Happy Tears

Today I cried.

I’m still fighting back tears. Of joy not sorrow. My scan was great!

Sometimes I get one and it feels a little more run of the mill. Don’t get me wrong. They never go unappreciated but today, it hit me so hard that YAY, I’m not going to die soon.

It was a combo of things today I think. First as I was getting blood drawn I was talking to the nurse about the girls. About the big milestones we hit this school year. About how little they were when I was first diagnosed. About how I’m still here to see the big life events.

Then as the second nurse took my blood pressure and heart rate, she commented on what a spectacular heart rate I have. It’s never been bad but it is absolutely on the low-end of the range. It’s down 15 from 3 months ago. The walking is working! Despite the drugs I’m putting in my body that are designed to kill things, I’m thriving.

The big part wasn’t just when the doctor came in and read the results to me. It wasn’t even when he gave me permission to skip the Nexavar for a few days while I’m doing the 1/2 marathon. It was when he looked at the numbers on my blood work and said:

“Wow, these are the numbers of a healthy person!”

Me, a healthy person! Can you imagine?

I was fine until I came home. I dropped SG off at work, picked up lunch and came in and sat down. It was then that it all hit me.

I’m doing ok!

In fact, I’m doing great!

I am so grateful that I decided to have the scan BEFORE I left for Portland. I had thought about waiting until after so that there’d be no dark cloud hanging over me but I know better than that. The anxiety of not knowing would have changed things.

Now I get to embrace my friends and embrace life. To celebrate the good news with people who have walked beside me, both figuratively and literally, and held my hand through the hard parts.

I get to walk among the healthy people in the marathon and BE one of them. Not simply look at them and wish.

Because I have permission to skip the Nexavar for a few days, I will feel good. I will feel as good as my numbers say I am. I won’t have to put on a brave face and pretend.

I will get to be me.

Not me the cancer patient or the girl who scans for the nearest restroom when I walk into someplace new.

I will just be me. A healthy me. Wearing a shirt that says FU Cancer!

I’m so excited to do to the 1/2 that today, I think I could walk the FULL!

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Another scan done

Well another scan is over. I’ll get the results Thursday morning. It’s been my cancer screening week.

Yesterday I had a skin cancer screen. They took a biopsy from a spot on my shoulder then I promptly went for a 10 mile training walk and got a sunburn. How’s that for smart? Glad I did it afterwards instead of before. I’m sure I would have gotten in trouble.

The irony of getting a burn after a skin cancer biopsy kind of amuses me though. I guess I missed a spot or 12 with the sunscreen. Let this be a lesson to you. Learn from my mistakes people! Don’t. Be. Me!

I don’t know if it was my long walk yesterday or just nervous energy but I was so freaking hungry this morning. And of course, I can’t eat or have coffee before a scan so I went crazy afterwards.

We have this great french bakery in town so I went straight there from the hospital. I won’t even admit to you how many pastries I had with my 16oz. double latte but let’s just say I made up for the hours waiting to eat. And most likely the rest of my day.

Then I came home and raided D3’s birthday party pinata treat bag. I even ate the banana laffy taffy. I HATE banana laffy taffy but nothing is safe from me today. I’d go for a walk to get away from temptation but really, I don’t want to. I know there are Drumsticks in the freezer and I intend to eat them. Besides, my legs hurt.

How is it that when I know I shouldn’t be eating huge quantities of sugar, butter and caffeine, I do it anyway? Should I not be aware that given my history, and the fact that I’d just been scanned for new tumors, I should have gone to the local health food store and gotten myself a healthy smoothie with vitamin shots?

Given the fact that I burned myself post-biopsy, apparently not.

Maybe I just needed a day to say:

“Fuck it – The pictures are taken so I’m giving myself the day off!”

That’s my girl!

On the ride home from volleyball yesterday I was giving D1 an update on her friends’ leukemia. She was quiet then this conversation followed:

Mom, he’s a good guy!

I know he is honey.

He’s just sort of there, you know? In a good way though. He’s not super popular, he’s not a dork or a jerk. He’s quiet and kind of in the background. Does that make sense? Because I really mean it in a nice way.

Sure, I know what you mean. He’s not as likely to be noticed but if you do, you can appreciate what  good person he is.

Yeah exactly. So um, about that.

Yes?

There were some jerk guys in the hall today talking trash about him.

Really?

Yeah, they were saying things like he deserved to get leukemia. It was horrible and they were being so mean. There was other stuff too. Mom, they were making fun of him for getting cancer.

Not cool! What else were they saying?

Just a lot of other mean stuff I don’t want to repeat.

I’m sorry honey, that’s really awful.

It really was. So yeah, you might get a call from school.

Me? Why?

I didn’t want them to get away with talking like that. They don’t know him mom. He’s a good guy!

So why am I getting a call?

Because I screamed at them. They don’t have a clue mom! They’re a bunch of jerks and they were saying really awful stuff. I couldn’t let them get away with it! So I yelled. Kind of A LOT!

And?

Then a teacher came out and she didn’t want to hear my side. Then another one came out and listened to what I had to say. Then he started yelling at the other guys and told the 1st teacher to go back to her room.

I dare them to call me. What you did was right even if maybe you didn’t go about it exactly the right way. I’d have done the same thing. If they want to call me and talk about you sticking up for somebody being made fun of for having cancer, let them. Thanks for telling me. I’ll be ready for them!

Thanks mom!

Anytime!

I love that girl!

Today – I’m Pissed

You will be missed Chris Cavanaugh.

*warning – cancer rant ahead. I WILL be swearing!*

January 2006 – D1 (at age 9) lost a classmate to brain cancer. It started as leukemia when he was 18 months old. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 6. Brain cancer at 9.

February 2006 – My insides blew up and tried to kill me. I was diagnosed with GIST

December 2006 – D1’s friend lost her mother to brain cancer

April 2009 – My pills stopped working. Had to tell the girls it was back.

Memorial Day 2009 – D1 went camping with a friend and her family. The mom had “allergy headaches”

June 12, 2009 – The mom died from a brain tumor

Last month – The father of D1’s bff since kindergarten went to the hospital. Diagnosed with multiple myeloma – still in the hospital on dialysis. Started chemo last night. He didn’t go to the dr. because they have no health insurance. It may be too late.

Monday – SG’s mom had breast cancer surgery. She starts radiation as soon as she recovers. Thankfully they found it early!!

Last night – Picked D1 up late from an out-of-town volleyball and had to tell her this:

Honey I’m sorry, but that sweet 14 yr old boy you’ve been friends with since 1st grade – the brother of D2’s friend – has leukemia.

What. The. Hell?!?

I am so tired of this. I am exhausted by the number of times I’ve watched D1 cry because of this damn disease! SHE’S 14! It’s too much.

I’m afraid to scan next week because I just can’t do this anymore. I can’t do it to them anymore. My heart is broken!

This fucking cancer has taken their smiles again. It’s broken their hearts too many times to count. The kids don’t understand. Hell, I don’t understand.

WHY? What has gone wrong in our world that so many people are facing the loss of their parents and children?

How do I explain and try to make sense of something to completely senseless? How do reassure my oldest daughter that it will be ok when I’m not convinced myself?

Why her? Why so much loss for her at such a young age?

Why am I having to promise her I’ll do my best not to be parent #3, or #4?

Why is that something we even keep track of?

Just why.

Seasons of change

It’s cool and rainy today and I can see the change in the leaves as I look over the valley below.  Things look, feel and smell different from even just yesterday.

There are obvious changes in our lives right now – my youngest turning 10, my oldest in high school, my second in middle school enjoying the freedom of moving from class to class and having a locker. Little changes in the grand scheme of things but huge in their worlds. Changes that have put us a little off-balance but they’re workable. We’re all still together.

But at my sister’s house, her oldest left for the Marines this weekend. Not a small insignificant change but the rock your world kind. She gets up in the morning to a room full of his things but not his presence. Her baby no longer lives with her and she asks questions.

Was he ready to go?

Did I do what needed to be done to prepare him to leave?

Will he want to come back?

Will he miss us?

What should I have done differently?

Can I get a do-over?

But we only really get that one chance. We do the best we can as parents and hope it’s enough. We hope they have fond memories of the life we’ve given them. We hope they have enough money to cover therapy for the times we screwed up!

As you know, with a scan on my schedule for next week, I begin to get nervous and ask:

Am I doing enough?

Am I enough?

But with no current answer to those questions, I simply watch the seasons change. I have no idea where we will be at this same time next year. What my children will go through between now and then.

As they get older, I hope that we’ve done well. As I watch my nephew bravely leave home, I hope that we’ve given them the tools they need to move on – to exist in an orbit in which we aren’t at the center.

As I watch the colors turn and know we are heading into a darker colder season, I can’t help but think it also brings the hope I am looking for. 

Clean layers of snow will cover dead grass and fallen leaves. Long dark nights will give way to gorgeous snowy days full of ice crystals floating in the bright winter sun.

And we will be given our clean slate.

Our do-over.

Baked her cake and ate it too!

My baby girl turned 10 this weekend. That means I’m old because there are no longer any single digit kiddos in my house. Except the furry ones but they don’t count.

D3 is my fruit-eating girl. She always fruity sort of cakes but I guess this year, with the arrival of double digits, she decided for something a little more grown up. Instead of her usual caramel apple cake with lemon glaze or white cake with whipped cream and raspberries she had this:

no calories here!

 

Chocolate bundt cake with a dark chocolate mocha whipped cream frosting and because she’s still my little girl, fresh fruit skewers she made herself, in the center! Then she added candles spelling out happy birthday and “10”. (Please excuse the messy frosting.) I think it turned out kind of cool don’t you?

Yes, those are Doritos in the background. I HATE HATE HATE them! The smell makes me want to gag but it was her birthday so I dealt with it.

It’s what mom’s do. Right?

This getting healthy thing is going to F*$#ing kill me!

**Update** Scratch that no bears thing….they “relocated” one that was hanging out in a backyard not more than a mile from my house on Thursday!!

Alright so I’ve bored you to death with this talk of walking a 1/2 marathon in Portland but I’m not sure I’ve stressed quite enough what horrible shape I’m in or the impossible training conditions I’m facing.

I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s “walking a 1/2” training schedule and haven’t really been doing too much of the “30 minute stroll” days. I do walk at least the required time but generally faster than suggested. Honestly, I think my legs are too long to walk that slow. It feels awkward.

I was proud of my extra effort and the stamina I’ve been showing after a long hibernation which might have involved baked goods and milkshakes and my ass taking the shape of my computer chair.

Until recently.

I think I broke my thighs on my 8 mile walk this weekend. Is that possible? I’m sure I heard them scream when I hit a hill at mile 7. I’m sure the neighbors heard it too. I’m moving a bit slower now.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stop for a nap and a nice glass of Shiraz because I was, at that very moment, trying to get out from between a doe and her 2 fawns. Those mamas kick and I didn’t want any part of that.

Which brings me to another issue. How the hell am I supposed to keep a good pace when I’m constantly having to stop because there’s a fairly large buck in the middle of the street staring at me like he’s wondering how far he can stick an antler into my soft, not anything close to a 6-pack, abdomen?

It’s not bad enough those guys eat my flowers on a regular basis? Now they have to interrupt my quest to lift my butt back up to where it belongs and get my thighs farther north than my ankles. Really? Not only is my body working against me, so is the neighborhood wildlife!

Did I also mention the snakes? We have this great trail that cuts between houses and goes up a hill that has a stunning view of the mountains and valley. The problem? I look like an ass when I’m bebopping along listening to music and suddenly, all by myself, I let out a scream and run because something slithered along the trail in front of me or over my shoe!

I called my dad to see if he would identify one of the snakes and he didn’t know. Seriously? The guy who, at age 9, used to take a rifle and a lunch up the mountains behind his house and stay for a few days at a time, could not identify the snake on my shoe.

I can only assume it was a mutant blend of a local snake and an illegally released highly poisonous pet and that I’m lucky to have escaped with my life.

I suppose I should be thankful I’m not running from bears. Which, by the way, is a really bad idea! I’m being told my wildlife issues will be resolved when I get to the streets of downtown Portland. But just in case, I’m taking bear spray!

And I’m asking my thighs to keep the screaming to a minimum because that’s just embarrassing.