Wiffles aren’t just for boys

When I was little, I could always tell summer was right around the corner when all 3 of my brothers would come home with a wiffle, mohawlk or complete buzz cut. Of course, having three older brothers and always looking up to them, I wanted to do everything that they did. And, in my 6 year old mind having a mohawk was a perfectly acceptable summer hair cut for me too! But my mom didn’t agree, so on I went with my pig tails, french braids and bananna curls. 

 Well guess what! Summer is here and just like my brothers used to, I finally got my wiffle. Too bad I am about 30 years late and it’s under these shitty circumstances. 
I decided on Wednesday that it was time to say goodbye to my hair. I was tired of choking on fur-balls from hair was falling in my food, sweeping up tumble weeds of hair in my house and leaving a blazing trail of wispy hairs in my wake landing in & on everything and anything that was behind me. It was nice that I was leaving a piece of me behind but my shedding head is not really what I had in mind as an ideal departing gift. It got embarrassing that my hair was everywhere and sticking to everyone! 
Nate buzzed me while Bekah videoed. We laughed as they compared me to Shinade Oconnor or Brittney Spears. I was thinking more Demi More in GI Jane. I could easily play the role with my new bad ass bald head. It’s somewhat empowering walking around with no hair.  I just need to add a few more tattoo’s, some buff muscles and add I a Harley and I totally got this!!! Ha! Then I remember I am 6 months pregnant, 5 ft tall and have no desire to ride a Harley. That vision was fun while it lasted. 
Based on my last post I bet you all think I am going to continue on about how much I miss my hair, how beautiful it was, blah, blah, blah…. Well, i’m not. I do miss my hair, but it just hair. It will grow back.  And while I’m not too upset about it being gone. I surprised myself at  what I did uncover.  
  
 I thought this whole time that loosing my my actual hair was the hardest part but I realize now that it wasn’t the hair. It is admitting I am sick, accepting the fact that I have cancer and that I can no longer hide. That I have a chronic illness that is affecting everything and everyone in my life now and what’s in store for the future. What bothers me most is that I can no longer hide my sickness. With my bald head and my swollen belly, I now scream I am pregnant with cancer. 
  It’s taken me all week long to write this blog. The words did not come easy to me just as its not easy for me to admit that I am in this vulnerable state.  It’s not in my personality to be this way… What ever way this breast cancer has made me. I know it may make no sense and it’s still early with my disease and I have a long way to go.
So here I am world, bald and 6 months pregnant and yes I have breast cancer. Stare all you want, notice me but notice I am not defeated.   Breast cancer doesn’t have me. What does have me is my love of life, love for my family and friends and love for the little life growing inside of me. I have faith that everything is going to be fine and with faith anything is possible.  

 

My hair is falling out

My hairs have been departing from me for about 5 days now. I have been bracing and preparing for this since I first got diagnosed. My scalp got really tender and tingly, like I had a pony tail in for a long time and I figured this was an impending sign. It started falling out really really slow.  A few small clusters of like 5-10 hair strands here and there through out the day.  Misplaced stragglers that would just come out instead of needing repositioning. Then the next day it progressed to like 20-30 hairs at a time that I had been having to help out, meaning, they wouldn’t fall out of my head but if I ran my fingers ever so gently through my hair or moved my bangs out of my eyes, the hair would just simply detach. No pain, no sensation, just come out.  Today, totally different than even yesterday.  I feel like this dandy lion that I am looking at. As the wind blows and its dried petals drop off and float away, my hair is doing the same, releasing itself from my head and floating away all over the yard.  Nate will be raking up leaves and hair this fall.  I was having lunch with friends yesterday and my hair kept falling in my salad, its all over the house. Totally gross! Good thing is, I have so much hair, you really can’t tell how much I have lost…yet!!!

My mom asked my if it was bothering me that my hair is falling out, and at that exact moment I found it kind of amusing. It’s not every day I can grab a tuft of hair, and just pull it out of my head with no sort of objection from my scalp. I call it my new party trick. Last night we (Nate, Bekah and myself) were sitting around the table with our very good friends Marc and Amanda. I figured I would try my new trick and kick this party up a notch, actually my hair was tickling the back of my neck from being loose and it needed to be removed but they didn’t need to know that . So I started to de-shed myself, pulling clumps of hair out of my head into a a pile, Marc asks most appropriately “should we be videoing this?”.  But then everyone got kind of wierded out, told me stop and my party trick wasn’t that funny anymore. I think it just reminded everyone of how sick I am.
 And while I still find it amusing now because I do still have a lot of hair left,  I could also instantly start crying when I think of myself completely bald. Just as tempting as it is pulling it out, like a scab you can’t resist picking – I also find myself trying to save every strand possible. In attempting to wash my hair over the past few days, which I have been avoiding in fear I would loose waaay more hair by shampooing my hair, rather than pulling it out. How’s that for rational reasoning- I blame that on prego brain and the chemo brain.  But I would describe my washing as more of a patting of my hair with shampoo. I was ever so gentle, trying to save every strand possible. Yesterday, I totally got freaked out by the hair wad gathering at the drain and growing into a gigantic furby. So I just stopped washing, gingerly rinsed out the few bubbles and finished as quickly as I could in there.
As long as I can remember I have had long, thick, thick hair. I can recall way way back everyone would comment on my hair and how long it was and how pretty it was.IMG_4737
Over the years I realized how lucky I am to have great hair. Honestly, I like my hair. Some people are known by their beautiful eyes, others by their smile, me, I felt like I was known by being short (ugh) and having great hair.
I knew that loosing my hair was going to be one of the hardest things in this whole cancer calamity.  I’m not really sure why, I know it will grow back and this is just a temporary time. And its not like me to be vein.  But it’s a loss for me. It’s like a  piece of me has gone missing and I am longing for it to come back. I see myself in the mirror and it’s just not me who I see, and that’s with my short hair, I can’t even imagine me bald.  When I was trying on wigs… oh and side note: if anyone ever needs a wig go to Patricia & Co in Weymouth, she was awesome!!!  …When Patricia put on a longer haired wig on me, I instantly felt like myself again, it was like magic. I didn’t want to take it off. I welled up inside and said to myself, “Oh, there I am, I have missed you”. It was short lived though, I had to take it off since a $2,000 wig is not in my price range and insurance only covers for a small fraction. I did find a great wig and named her Celia. Its not a long flowing wig but she will do just nicely when I am requiring fake hair.
Who knows, maybe I will be pleasantly surprised when my hair is gone. Maybe I am just thinking it’s going to be awful and it might not be that bad at all. I know even just after writing this blog I feel a little better about letting my hair go and embracing whats next..the buzz cut!
So Cancer, F-U!  You want my hair? Take it. Because my bald head means I am 1 step closer to my cure. And your 1 step closer to your end!

12 days past chemo….

I am 12 days out from my first chemo treatment and I can honestly say, it hasn’t been that bad.

I hope I didn’t just jinx myself for what’s ahead, but really, my biggest complaint is this damn heart burn! I think my heart burn is pregnancy related and may just be a bit aggravated by the chemo. But who knows what is chemo related issue or a pregnancy related issue, It’s actually really hard to tell.

But the heartburn, I just have to tell how bad it is… Maybe it will help make it go away once I get this off/out of my chest! Ok, that was a joke, heartburn, burning chest, off my chest!? get it? (I’m really trying to make this blog funny, but I don’t think I am a funny person and I am not really sure how I am doing). Anyways, you pregnant ladies and ex-pregnant ladies, know the kind of heart burn I am talking about. The kind that feel likes you swallowed a blow torch and its been on high in your stomach torching everything from the chest up! The kind that wakes you in the middle of the night burning a hole in your throat and you would do anything, like even sacrifice your husband who is sleeping next to you for some, any relief. My gosh, sometimes I feel like I’m having a heart attack the burning and chest pain is so bad. And nothing, I mean nothing so far has given me a stretch of relief. The tums work for a brief moment, but taking a half a bottle a day of tums can’t be good (exaggerated). But, then again my body is full of chemo, so I guess a handful of tums (more realistic) a day can’t hurt right?! This is what I tell myself.

I have had some nausea here and there but nothing a pill and nap couldn’t cure. (If only my heartburn was that easy). On chemo day, my wonderful nurse pumped me full of steroids, fluids and anti-nausea medications before the red devil (Adriamycin–chemo) & cytoxan went in. Then they sent me home with a strict 3-5 days schedule of anti-nausea medications, more steroids and an anti-anxiety pill that’s also suppose to help the nausea. The steroids had me all jacked up so I stopped them day 1. Some nausea here and there but it hasn’t been a huge problem. When it did rear it’s ugly green head, with some convincing from Nate to take some medicine , we could quickly get rid of it. The meds made me sleepy. So at first, I was blaming the meds for my excessive napping and lack of motivation to do anything except melt into the couch, which is so not my personality. But, after day 7, there was a shift in my tiredness, less time on the couch, I now realize that it wasn’t just the meds and that my body was tired and a bit worn down from chemo and needed sleep to heal itself and grow our baby.

I have been able to eat almost anything… well no that’s a lie. I can eat anything as long as it doesn’t give me heartburn (damn heartburn again). I do manage to still get my weekly helping of pizza in, heartburn and all, but its worth it. The baby really likes pizza- not so much ice cream, definitely pizza, Bertucci’s pizza!

I have had some lower gastrointestinal issues, but I will spare you the gross details of my horrifying bathroom experiences.

Besides cutting my hair (which I am not ready to talk about it yet)… the other hard thing for me is popping all these pills. After having so many miscarriages, I am totally paranoid about doing anything, in the fear that it might cause me to miscarry again. No caffeine, mostly organic foods, I didn’t exercise for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, limited all activities. Poor Nate. It’s a good thing he found the lump before we got pregnant cause he certainly wouldn’t of found it in the first 12 weeks. Heck, I was afraid to to take a tic tac never mind any kind of medication. I was scared to even take my prenatal vitamin! I think for the first 12 weeks, all I did was work, eat and sleep with a few tv shows sprinkled in. Now, I glance over at my night stand and see a small pharmacy. I have to give myself a prep talk before taking any pills, convincing myself that it’s ok and the baby will be fine. I worry that I am doing more harm by suffering through symptoms– than if I just took my medicine…then I could be comfortable and the baby would be too! It’s a lot harder than I am willing to let on here in this blog.

You would think being a nurse for over 10 years, I would be able to take care of myself and make good decisions regarding my cancer and pregnancy. The truth of the matter is, right now I am not a nurse, I am the patient, and a terrible patient at that. I also have this new maternal instinct kicking in that’s telling me to sacrifice myself at all costs for the good of the baby.

I hope and pray at the end of everyday I made the right decisions, ate the right foods, exercised just enough and took all appropriate vitamins and pills. I am doing what I think is the best as a mom and as a patient. In the end, I realize that none of this is really in my control and I’m along for the ride.

Nothing Without Love

imageI have been thinking what to write about next. I was watching The Voice last night and Nate Reuss opened the show with a song “I am nothing without love” The first line of the song says, ” I am nothing without love, I’m but a ship stuck in the sand. Some would say I am all alone, but I am, I’m nothing without love.” Man, those lyrics ring so true to me right now. I have been completely over whelmed the past 6 weeks and not so much with my cancer but with everybody’s response to me. I really can’t believe how supportive, giving and most of all, how loving everybody has been. I get a lot of feedback about how positive I am or how “well” I am dealing with this, but honestly I couldn’t and wouldn’t be this way if it wasn’t for you all cheering and loving me on! It never fails, I could be having a down moment and bam, I get a response from someone who just blows me out of the water, melts my heart or something that instantly puts a smile on my face.
It’s very hard to write this next statement because I hate my cancer but sometimes I am a little thankful for it. I have been able to experience things, actually experience a kind of love that I never would have been able to otherwise. Old broken friendships have been renewed due to this. Current friendships have been strengthened. I have made some new awesome friends. I treasure all of this. There are people praying for Nate, myself and my unborn baby, all over the world- really!! I have people who don’t even know me that care enough to pray for me and my family- how humbling is that? It bring me tears how lucky I am to have that, to experience that. I had my first chemo 5 days ago and so far it’s been tolerable. I really thinks it been so tolerable due to all my prayer warriors out there- thank you!

I want to say a special thank you to a few people… first of course my husband Nathan. I am at a loss for words to describe how wonderful you have been. I know it’s not easy to have a pregnant wife, never mind a pregnant wife with cancer. Your love and support have been my pillar and unfailing. I feel like I am now the size of two people (and growing), I have a terrible haircut and am about to go bald, I have lost part of my femininity yet, you still look at me with the same love in your eyes. If not more. You continue to love me even though I am not myself right now. That is true love. I am the luckiest wife to have you as a husband and I just want you to know that I love you too and thank you. I also want to thank my family. Of course as timing has it, the week before I got diagnosed Nate and I took our kitchen and dining room down to studs. We have been without a kitchen for weeks now. My family has and are working extra hard to help put everything back together. It’s been like an HGTV show here with people working around the clock to get this renovation done. We couldn’t have done all this with out your help. I know it’s not done yet so thank you in advance for everything your going to do too! And my extended family, thank you for checking in with us regularly, sending cards, gifts, offering to come and help. You all have busy lives and you still have taken a huge timeout of them for Nate and Myself. Thank you!! And of course Bekah, I won’t get into details because it would take up entirely another blog post, but Bekah, Nate’s sister packed up her car and her dog in Seattle and has temporarily moved back home to help us out. She has put her entire life on hold. It is a shame I am not in the capacity to hang out, Bekah and Jodi style, but just you being here is enough and I thank you too! Lastly, Mom and Dad. Your endless generosity, selflessness and love does not go unnoticed. You two are my biggest cheer leaders. I don’t know how you guys find the energy to accomplish everything you do for me let alone what you do for all four of your kids. You are great parents and we are so fortunate to have you both by our side. Nate and I thank you; we love all of you and we would be no where, nothing with out your love.

The Diagnosis

So, I have two questions that everyone is asking me. 1. How did you find it and 2. Does chemo hurt the baby? I plan on tackling #2 in another post… Today, you get the juicy details of how my hubby ( va va voom) found the lump in my breast… Hot and steamy! Lol, I wish it was, but it was not like that. Actually, to be 100% honest with you, I always had Nate do my breast checks for lumps over the years. I figured he was the expert on them and how they feel so he would notice a difference before anyone else would and he did! Fact is most husbands/boyfriends are the ones who discover lumps. So, if there are any men reading this, here is a great excuse to go and check your ladies breast for lumps and do it monthly. You can thank me later.

I would guess last summer is when the lump was discovered. It wasn’t a distinct lump but more of an area that the tissue was way more dense than the rest of the surrounding tissue. I really thought nothing of it. Unfortunately, we had experienced 4 miscarriages over a short period of time, I chalked the lump up to breast changes from being pregnant and not being pregnant so many times so close together. Pregnancy does a number on the ta ta’s. Nate kind of kept on my case about the lump and I finally made an appointment in December for an ultrasound and mammogram. But life got in the way, it was the Christmas season, we went out of town for a wedding AND… I found out I was pregnant again! Cancer was the farthest thing in my mind. So I figure I would deal with this “density issue” later. I had to focus on my baby and making through the first trimester. And we did! In fact, Nate and I were really getting excited that this baby was thriving! We were about 15 weeks along, the longest I had ever made it. The both of us were allowing ourselves to get excited about the baby and relax a little bit about not miscarrying again.
So this brings us up to about 7 weeks ago. One morning, I was putting on my deodorant. I noticed when I raised my right arm my breast was dimpling in right above where the density/lump was. I immediately knew that this was not a good thing. I had that uneasy feeling. So I scheduled an ultrasound for the next week, I had a biopsy taken the next day after the ultrasound and found out two days later the cells were malignant. No one can prepare you for those three words ” You have cancer”. I can remember the phone conversation so clearly. The rush of thoughts and emotions: am I going to die, can I keep my baby, how can I be pregnant and have cancer, is this really happening to me right now?!! I could go on and on about the thoughts that rushed my head. And then I had to tell everyone. No one except Nate knew I was going for the test since again, I NEVER thought it would be cancer, I never mentioned it to anyone. It was actually quite comical, in a way, telling people. When we sat people down they thought that I was going to tell them that I was miscarrying again or that there was something wrong with the baby, whenever I said I have breast cancer and have to have surgery, nobody believed me. I got a few “is this a joke?” responses or “are you really serious?”. I don’t think I even believed it at times. And what an awkward thing to have to tell people. It was a strange conversation to have with friends… “Hey, how are you?” Me, ” I’m ok, I’m having a baby and oh, by the way I have cancer too”. It was mind bending during this time. Going through it and looking back I am beginning to see the serendipity of the situation although it still seems surreal. It was hard to be labeled as being so sick yet, I was feeling good. It was difficult not knowing what kind of outcome I was going to have. A friend told me the beginning is the worst part. I still have a long road ahead of me but if the beginning and getting the diagnosis is the worst part, I am glad its behind me.