules were small enough that he had to look hard to see them on the scans.  We are also waiting for a final report from the radiologist, but my doctor feels good about it right now.  If we get a report back with anything major, he’ll call, but the plan for now is no chemo for the foreseeable future.  I will return MD Anderson every three months for scans.  If the nodules show no significant increase, I can continue to stay off chemo.  If they grow a lot, we’ll start chemo again.

Honestly, this was the absolute best news I could possibly get.  We are beyond thrilled.  Thank you for all the prayers.  They have helped immensely.

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Houston

We made it to Houston.  It was quite a drive but we listened to an audiobook to help kill the time.  My husband did all the driving and I slept off and on.  Normally when I come to Houston, it’s on my “off” week.  For some reason this trip is on my “bad” week.  So I’m feeling pretty exhausted.  I’ve thrown up a few times, but I’m hoping that it’s just the normal after-chemo issues and not that I caught Little Man’s stomach virus.  I really, really don’t want to carry that nasty stomach bug into a cancer hospital.

There were no openings in the hotel last night, so we stayed with my husband’s aunt and uncle.  We’re really blessed to have them here.  They’ve helped a lot on the trips out here.  This is the first trip where we have a car, so staying with them was an option.  They offered to let us stay the whole time but all of my appointments today are after 4:30, and it would be late before we got back.  It’ll probably be nine o’clock before I get back to the room as it is.  Tomorrow I won’t see the doctor until 2:00, so my husband and I are hoping to go to the aquarium in the morning.  I hope I feel up for it.

I’m not really nervous about this trip, but somewhat apprehensive.  I don’t know what he’s going to tell me.  Do I get a break?  If so, for how long?  A month?  Six months?  How often will I have to scan while I’m on my break?  Can I scan at home or will I still need to come to Houston?  I’m actually finally feeling so much better now that I started that new water pill.  I have lost 22 pounds of water weight in a week and a half.  Crazy hunh?  I feel like a new person.

That’s about all the news for now.  I will try to update as I know more.

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