“The Climb”, Part 1

26 03 2014

Last October, during one of her class “Write to Music” assignments, my younger daughter, Brynn, wrote how she was sad that our family could not do things together because of my cancer. Her words make me cry.  How dare this bully enter our lives AGAIN, to a SECOND parent, to worry my sweet babies who already went through this before.  But to read Brynn’s words written in response to hearing the Miley Cyruses song, “The Climb”, I am moved and I am inspired.  I believe all will be well:

“I love that song it is a good song to listen to and life has struggles and we get through. And nothing can stop us from what we want to do.  She says in the message of the song, “there’s always gonna be another mountain and I’m gonna have to make it move”. It makes me sad because its sad to think about my mom and whats going on even though she is going to be fine.  So it is true that there is always going to be another day that we can do things we haven’t with each other and that will be and always will be another mountain.”

The 5th grade teachers had considered changing the 5th grader’s annual outreach project from one in which cans of food were donated during a community service project.  After Brynn wrote the above essay, the idea was discussed once more.  It was this paper that inspired her teacher, Kristen Yockey, with a defined purpose: the community service project would benefit a family from the school, and since Brynn is a 5th grade student, the project would be more meaningful for the students.  A perfect fit.

So began approximately 6 weeks of gathering materials and donations and creating crafts which the students then sold to the younger students.  All three fifth grade classes and teachers were involved with the project.

In the next “Write to Music” assignment, the students wrote to “I’m on top of the World” by The Imagine Dragons.  Brynn wrote:

My mom said that it is okay to tell people what is going on in my life.  This whole thing you are doing for us Mrs. Yockey, my whole family is touched. (It’s true. I would cry everytime she would come home with an update, how many materials were donated, how all the kids were enjoying the project. Happy tears. LOTS of happy tears!) I love to have someone feel special and I love that this time its my turn and I love to come to school and have people ask how is your mom and I say she is doing great because she is.  I know everything is going to be okay.

The students raised enough for our family to plan some serious family fun time.  In addition, a parent, and local restaurant owner, Vince Stewart, contributed by gathering donations for a Kalahari Waterpark Resort package, complete with transportation. “Overwhelmed” is an extremely underwhelming description of how touched and flabbergasted we were by the effort of the student, the teachers, Mr. Stewart and the community.

A snow day interfered with the 5th graders presentation of the project results to us so the teachers stopped by our house with a wonderfully written description of the project history and a video of the students in action.  More happy tears- they would not stop! I could not believe that, being so new to the community, our family would be wrapped up in this great big hug!  The efforts by everyone involved inspire me to stay positive and helps me to believe that all WILL be well.

In a “Community Outreach Reflection”, Brynn wrote the following:

  • I’m happy we got to do something for my mom.  She needed a little cheer (very true!)
  • Usually we help other families but people are helping us this year (it’s a wonderful feeling to help others)
  • I had a great time meeting new people from the other classes and working with them. (very cool way for her to meet new people!)
  • I liked that we did not just help my mom we also helped other kids who could not go to the store to buy gifts for their family so that was cool. (Christmas shopping right at school, can’t get better than that!)

The Kalahari trip was this past weekend.  I’ll write a Part Deux later this week.  Until then, I miss volunteering on the Speaker’s Bureau and raising funds for Ele’s Place, a healing center for grieving children that helped both me and Asher after the death of her father. I miss helping local widows with young children.  However, we started paying it forward last Fall when Fred and the girls took part in a couple of fundraisers for a few families struggling with their own cancer issues.

We are not wealthy people, but we are making it through.  A small donation of $25 or so once a month is easily squeezed from our budget. And for such good causes.  People in need.  Locally.  I post about them on my Facebook page, KindergartenCrush from time to time so feel free to check it out if you’re feeling a little Robin Hood-y ;)

There is ALWAYS going to be a mountain to climb but if we face it head on and keep taking one step, then another, it isn’t that bad.  Giving is a great way to make you feel better about your own mountain.  Keep those chins up, Peeps. :) xoxo





What Up Recipe Wednesday!

15 01 2014

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, and recovered from the initial shock (lol…), the first thing I wanted to do was, what I call, “Feed to Fight”.  Feed to Fight is eating to kill cancer.  For a long time, I couldn’t stomach many, many of my favorite foods, namely vegetables.  Now that I am more mobile and off of assistive oxygen (i.e. no blowing up the house while using the gas range LOL), I’ve started juicing and cooking.  Following is the recipe of one of my all-time FAVORITE teas from the book The Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Matt Edelson. Cinnamon Ginger Tea – isn’t it pretty???

018

Cinnamon Ginger Tea

4 cups water

4 1/2″ peeled knobs of ginger

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp honey

Bring the water, ginger and cinnamon stick to a boil in a saucepan, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the ginger and cinnamon stick, and stir in the honey.

Personally, I prefer to turn off the heat and let the ginger and cinnamon steep awhile longer.  I taste it every five minutes or so to make sure it’s not too gingery or it can become quite spicy.  I love a heavier cinnamon taste so I take the ginger out when I’ve reached a preferred taste and leave the cinnamon stick in to steep until the tea becomes this beautiful amber color.  So yummy and so good for you.  Enjoy!

Much love to all of my Warrior Peeps, Yetis and other friends ;)





Walking Like an Egyptian…Almost!

2 12 2013

No oxygen machine, no walker or cane…I may not be walking completely normally, or like an Egyptian (yet!), but I am walking unassisted BABY!  Woo hoo!

I feel like a toddler, walking unsure, unsteady and stiff-legged.  Thank God for this and thank God, I am able to climb a step or two.  Each time I do, I remember how I couldn’t even manage one 4″ step into the house not very long ago.  The frustration of not being able to support myself muscularly just to step into the house was maddening- my heart rate would escalate to abnormal heights and it would take every ounce of energy I had for the entire day.  Maddening.   My brain would scream, “WHAT THE HECK?!  Didn’t I run 740 miles last year??? And now, I can’t manage this one, tiny, transitional step???”

Oy.

Thank God.

Next week, I have one “last” chemo treatment.  Mentally and physically exhausted, I am trying to rest up this week.  My brain hurts as I work it to schedule appointments and manage my everyday tasks.  I hope and pray this is the end of my war with cancer.  A PET scan will be scheduled sometime after this last treatment and we will learn the next step, if there is a next step needed.

Until then, I am going to keep listening to The Bangles and practice walking like an Egyptian.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support.  It means SO very much. Pray on my Warrior Peeps and Crushers! xoxo





Mother Cancer Brainless Twit

4 10 2013

It’s true that motherhood is a never-ending role.  No matter the task, no matter the weather, moms are on duty.  Rain, sleet, snow and everything else, Moms are “ON”.  Actually, now that I think about it, there’s never an “OFF”. That’s ok though, we were warned. LOL

There’s just oooone little problem: chemo brain.

What a brainless twit I have become.  Wow!  (Please refrain from commenting LOL)

Let me just say that I love math, science and literature.  History, social studies…not so much.  But I can handle 5th grade homework!  Or I used to…

Which brings up another little problem: lack of concentration due to exhaustion.  It is very challenging to check homework with an exhausted brain.  I’m running on fumes, people! I mean really, I lay in bed last night trying, for the life of me, trying to remember why we went to the hospital the day before yesterday.  I just now remembered – post-hospital visit with an Infectious Disease doctor. I couldn’t even remember office surroundings, the nationality of the doctor, his name…nothing, nada, zip, zilch.  Jeez Louise!

Not one to settle for less than the best, I have spent the last 2 chemo-free months working to rebuild my memory skills, or lack thereof, through tricks, games and whatnot.   Remembering the brand on a commercial played moments before, words to favorite songs or what the heck I did yesterday are all blanks.  Great.  Now I’m shooting blanks!

So thank you, Cancer.  As if the pain, numbness, inability to walk and various fun, death-defying complications weren’t enough, You have made me a brainless twit. Mindblowing. (LOL) It’s a little embarrassing when the next word won’t come to mind.  Or, when a doctor asks about a specific symptom experienced but the memory of that event is completely erased.   As a logophile (yes, I had to Google that!), I enjoy learning about words and using those that cut out excessive babble.  If only they would come to mind so I could use them!

Oh I know I’ll get better.  In time.  A whooooole lotta time…sigh.  Just do me a favor –  don’t bother asking about the details of “whatnot”.  I won’t remember. ;)





The Cancer Cha Cha

18 09 2013

I was feeling better, moving easier and ready to attack the remaining tumor by seeing a lymphoma specialist at University of Michigan Hospital. Then, out of nowhere, I had a fever. And it skyrocketed in no time from 101 to 104 degrees.  By the time Fred got me to the ER, my temperature was 105, my blood pressure was high and my heart rate elevated.

At some point, my blood pressure dropped drastically low and my body went septic.  Still alert, I was asked for next of kin and if I wanted to be resucitated.  I remember thinking, why is this so serious?  I didn’t understand what was happening nor did I understand that my condition was serious.

We arrived at the ER at approximately 9pm and I stayed until 5am the next morning when my body finally stabilized and I was moved to ICU.  I was awakened from a dream in which I knew I was dying and I worried for the girls, believing they would, one day, be all right. Fortunately, I escaped death once again in my life.

Landing in the ICU, I was understandably confused so when my husband came to visit me, I had no idea what day it was.  The night before and into the morning, the worse my condition became, the less I could vocalize my thoughts.  Brain was not connecting to mouth.

Once alert, I learned that my PICC line had been infected with staph.  Scary.  There was nothing I could have done to avoid it.  I learned that PICC lines should not stay in the body longer than six weeks because the risk of a staph infection is so high.  Mine was in my body for two months.  Great.  My PICC line was removed but a few days later, I had to get another since I would be going home with IV antibiotics to keep fighting the infection.  Fabulous.

By this time, I had so many holes in my body I looked like I tangled with a few vampires! Polka dot fingertips from checking my insulin levels four times a day, the old PICC hole, the new PICC hole, and two Central line holes in my jugular.  Not to mention the still healing area where my port was once.  Lovely!

Two days laying in ICU set back all of the progress I had made prior.  At home, I had started taking steps using one hand to hold on, my legs were so strong.  I could just about stand from a sitting position without using my walker to hang onto.  The setback pissed me off and nearly dying depressed me.

One week after my trip to the ER, I was discharged to go home.  I was eager to leave the hospital and start over again but absolutely terrified to get a staph infection again. Terrified. My approach to life for the last ten years has been not to worry since it doesn’t do any good, it’s bad for your health and things usually do not turn out as bad as you think.  However, this whole staph episode threw that out the window!  I thought those hospital staff were nuts putting another PICC line in my arm!

Fred has helped me calm down.  I’m still nervous but slowly, positive ol’ me is coming back. I’ve been home 5 days.  Progress is slow but I’m hampered by the arm with the new PICC line that’s healing and the shoulder I injured the day I went into the hospital.  Very glad that the CT scan of my shoulder showed no tear in the muscle.  Slowly, strength is returning and the Cancer Cha Cha continues…2 steps forward, 12 steps back!

I am so glad to be home.





The Long and Winding Road

10 08 2013

It’s such a slow road, this healing business. I’m used to change happening much more quickly. Solving problems is my thang.  Finding solutions is easy and quickly turns around a problem. This cancer $hit is a leeeetle bit different.  Healing is slower than molasses.  Grrr. The last couple of days, I feel differently.  I feel antsy.  I am bored with sitting, TV and the lack of activity. I am craving time with my family and time with my husband like crazy.  They’re off in 3 different directions all the time while I stay home.  Sitting.  Watching TV.  Sigh. This antsy feeling has to be good.  For the last few months, my formerly OCD/hyperactive self knew I had to chill. Sitting.  Watching TV.  Sigh.  I had no interest whatsoever to do anything.   Now, I’m different.  I want activity.  I miss cooking, walking barefoot in the grass, cycling and even cleaning.  Crazy!  Who misses CLEANING?!  LOL Instead of worrying about my upcoming PET scan I am now eager to learn of my progress. Things must be getting better.  I just feel it. My lungs must be healing.  I can now take a deeper breath without too much pain, just a little discomfort.  I still have coughing jags each morning and if I’ve spent too much time outside in the pollen-y air. Most of the day, I don’t cough nearly as much.  Yay! My legs are about the same although I can stand longer without much swaying.  So they must be getting stronger.  Yay! My appetite is pretty lousy.  A typical day of eating goes something like this: 1/2 blueberries for breakfast, sometimes I’ll have a protein shake.  Lunch is 10 cherry tomatoes.  Dinner is whatever the family is eating and that’s the biggest meal of my day.  Last night, we had yummy nachos made by my darling hubs. :) He even added my favorites, diced tomatoes and pepperocini – YUM! I love food so I know my appetite will return in time.  I love to cook, too.  If I didn’t need to be on oxygen, I would attempt cooking and grilling some of my summer favorites like grilled fish tacos with my garlic aioli sauce, grilled zucchini, limoncello, lemon curd, stuffed shells and any of the zillions of recipes that appeal to me.  :) For now, I will try to be patient because just knowing that change is happening helps so much.  Let’s hope I’m right!  Pray on Warrior Peeps!

http://www.gofundme.com/305unc





Eviction Notice Served – Get Out Punks!

4 04 2013

Radiation Treatment virtually left me without any side effects. No skin burns, no hair loss. My lips became sore but after drastically increasing my water consumption, that problem took care of itself. Now that my treatment is over, the potential to develop a side effect is more real. Develop I have – heart burn and indigestion. Ugh. For a couple of days, I’ve had the mashed-potatoes-stuck-in-throat feeling. If I eat, it is quite uncomfortable, to the point of pain. It wakes me in the night, I sit, trying to dislodge the gas bubble, never successful, all the while, the pain increases. Not cool. Not cool at all. Fortunately, there is an easy solution – switch to soft foods. Sigh. First, a walker. Now, soft foods. Hubby Fred had won a Fred pizza from one of our favorite spots so we took advantage of a night that the girls were both gone to sleepovers and connected on a date night. Roma’s in Bay City is an out-of-the-way neighborhood gem. The staff is wonderful and the food is yummy! Breadsticks are slightly fried giving them that slightly sweet doughnut taste- to DIE for!  Their pizza is fantastic.  But chewing the tiniest of bites does not help when swallowing.  Leaning forward helps a little but it’s so uncomfortable that it became clear pizza, breads, meats and thicker foods were out for awhile. Ah well. I knew it was coming. The stroke of luck that I worked on being more fit last year will help.  I ate a lot of higher protein, actually smooth-type foods.  So this morning, steel cut oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Still, I had to chew those tiny oats 1 teaspoon at a time.  Darn radiation burn in my esophagus.  That’s what I’m picturing anyway. Chemo begins Wednesday.  I have to admit, I am a little fearful of what’s ahead but I am ready to attach the tumors in my body and kick ‘em out.  Their eviction notice has been SERVED!  Get out losers!  You pay no rent but you messed up the neighborhood! ;) LOL…I imagine Flo, my superhighway chemo port, going to work, dripping tumor poisoning into my bloodstream blasting tumors.  I hear sound effects from the 80’s video games, Asteroids and Zaxxon….pew pew pew, BOOM! Well, maybe something a bit more aggressive LOL. Here’s a picture of my hair currently.  I finally found a stylish here who gave me perfect color and a cut I could live with and WHAM! Cancer diagnosis…you just have to laugh.  Life is so quirky sometimes. It’ll be back.

Hair Before Chemo

Hair Before Chemo

photo (21)

Radio Flyer wagon

Radio Flyer wagon








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