Saturday, May 10, 2014

Survivor's Guilt

She did it!! All 50 states, plus Israel, and over 1,000 bags. Actually, well over 1,000 bags. This girl is one amazing and inspiring individual and I am so blessed that she is also my granddaughter. WOW! 

Face painting at the Wild Animal Park during Spring Break 

Abby and her family were in town over spring break and we went to the Wild Animal Park to see all the babies. Spring time is so much fun there because there are so many babies to see. Plus, there is a butterfly exhibit that only lasts a few weeks (I had no idea that adult butterflies only live 2-3 weeks!). Abby was a little tentative in butterfly exhibit at first, and it was super humid inside, but she eventually liked it. So much so, that she picked a butterfly when it came to face painting later in the morning. 

Spring break has come and gone. The countdown to the end of school is officially in order. Little by little, my energy is returning. Sometimes I get really tired really quickly. Sometimes, if I don't get enough rest, my head hurts all day. A few times, I have had episodes of vertigo, but they pass. And here we are once again waiting for the school year to end.
Sadly, SPHS has lost another Eagle. Larry Carter passed away last night. He was ill for over a year and took some time off last year. And, I can't help but feel guilty. I am alive. He is not. There are so many people who are ill, who are fighting, who are getting better. Yet, he's gone. 
Why do I feel guilty to be alive? To feel well? To be getting better? It's incomprehensible. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Free At Last!

This day has finally arrived! The start to an end! Radiation is over!

After 33 consecutive days (no weekends) of radiation, I am free at last. 
Radiation is a grind. It's a daily reminder that you have cancer, or that you are battling cancer. And forget modesty. HA! You change in stall that is smaller than an airplane lavatory. You wear the oh-so-not-beautiful hospital gown, which comes in one color:faded industrial blue. Open in the back. As you leave the stall, you walk down the lovely hallway to your treatment room. 

This is what awaits you. A huge machine and a narrow table. Only George and Monica have controls for both. God bless these two angels. If not for them, the grind would have been unbearable. They greeted me with smiles, loud music, funny anecdotes, and the deepest compassion. They were always respectful and nurturing. Even on my bad days, they could bring a smile to my face. 
Once you are on the table, you get to take off half the gown! Yes, friends, you get to. 
The area that is being treated soon turns red, bumpy, itchy, burning, sore, swollen, painful, and uncomfortable. Here are a few items I have been using on a daily basis: 
No pics of the actual site of radiation. I'll spare you that. I am fortunate to heal quickly and it feels so much better today than it has in the last few weeks. The toughest part was the accumulated fatigue. Last week it felt like there was a freight train running through my head. The fuzziness is wearing off inside, just as the fuzziness is growing back on my head. Yes-my hair is coming back! WOOHOO!! It is short, and soft, and grayish. That's okay. It's hair. 

I am so grateful to the radiation team who took such great care of me!

Jennifer, Elijah, Jeanne, Elise, Dr. Coleman, and Monica

Irises they gave me on my last day of radiation

It is almost unbelievable to me that this part is over. The port is still in and I will be getting Herceptin until September. And, doctor appointments await: scans and tests and check-ins. But this part is over and I feel FREE! 

Thank you so much for your continued prayers, love, positive vibes, energy, etc. You have made a tremendous difference in my recovery. And, thank you to Abby for her inspirational project. It is so amazing to see it spreading across the world (Israel!). I am so proud of her. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Bags packed with letters attached
A few days after Christmas, there was a post on the Facebook page for Abby's project of a little girl named Delaney. She had received a purple bag at one of her treatments for brain cancer. There was a picture of her with her bag, and she was smiling. When her mom showed her the picture, Abby asked about little kids having chemo. Indeed, even little kids who have cancer have chemo. In her logical brain, Abby was able to formulate the idea to deliver bags to kids who are getting chemo. 
So, while bags have already been delivered to kids at Children's hospitals in other locations, I decided to put bags together and deliver them to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego on New Year's day. 
Contents of bags for kids
While many of the items are the same for these bags (tissues, chapstick, fuzzy socks), I wanted there to be specific items for kids too. I went in search of coloring books, crayons, super balls, puzzles, and dum dum lolly pops, plus fruit snacks, kids toothbrushes, and slinky's. 
A beautiful cloudless New Year's Day
Upon arriving at the hospital, I noticed how beautiful all the buildings were. It was a gorgeous, cloudless day, blue-sky day. As I entered the lobby, I was stopped at the check in desk and was told that unless I was visiting a family member, I was not allowed upstairs because of flu season and security reasons. While I was initially disappointed, I also completely understand. There happened to be a nurse behind the desk and as she read the letter attached to the bags, she smiled and said she would personally deliver the bags upstairs to the kids. YAY!!!! 

Nurses Marti and Teri on the day of my last treatment
Nurse Larisa on my last day of treatment

December 17, 2013 was my last chemo treatment. It was a highly anticipated day, and one that was as ordinary as any other. Proudly, I kept my emotions in check, while inwardly I was shouting from the rooftops!! That same week I met with my surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Revesz and my medical oncologist, Dr. Michael Kosmo. They both confirmed that I am CANCER FREE! My two new favorite words.  Of course, I am cautiously optimistic. I still have to do radiation. And, I will still be getting herception until August/September of this year. AND-the best news of all: I can return to work. 

There is no way I could ever express my appreciation for every single medical professional I have met over the last 9 months. Each of these people have been more than compassionate, professional, informative, entertaining, sweet, humble, honest, and attentive. And, it is certain more medical personnel will come and go in my life over the next few months and they too will be amazing. I have been extremely fortunate in that regard. 

While those magic words have uplifted my spirits, there is no doubt that much strength will be required to get through the next few months. And, there is a new normal to be lived. Nothing will ever be the same again. Nothing. And while there was darkness at times, the toughest I have experienced, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am drawn to that light and will continue to move forward. CANCER FREE.