Dad’s Day

This weekend was Father’s Day, so I wanted to share a picture of me and my dad circa the early 90’s. This guy is amazing. He raised three kids, ages 3, 12, and 15 when my mom died of breast cancer, and no one could have done it better or with more love. I am thankful for him every day (and also thankful for the help he’s had along the way from neighbors, friends, and the indefatigable Nancy).

Awwwwwwwwwwwww!

I promised  to be more aware of my “Our Town Moments”, so here’s one from the weekend. On Saturday night, I was at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania. We’ve all been going through a lot lately, not just stemming from my cancer last year but other big changes in people’s lives that affect all of us because we love and support one another. Still, Saturday night we had fun and normalcy, just me, my dad, Nancy, my brother, and my boyfriend. While the sun was still out we played ladder golf in the backyard and had a lovely dinner outside on the porch. When it was dark we spent a couple hours in the hot tub, tracing the course of satellites above our heads (something my dad taught us to do years ago). I was thankful for family, laughter, nature, fireflies, and the universe, for being beautiful and full of twinkling surprises.

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Word to my parents

Throughout chemo I’ve had a routine. Infusions were every other Thursday. My parents would come down to DC from Philly the night before each infusion, accompany me to my infusion and spend the day with me, then have dinner with my boyfriend and me in DC before piling us all in the car and heading back to my parents’ house. I’d stay there over the weekend until Monday or Tuesday – whenever I  felt well enough to head back to DC and return to my life.

Today, the night before I return to DC after my last infusion, I find myself looking back on the experience fondly… not the chemo, of course, but the time I spent with my parents in my childhood home. This summer sucked in a lot of ways, but I enjoyed the opportunity to be closer to my parents physically and emotionally.

I can’t say this without sounding cliche and cheesy, but it needs to be said because I believe it’s true: I have the best parents in the whole, wide world.

All summer they’ve been nothing short of amazing. They’ve loved me unconditionally, never made me raise a finger, cooked for me, cleaned up after me, entertained me, cared for me like only a nurse and a doctor can, taken me shopping, calmed my nerves, listened to and allayed my fears, let me cry, and, even when things seemed especially difficult, approached everything with a positive and supportive attitude. While I’m sure I would have been able to do this on my own, it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy (or fun – don’t forget the endless games of Hit or Miss… and metallurgy club).

So, while a blog entry is totally inefficient at expressing my true gratitude, I’m doing it anyway: thank you mom and dad for the innumerable ways you have made my life easier and better this year and always.

Marriage and The Last AC

I am happy to report that I had a wonderful time at my brother’s wedding. Though I had a ton of anxiety leading up to the event, after stepping off the plane in San Diego all I felt was pure excitement at the thought of sharing the event with my family and especially my brother and his wonderful fiance.

The rabbi officiating the wedding was a great speaker. She kept giving people time to be “present” – to really experience each second that passed and be in the moment, not thinking about the past or future, but about what was happening right then and there. It felt very poignant for my situation. One of the things I was so anxious about was that I wouldn’t be able to be present in the moment of my brother’s wedding – that I’d feel sick or be harping on my past or future treatments. But I truly was able to be there and feel the moment and dance at the reception and enjoy my family’s company, and it was a great weekend! I invite

Wedding picture
My parents and I at my brother's wedding reception. I was rockin' my real hair wig!

everyone reading my blog to take a second and really feel present in the moment that is taking place. The past is over; the future can wait; now is the most important thing and you don’t want it to flutter by without taking notice.

Of course, now I’m sitting at home the night before my last AC infusion and I’m feeling anxious all over again. The thought of the syringe filled with bright red Adriamycin being pushed into my veins just makes me want to vomit. How can it be that I’m hardly halfway through my treatment and I’m already sick of it? Tomorrow, as the drugs course through my body, I promise to try very hard to visualize them as good, cancer-killing forces rather than toxic, disgusting, side-effect causing forces.

Today I am feeling…

When I was a teen, there were teen “diary” sites like Xanga where you could have a little emoticon that showed your feeling each time you wrote. Well, if I had that ability on WordPress, today I’d have :\ that and it would say “overwhelmed”.

Yesterday, I had what they call a port placed in my chest to make it easier and safer for me to receive my chemo infusions. Basically a small pad goes under my skin and it hooks into one of my major veins, meaning the nurses can easily just stick a needle in this pad and administer the drugs straight to this vein, rather than having to prick my hand or arm every time and risking damage to the small veins there from the toxic chemo drugs.

The placement procedure was fine – I was prepped like I was for all other surgeries (get nekkid, take off all jewelry, get an IV placed, wait around for a while in the pre-surgery room, etc.) but for this one I was fully cognizant as they took me back to the room, and prepped me. They need to use an ultrasound to place the port, so I was lying on my back and they draped my body so that just a square of my chest was exposed, and there was a big X-ray machine hanging above me and a lot of techs scrambling around. I knew I wasn’t getting general anesthesia, but I was getting happy meds so I kept waiting for them to start pumping that wonderful stuff into me. Finally, before the surgeon came into the room, they did, and I felt the normal lightheaded, heart-slowing-down feeling that I enjoyed for all my other surgeries. I honestly don’t remember much after that – I think I napped. I felt nothing, and then there was a nurse peeking into my sterile “tent” telling me I was done. An hour later I got to go home, and the rest of the day I slept.

That night, the port hurt a bit – nothing unbearable but a sore in my lower neck like I had whiplash and a slight searing pain where I imagine they cut me open to put the port in (I can’t see because it’s all covered in gauze).

My skin was also a bit red, and I started freaking out that I had an infection. That’s what started today’s overwhelmed feeling. The next thing that exacerbated it was that I spoke on the phone to a young woman who had her chemo at GWU. I got her name from the local YSC affiliate, while I was doing research, because I wanted to just see what other people’s experiences were like. Well it was all going fine and good and we were talking about wigs, what to do during infusions, etc., but I started asking her more about her experience and found out that she had been diagnosed at 28 and they originally told her she was Stage 2 – larger tumor but no positive nodes. Great! Not so great. After her surgery she got a PET scan and it revealed she was really stage 4, with mets to her lungs.

Womp, womp, indeed. Just when you think you are out of the woods with a great prognosis, you hear a story like this and all the fears of terrible metastatic disease and dying come flooding back. I know it is rare for this situation to occur, and it’s possible there were more differences in our experiences than I talked to her about, but still. No positive nodes and Stage 4. That’s truly being dealt the short straw.

Then today I went to a clinic at the hospital at the urging of my surgeon. It consisted of short visits with a physical therapist, massage therapist, Reiki specialist, and a naturopathic physician. While these women were very kind and I appreciated their input (I especially liked the Reiki, though I went in thinking it wouldn’t do much), it also put so many things in my head that I have to remember before starting chemo… which is… oh, right, tomorrow.

Prevent lymphedema. Massage scar tissue daily. Use Vitamin E. Remember to breathe. Rub your arm this way to encourage fluid to flow through lymph nodes. Eat this vitamin. Don’t take that vitamin. Eat lots of green vegetables. Eat protein. Limit carbs. Make this smoothie if you don’t feel like eating. Freeze meals at the beginning of the week.

And of course on top of all that I get home and had my own laundry list from the oncologist of drugs I have to take and when and items I should buy to be prepared for side effects (Colace, soft toothbrush, biotene, etc.).

MY WORD. So you can see how I’d be overwhelmed. I’m a little scared that I can’t do this all. Sure, my parents will be here for most infusions, but they can’t live here for the next 3 months and there will be times when I’m on my own and the boyfriend is at work. How the heck do I remember all of this and not make some fatal mistake?