Small update bearing good news...

Good news, they say, comes in threes. I'm not sure if that's exactly true, but we have three good things today.

1. The veins cooperated. Thank God. Or Buddah. Or whomever is listening. My brother told me that when he was in China for business last week he asked a Buddhist monk to pray for me, and made a donation to the Breast Cancer Awareness display set up at a coffee shop there. I've always been a fan of eastern religion and the Buddhist beliefs. One stick today and we were outta there! Well, after about 1/2 hour of waiting and 2 hours of infusing... small details.

2. The doctor had ordered another CA-125 test, as well as about 3 other tumor marker tests with my bloodwork this week. The CA-125 was down to 236 from last month's 465 and the initial 536 back in July. Something's working damnit...Oh, wait. I probably shouldn't have damned anything...

By the way, the other tests were normal...

3. We're finally feeling mostly better after spending the majority of our San Francisco leg of the vacation in bed at the hotel with aches, pains, chills, fever, no appetite in a city with amazing food, and general malaise. Nice, right? After two days, three trips to Walgreen's, a Red Sox World Series win (which of course, made things MUCH more bearable), and finally, a bowl of steaming hot Thai soup from the King of Thai Noodle House on Monday night, we were back amongst the living. Just in time for our flight on Tuesday. We still had fun though. I guess even sickness with good company isn't so bad after all. However, we're definately in better shape to bear one day of work and then walk 60 miles, starting Friday morning.

Simply a day in the life, right?

Life is good today.

Symbolically celebrated by my currently wearing the bottom half of today's Wednesday treat.


Best Coffee Mugs. Ever.

I should have posted a photo of this mug last week, as this was my wonderful Wednesday treat. Ironically enough, I didn't even notice the writing on the side until putting them away that night. However, what better opportunity to link back to one of my favorite entries.

This morning? A decent night's sleep, 2 miles walked, 2.5 miles run, and ready for week 13 with guns blazing, gloves laced.

It's what I do best, don't you know?

That's all for a bit, though...

New week, new entry

I was tired of seeing that other one when I opened this page. It sucked.
Honest, perhaps, but past tense. Much better that way.

So, to start the week we have this:
Just because she's ridiculous, yet cute.

And of course, this: Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...
So today? I'm kind of sick of this routine. Just for today. I'm tired of hearing about it, talking about it, wondering how many times it will take to find a vein, counting how many ounces of water I drink, wondering whether or not I’ll sleep well, whether or not my tossing and turning will keep Greg and all random dogs up all night, and whether one day I’ll be pretty again. I'm tired of looking in the mirror after I come off the mountain and feeling like I LOOK sick, even though I feel fine. I’m relatively tired of putting on hair in the morning, doing my makeup only to have my eyes drip and have to do it all again, try desperately to make the eye puffiness go away so that I look like some semblance of normal, and being afraid to blow my nose because it tends to bleed when I blow it too hard. I'm also kind of tired of feeling miserably out of shape no matter how active I continue to be.

Most of all, I’m sick of complaining, even though I guess much of the complaining is done internally. Sometimes I just want to take my journey, stuff it in a suitcase, and head off into the sunset.

So there it is. Instead? I vent, I get it out of my system, and forge ahead. It's all I can do, you know... because I won't let it win. Even on days like today.

Ok, so I look a little balder in photos than I think I do...

But I tell you, up close and personal, the hair is growing. I would like, of course, for it to grow a bit faster, but all in time, I suppose. Not too bad for two weeks of growth. It's fuzzy. I've also apparently graduated from the Silvio Dante look to Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle. (Sing it now... "Life is Unfair....") Anyhow, it's growing, it's not shedding, and it's fuzzy. Enough on the hair(less)ness.

Greg wrote a great email about week 12 by the numbers. I wish I had it with me, but not having it at my fingertips, apparently I've been stuck 42 times total, with yesterday's only being 5. It was mentioned to me in passing to think about the possiblity of having a port installed, and let me tell you, I am not for it, at all. I know in the big picture it will be easier than fishing for a vein, but at this point, I'm going to fight it as long as I can. I don't want the surgeries, outpatient or not. I don't want the intrusion it may cause to my exercise regimen which is so important to me. I just don't want it. I'd rather get stuck 5 times a week, ridiculous as that sounds. Anyhow, I think I'm putting the cart before the horse at this point. I have a few more things to try before resorting to that. These veins WILL hold up. They will.

All in all, it was a pretty good day though, and marked week 12, which means halfway home. In the chemo suite they have a tradition of ringing a bell for the conclusion of a course of treatment and transition onto the next phase of a person's journey. We internally rang half a ceremonial bell yesterday. Go ahead, feel free to ring along with us.

We saw a story on The Today Show this morning about Hoda Kotb's experience with breast cancer and her decision to share it with the world. One thing that stood out so vividly to me is her saying that she spoke with a stranger on an airplane and he said to her, "Don't hog your journey."

I have to say, that's one thing I've done differently this time. I know I mentioned it in an earlier post, about being out there for someone to see that it's ok... and I know I mentioned how great I felt that Lisa told me that my experience has made her fears a little less scary, but the more time goes on, the more I realize how important whatever impact I can make really is. The Arizona Republic called yesterday and is going to run a story, as well. Seven years ago? I never would have done this. I never would have put myself out there, scars and all, for the world to see. Somehow along the way, I learned to let people in, and learned how to experience my emotions, and learned how to love and be loved, and learned how to eliminate the negative elements from my life. Recently, I also managed to find the courage to "not hog my journey" and his name is Greg. Thank you, my best friend, my "publicist", my biggest cheerleader, my constant companion, my love. Because of his encouragement fueling my courage, I hope I have helped someone out there breathe a little easier, if only for a moment. How huge is that.

Soon enough my autograph will be worth something...

Ok, maybe not. Add to that the fact that typically autographs are worth more once the signer has left this earth, and I'm perfectly content to have my signature worth no more than the paper it's signed on.

However... we did make the news again! Cori from the Ahwatukee Foothills News did a very nice piece on us - except for the fact that we were married in New Mexico, and not in California... maybe she had beachfront property on her mind. In any case - whoot- there it is.

Race for the Cure was this past Sunday. All things considered, it wasn't a bad race. Honestly, I wasn't feeling great. I couldn't get my breathing right, and my leg was really aching for some reason - probably psychosomatic race nerves - and I wasn't feeling nearly as strong as I would have hoped. However, let's get to the "all things considered" part. According to Greg's Garmin, the time was 24:36. Not my favorite, yet a bit faster than last year, and not too shabby when you factor in 11 weeks of chemo. Besides, I've been instructed (and rightfully so) that this is the one day that I can't complain about my time.

Another year of nerves, jitters, dreams, expectations behind us... on to the half-marathon.

P.S. I know I've been remiss at posting photos for the "As the Hair Grows" serial. This week for sure... it's gettin' fuzzy up there.

Gone today, hair tomorrow...

Well, maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough, it seems. I've decided that I'm going to start a series entitled, "As the Hair Grows" with weekly photos to document the progress. It's growing, I tell you. And strangely enough, it's not coming in patchy either. Granted, in the meanwhile was told, hopefully in jest, that I apparently bear a vague resemblance to Steve Van Zandt when I am wearing a bandana. Truth be told, the Silvio Dante isn't exactly my favorite look, but it's amazing what a little makeup can do, huh? Then again, that's not really the point of this entry now, is it?

So, another treatment behind us, and thank GOD for that. Not my favorite, yesterday's round, as I once again had the privilege of doubling as a human pincushion. Eight. Eight freakin' sticks until they finally found a vein that wanted to cooperate. Apparently I had been stressed out (apparently when someone comes at you repeatedly with a needle that won't get a good blood return, that tends to happen) and my vein valves were closing. Or seizing. Or something. The end result being a smattering of bruises, a few puncture wounds, and the nurses telling me not to drink water for a bit lest I shower the rest of the chemo room with it spurting out my punctures. Pleasant, no? It was waaaaaaay too quiet in there yesterday. I don't like it when it's that quiet, and this time, I wasn't exactly doing much to add to the levity. I guess we can't have every week be the best of all. The good news? It's another day, I'm feeling fine, and will warm up my arm and think more pleasant thoughts next week. Honestly, I think it works better in the morning. Yesterday's appointment was in the afternoon, and there's just too much time in the morning to idle. Not that any of yesterday morning was spent idling. The Ahwatukee Foothills News sent their Health and Education reporter to do a story on us which will appear in the October 17th edition. Don't worry, we'll get lots of copies. I'm pretty sure there will be a link online, too. The fame and (mis)fortune continues...

Thankfully, I slept pretty well last night. I remember waking up around 1 a.m. and dragging myself to the bathroom, eyes barely open. I crawled back in bed and mumbled, "I'm SOOOOOOOOO sleepy...". I guess the glass of wine helped, coupled with the fact that I tend not to sleep well on Tuesday nights. The falling asleep part is usually fairly simple, but I take the dexamethazone pre-meds on Tuesdays and if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night, which I inevitably do, thanks to my Ship of the Desert quest the day before treatment, I'm up for a while.

Anyhow, last night I was only up for a little while - maybe 1/2 an hour, which is quite bearable in the grand scheme of things. However, as my mind wanders, as it tends to do at 2 a.m., I somehow found myself marvelling at the random and unrelated things I had put into my body yesterday. Let's examine the chaos, won't we?

Between the time I woke up and the time I fell asleep, I had taken (or been given) two Tylenol, 5 mg of Aloxi/Decadron, 25 mg of Benadryl, 100 mg of Herceptin, 65 mg of Taxotere, one Pepcid, a multi-vitamin, one calcium, one magnesium, and two Omega-3 fish oil pills. HUH???

Then I started thinking about the miscellaneous food I had ingested... keep in mind, I can't remember the last time I ate such a random assortment of food in a day. I started with the typical cup of coffee and antioxidant-laden smoothie. Harmless, right? This was followed by about 1/3 of an Oregano's Favorite salad, and about 2/3 of the largest slice of pizza I may have ever seen topped with mushrooms, black olives, and red onions. Not too unusual. Four hours later about a half mini-box of lemonade/wild cherry Nerds had been added to the mix. Then came the cantaloupe and the honeydew melon that I had to sample from the Edible Arrangements from my Larry & Jan. Then about a half dozen veggie spring rolls dipped in honey hot mustard mixed with Sriracha sauce. Then a chocolate covered strawberry. Oh wait, there was the glass of Lake Sonoma Zin. Then some red grapes, a couple pieces of pineapple, and a cantaloupe ball or two. All topped off with a handful of frosted mini wheats. No wonder I needed that Pepcid. It all tasted really good at the time... Hey, whatever works, right? (WTF, is a more likely comment to that discombobulated disaster of items ingested.)

New day, new menu, and Game 1 of the NLCS.
Sounds pretty good to me.

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

A while back, Greg saw an episode of the Today Show that, if my chemo-brain serves me correctly, featured a couple that had been happily married for 50 years. This feat, as we all know, is unfortunately somewhat of an anomaly these days. He told me that Matt Lauer asked them what their secret was. The wife gestured to the husband who nodded and said, "Yeeessss, Dear." (That was drawn out a bit in tribute of Charlie Bell...King of the Rim, and of the "Yes, Dear.") Ever since then, much to my chagrin at times, Greg has adopted the "Yeesss, Dear". Sometimes appropriate, sometimes not. In any case, when I give him a look or make a comment, his response is typically, "50 years! 50 years! 50 happy years!" Usually gets him off the hook when I think he is using the "Yeesss, Dear" in place of "I'm not really listening to you because I'm really distracted or you've just asked me something ridiculous and you should probably hush-a-snoot (meaning: shhhhhh)." Usually.

I came across this article today, and have to say, it's one of the best things I’ve read on the subject matter. I wish we had stumbled upon this back in July when we were facing the unknown and terrified of what it might bring. Then again, it had just as profound an effect on me now, particularly for those times when any of us lets fear slip in through the cracks.

Based on Steven Jay Gould's essay, The Median Isn't the Message, and the various and sundry statistics we’ve found on my general situation, I figure there’s no reason I shouldn’t live to the ripe old age of 117 – give or take a few.

At the very least, I’m looking forward to 50 happy years…

I do believe the fog has lifted...

And the weight of the world feels much lighter on my shoulders today. I think there were just a few things I needed to do to help get some of those emotions out.

We went out last night, and it's the first time I had seen any of our friends since the big shave. Only TZ knew, as far as I understood, and part of me was a little nervous at the reactions of those around me. The eyes always give it away. MJK came in and asked if I had to shave it all. He knew it was a wig, and you know what, that's ok. I joked with him that I had about as much hair as he did... Esther came up and complimented me on my hair a bit later. I told her it was a rental... I think I needed to make wig jokes. Teri complimented me later on my haircut - I had just seen her and Dennis last weekend after I had gotten the real hairs cut, and apparently neither one of them knew that the hair I had on last night slept in a box at night. She was asking if I still had to straighten my hair, and looked at me blankly when I told her "it's a rental". She couldn't believe it when I said it was a wig - apparently even Dennis didn't know. More wig jokes. If I can joke, I can laugh. If I can laugh, it's all ok... I told them it would probably be laying on the table before the night is over. That never actually came to be, but I could have... maybe...
I needed to make wig jokes.

I needed to run this morning. I have to say, I didn't really want to. But I knew I needed to, and by the time we came around the corner on Frye for the last 1/10 of a mile or so to the house, I knew I had needed that run. 8.75 miles later, I knew I had more in me. How about that. I'm still thriving.

This morning, while drinking my coffee, I read something pretty amazing. Lisa had written in an email, "Because of you, I am not afraid anymore of cancer returning. I don't welcome it of course, but I am not so afraid either. You have shown me that their is HOPE for all of us... and God, how great is THAT?"

Wow. That's just friggin' huge.
Me. Doing what I just do. I helped someone be less afraid of an enormous fear. That right there, that's an accomplishment. And, consequently, something I am very proud of. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing that with me. On a daily basis, I have people telling me they are in awe of me, and my gut reaction is to brush it off, because I really feel that I'm not doing anything all that awe inspiring. I'm simply living. With or without cancer. I'm living.

Come to think of it, if my living the way that I am helps someone else open their eyes a little more, and look around and remember not to take things for granted... if me going on about things the way I go helps someone to look at themselves and want to be the person they know they can be, even when nobody is watching... if my getting out and running, bald head and all, helps even one person lace up their shoes and give it a shot, too... I've done something.

Ok, maybe I am pretty amazing. Maybe just for today.

In lieu of flowers, please send eye drops...

Ok, I suppose this will come full circle here, so be patient. First the good, then the 'meh' then back to the good. I'll get there... really.

Round 10 went off without a hitch. One vein, great bloodwork, Dr. C's observation that the masses were indeed still shrinking, and the Red Sox won Game 1 of the ALDS.

And then, there were there dumb hairs...
It was time. I looked in the mirror and no matter which direction I turned, it didn't look any better. It was just thin. Too thin for its own good, for my own good, and the hairballs in the sink weren't getting any smaller. I told myself that when it was time, it was time.
And, it was time.

Wig in hand, we headed off to see Adam Pink, knowing that with the wig haircut would also come the shave. I sat and looked at my scraggly hair in the mirror, haircut cape wrapped around me, and knew it was time. Adam offered us a beer and staying with the Boston theme, we each chose a Samuel Adams. We toasted farewell to the flight of the dumb hairs, watched them all fall to the floor for the last time, and looked toward the future of it coming back in stronger and thicker, all the while realizing that it was a necessary step in the process to healing. By the time he finished cutting the wig, I was a bit amazed at how good it looked. Well, for the most part. I'm not sure if it's because I know it's a wig, or because the part is to the other side than I had been wearing my hair, but it still looks like a wig to me. Probably only to me, though. Or so I'd like to think.

So, devil be gone. The trusty flat iron and hair dryer went into hibernation for the winter, and I resigned myself to get used to this new, bird-like head. The thing is, it's ok . In the big picture, it's really ok.

But that didn't stop the tears from coming. Even now. The worst part is that the twitching and tearing I mentioned? It's worse. This damn side effect is driving me insane. The tearing is making the eyes puffy. The puffy eyes are making me feel swollen. The swollen feeling is making me feel really freakin' unattractive. So please, send eye drops. And cucumbers. Or whatever the hell will make me look normal again.

Now, here's the challenge with feeling that I don't look normal. It affects the confidence. That, that part is getting to me most of all, because I can feel it. And I hate it. I have been able to go on for the past 10 weeks strong, confident, feeling like I look and feel great - mostly because I do. Now? I feel like I'm looking down all the time because I don't want to meet people's eyes. I don't want them to see my puffy eyes, and the hair that is just a little too big. I think most of all I'm afraid to see the look in people's eyes that betrays their words when they say "wow, you look great", when I know they don't think that at all. Because I don't think that at all. It's ironic - I feel more comfortable when I come home at night and put the hair-hat in its box and walk around with my bird-head. I don't know, it feels more free. Less like a facade. Yet, I'm not sure I'm ready to take off the facade for the rest of the world.

The worst part? Greg says I'm not looking at him as much either. Enter more tears. It's a vicious cycle. The puffy eyes make me look down. I realize I look down. Then I cry. The eyes are more puffy. WTF?? I've gotten 8 weeks more of hair than I thought, I've still got the energy that I had before, I haven't had any nausea, no mouth discomfort. Isn't it ironic that I'm beating the crap out of this life threatening disease and the bullshit thing that has gotten me down is this damn hair and how I look in the mirror?

This too shall pass. I just wish it would pass a bit more quickly. I can see it in the distance, that elusive confidence that I've had all the while. It's there, somewhere, I just need to find it. Meanwhile, I wish the tears (taxotere-induced or real) would just STOP already. It's enough, OK?

Do you think anyone would be alarmed if they walked past my office and my hair was sitting on my desk?

Ok, that made me laugh out loud.

I put the hair on the dog this morning. Both of them.

Still laughing.

Wait, what is that feeling...

Ha. I knew I'd get there. He told me I would... I hope it stays...