Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Intimidates Me....Today

Today I am pondering over the things that have made me feel just a little (or more) intimidated lately.
Image from Google search.  Not my own.

1.) This being the eve of another round of chemo (#4!!!) is just one of those intimidating things.  Chemo is good.  Funny I say that since it is also bad.  Like toxic bad.  Like makes your hair fall out bad.  BUT it is also good.  It is an amazing medical wonder that has happened that helps people kick all types of cancer booty.  Seriously a medical wonder.  Who thought this stuff up?  Who was willing to be the first to get a chemo infusion?  Now that would have been intimidating.  The first person trying out chemo was a brave soul.
And so, here I am, anticipating the next round.  For those that don't know, chemo infusions go pretty smoothly and aren't really that bad.  The chemo room where I go is upbeat and the people are so friendly and hey, free snacks!!!  Who doesn't love some free snacks, right?
But I dread the Neulasta shot the following day because I know that I will wake up the next morning barely able to chew (the bone pain that they mention seems to start out in my jaw every time).  And for about two days I feel like I've got the flu times about 100 (maybe more).
It means that I'm sort of useless with the kids and the house for a few days, but I try.  I'm definitely willing to be all sorts of affectionate with my little munchkins/cheerleaders and even able to read stories.  But when they ask me to play in the backyard or push them in the swing or play catch, I feel like a bad mommy.  This too shall pass.  In a week or two, I can participate more.  In fact, by the weekend, I should be feeling like playing a little more and more each day.  So I'm saying "Hello chemo!  Buh-bye cancer!"

Image from Google search. Not my own.

2.)  Victoria's Secret was intimidating yesterday.  I had coupons for freebies.  Free underwear and $10 off $10 (a little birthday coupon that I got the other day).  How's that saying go?  "If it's free, it's for me!"  Yes.  I planned on grabbing my freebies and walking out without spending a dime.   It was sort of fun.  Except when I realized I was surrounded by bras.  And gigantic images of women with huge boobs.  Or boobs that were at least pushed up to look huge and voluptuous and womanly.  And suddenly I was intimidated and I felt broken and not feminine or womanly at all.  I don't often worry about how my chest appears to others.  I don't wear a prosthesis (yet, if ever) and I don't stuff a regular bra because the one time I did I felt like the padding was coming out of the top and I just couldn't get the padding to match the real side.  Oh, and did I mention that it's summer and the heat has been crazy and the idea of having anything else to make me feel too warm is very unappealing since I'm already uncomfortably sweating under my hats/scarves most days?  Yes, all of that stuff feels too hot for me, but it might be good in the Fall/Winter.
I checked out with my free underwear and told her that I still have another coupon and may or may not shop.  She was friendly.  I perused the little shelves of lotion, body spray, lip gloss and makeup and found something interesting and returned to the same cashier.  At this point, I decided to use my humor and admit my insecurities (and address the elephant in the room - or the missing boob) and she and another clerk were VERY kind to me.  We joked about whether I should get DD cups or just stick to a more "athletic-looking" B cup.  I told them that when I get my new perkier boobs (sometime next year), I will be sure to come back to buy at least one pretty bra that makes me feel girlie and they were both very encouraging.  They didn't have to be encouraging.  It was sort of awkward.  And they were both pretty young.  But they were friendly and sweet and helped me feel a little less weird and freakish and I have to give them a shout-out for being so kind.

Image from Aldi Press Center. Not my own.

3.) A trip to Aldi's turned out to be more intimidating than my visit to Victoria's Secret.  I had a short list of some things to grab and Aldi is so inexpensive compared to many items in typical grocery stores that I decided to run there to grab the basics for lunches this week.  After a less-than-ideal experience shopping (due to a VERY unhappy toddler who was crying the entire time though she was accompanied by two parents and one could have easily gone to the car with her), I had my produce, cheese, veggies, some frozen items and other lunch things and headed to the checkout lane.  If you have ever been to Aldi's, you know that customer service is not high on their priority list because they are working to keep costs down.  I am OK with that theory in general and went there aware of this concept, though this was only my third time in this particular store and about my fifth visit to an Aldi store ever (in about two years).  The cashier rang out my items and I went to pay for my groceries with a credit card (the one with points that is paid off monthly but used for groceries, gas, etc).  It asked for my PIN and I don't have one.  She reminded me that they don't take credit cards, only debit cards.  I offered to write a check and she said that they only take cash or debit cards or EBT.  At this point I am embarrassed because I also remembered that I lost my ATM card and have not re-activated my new one.  I had no options.  I called the husband but he was elbow-deep in baths and couldn't help me.  I had to leave the groceries.  She summoned a manager who voided the transaction and pushed (with force) the cart over towards another abandoned cart with no word to me.  I then realized that my quarter cannot be retrieved since I no longer had a cart to return (Aldi has a cart system where you get your cart for a quarter and when you return it, you get your quarter back).  Yes, it was just a quarter, but I didn't feel the need to leave it behind.  I awkwardly asked the manager who didn't seem to understand my request and then she got it.  After a huge **sigh**, she pulled a quarter out of her pocket and smacked it into my palm.  Again, intimidated and mortified.  I even drove to an ATM to see if I could activate my card and was unsuccessful.  I was stressed and have chemo-brain and I'm not even sure that I had my PIN number correct.  I intended on running back for my groceries but couldn't get cash so I was unable to do so.  And, quite frankly, I was so frustrated with that manager I don't even want to bother shopping there again.  It was a bad visit to Aldi.  Intimidation 1: Kim 2
Images from Google searches.  Not my own.

4.) A family-friendly trip to Lowe's Build and Grow workshop yesterday with Auntie Karen and myself and the three kiddos turned out to be VERY intimidating at first.  We went there expecting that this was a workshop and there would be some sort of teaching involved.  You know, like where they instruct the little ones on the appropriate use of safety goggles, hammers, etc?  But that was not the case.  And I don't fault Lowe's at all, we just didn't know what was involved.  And we didn't come with enough helpers, let alone any men to participate.  Yes, women can build things also, but the two of us aren't really known for our construction abilities, so we were both very intimidated.  We could hear all of the banging and see projects coming together quickly at the tables with older children or the ones with parents (mostly men, but some women) who were helping out and quickly hammering the pieces together.  In the end, the kids did great (and so did the auntie and the mommy).  The girls were more interested at first and we worked with them and Clark was happy making his own masterpiece.  Then I was able to spend time with him getting his wagon (actually a Shrek Onion Carriage) assembled and he did a great job getting nails into the holes and hammering them as instructed.  He even placed the stickers without any instruction just by watching other kids (and his sisters).  They all three came away with wagons that roll and we could proudly show them off to daddy when he got home from work.  Intimidation be gone!

There are more things, but I'll stop there.  I just wanted to write about feeling intimidated but remember how it felt to overcome it (in most cases).

Peace and Happy Sunday.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chemo #3: AKA The Yawn that Never Ends...and HALFWAY DONE!!!!

I should clarify that by yawn I do not mean that I am bored with chemo or anything else.  What I intend to share is that I cannot get enough sleep this round.  It's ridiculous actually.  While I have not slept 18 hours per day or anything, I just feel like I am tired even when I wake up.  And every ounce of energy expended seems to require a "refill" of about 3 hours of sleep, which is not even possible.  I've napped more in the last 10 days or so than I have in a long time.  This morning, I was up getting the kids ready for preschool and crawled back into bed as they were pulling out of the driveway with Daddy....and woke up about 2 hours later.

Aside from the fatigue, this chemo has been pretty uneventful.  Well, not entirely.  I had a round of sickness that didn't really involve warning me with nausea, at least not for long.  And I've had some stomach issues.  Stupid chemo vs. gut competition trying to see who is tougher.  Word on the street (in the chemo room) is that often the side effects from chemo are cumulative and that the fatigue does seem to worsen with each new dose.  I would have to agree.  And I am definitely going to be a happy camper when I can one day taste food as it is intended to taste.  Steak and potato are on the menu sometime in October when I feel like I can again stomach meat and actually taste steak and not some weird metallic, flavorless piece of nothing.

We were blown away by the support of our community this past weekend during a one-day fundraiser at the Knoxville and Alcoa Menchie's locations.  They donated a portion of their proceeds on Sunday (August 12th) to our family to help cover medical and other general expenses.  We met some friends and family at one location and had a great time visiting and eating yummy frozen yogurt.  A local TV reporter, Allie Spillyards with WVLT, interviewed me and some friends and we had a spot on the 11p news.  You can check it out here.  She was so sweet and we were thankful that they took an interest.

Earlier in the month, I met with another local news anchor, Robin Wilhoit of WBIR, who presents a Buddy Check 10 segment each month to remind women to do their breast self-exam.  The segment aired last Friday (August 10th) and we made it a family event by gathering at my sister's house for pizza with the kids and my nephew and his wife to get a first look at the story.  The kids and I (along with our super-sitter) met Ms. Wilhoit at a nearby park for the interview and we loved that the cameraman (another Mr. Jerry) was able to get some nice footage of the kids playing.  You can take a look at the story here.

Once again, I cannot put into words how much it has meant to me (and our family) to have such a great network of friends and family who have supported us through this breast cancer journey.  Even people we have never met personally have contacted us via PayPal, Facebook, emails or even snail mail to send us words of encouragement, offer up prayers and sometimes help us financially.  It is humbling to say the least.  We are forever grateful and I plan to find a way to pay-it-forward once I'm a little further down the road.  My mind is constantly trying to process it all and I've been thinking of so many ways to be able to do something for others as a result of what I have been through.  Once I come up with a plan, I will certainly share it here first.

So, chemo #3?  It was OK.  Maybe a little rougher than #2 but not as bad as #1.  I think I felt like it was "working" more this time since I felt worse.  Head games, I know.  But humor me.  If I can convince myself that this stupid chemo is in there causing mass destruction against any little teeny tiny cancer cells that might be lingering, then I can totally put up with the fatigue and any other side effects that come my way.  And no, that is NOT a dare to the chemo, God or anything else to try to MAKE me feel any worse, thank-you-very-much.  I get it.  Chemo is BAD stuff.  But it is also GOOD stuff as it is going to kick some breast cancer booty so that I can be out there helping others very soon.  Did I mention that I'm now HALFWAY THERE?!?!?!?  Woo hoo!  Three down and three to go!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Calming My Storm

Every night (for months and months) I have gone to bed and listened first (and maybe last) to the YouTube video of Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill performing "How Great Thou Art".  Often I fall asleep before it is even over.  Other times, I cannot get to sleep and I move on to a version of "It Is Well"  sung by Daniel Martin Moore.  I also have an app with white noise, ocean waves, rain drops, etc.  But I find myself waking up pleased when I can tell that the last thing my mind was hearing as it shut down for the day was a reminder that He is my Savior and that because of this I can rest knowing it is all going to be OK.  Sometimes you just have to trust in Him and have faith that He has a bigger plan than we can ever imagine.

I write that knowing that I feel like I know what the best outcome would be, but obviously He already knows how this will end....and when.

And whenever that may be, I have to feel blessed because of all that has come from my cancer diagnosis.  The new relationships I have formed.  The old relationships that have been strengthened.  The people who might find their breast cancer early because of hearing my story.  The fact that I have a chance to adjust my priorities.  The ways we have been blessed by so many family members, friends, co-workers and even strangers who have wanted to do something to help our family as we go through this cancer journey.  And the ways I hope to serve others going through their journey.  All of these things have happened, are happening or will happen one day soon because of my breast cancer diagnosis.  How cool is that?!?!

So yes, sometimes the storm is raging.  Whether it's in my head, or in some form of a side effect from the treatment, there is a storm-a-brewing.  Maybe it is in the realization that another breast cancer friend is suffering and my heart is breaking and asking the "why" questions.  Which also always leads to the "what will happen to me?" question and "what about my kids?" question.  And then I think "How great thou art!" and "it is will with my soul" because God is there in all of these storms.  He knows the outcome.  He will work this out for His good.  [Rom 8:28 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.]

You can check out the Carrie Underwood/Vince Gill "How Great Thou Art" YouTube video here.

And you can check out Daniel Martin Moore performing "It Is Well" here.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Top 11 GOOD Things About Having Breast Cancer and Chemo

It sounds like a weird post, right?  But it's true that there are GOOD things about this breast cancer and, as I approach ROUND 3 of chemo, I wanted to spend a little time focusing on these good things:

11. I can run errands in the rain because I'm not worried about getting my hair wet.  The hats are definitely helpful, but it just doesn't seem to matter much at this point.  Glass half-full people!

10. I can shower at night now.  My hair has always been fine and it seemed that morning showers were better and helped me think I looked fresh for the day.  With little to no hair, this is not a concern.

9. I can dry my head/hair with a washcloth (rather than using two towels every day).

8.  I have a pretty good collection of washcloths.

7. I only have to shave my legs about every 4-5 days (or less), instead of daily.  Hey, I'm a South FL girl and I have ALWAYS shaved my legs every day.  We won't get into the bikini-prep, but let's just say that it is another silver lining of chemo. ;)  Not that I will be wearing a bikini.  Ever.

6. My hair care budget is almost non-existent.  No need to get haircuts and highlights for a while.  I use VERY little shampoo on my little baby-bird head and I just use the kids shampoo since it is mild and safe (no parabens, chemicals, etc).

5. My sister made my favorite version of potato salad for me during my last chemo week.  It's my mom's recipe and the only one I love.

4. I get to eat rice pudding, ice cream and yogurt for a week without feeling guilty.  They are the foods that don't bother my mouth and the change in my taste buds doesn't seem to have destroyed those pleasures for me.

3. We save money on meat because it just doesn't really taste very good to me these days.  Every so often I feel like a burger or a steak, but generally it's not on my menu.

2. I get to spend additional time with some amazing people because of chemo appointments or recovery time at home.  I've enjoyed the time with my sister and friends who are able to visit with me during the day.

1. Realizing that I am one of The. Most. Blessed. Women. In. The. World.

Seriously blessed people.  I mean it.  I can't thank my friends and family enough for supporting me and our family through this journey.