Sweet Baby, Sour Cancer

My journey through cancer and pregnancy, twice.

The last 9 weeks have been an adjustment. Time is tight so finding a quick minute to blog while feeding Calvin, playing with Cora, or getting her to school/ other activities (or trying to get some laundry done) has been a challenge. So much has happened I couldn’t possibly fit it all into one blog post, but it feels like its time for an update.

Well… my hair is a mess, and I barely have time to put on mascara. I smell of sour milk and somehow find myself perpetually covered in baby puke. I may have bags under my eyes but I’m smiling just typing these words out! I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being a mom has been an amazing experience for me and I am soooo thankful to have two beautiful children.  I love all of it. I love the puke, the 2am feedings, Coras adorably sassy attitude.   I have my ‘moments’ when I’m totally exhausted, but for the most part, I’m enjoying ALL of these moments and taking nothing for granted. I guess that’s one of the perks of having cancer (and not one but two ‘chemo babies’). 

Most importantly, Calvin is doing great! He has doubled his weight and is truly thriving. Hitting his weekly milestones, he appears to not be 5 weeks ‘behind’ at all. He is tough and strong.; that’s how we make um’ in my family! Both Cora and Calvin have overcome so much in their short little lives already.  I’m one proud momma! 

For me… well, treatment continues. Last week I started radiation, which is a whole new experience. I go everyday, Monday through Friday and will have a total of 35 treatments (yet one more thing to pack into cramped days… as if they weren’t busy enough).  I continue to see my friends at Dana-Farber in Boston for chemo, injections, and close monitoring.  I’m taking chemo pills and some other medications. Some of the pills I was on before, some are completely new. Some do the same as previous pills I’ve been taking, but are stronger and others are completely new to me. The prescription arena is where it’s gets all hairy.  Last time, I didn’t do so well on some of these medications.  Beyond the baby puke, I’m in side effect city, but I’ll save those juicy details for an entire different blog post.

For now, Nate and I are taking things one day at a time. We are both pretty tired at this point but somehow make it through another day. We were recently lucky enough to be treated by my family to a quick trip to see the mouse and celebrate my nieces 21st birthday, which was awesome! It was nice to get away from cancer town and side effect city and feel a bit normal for a few days.  But we’re back in town and things continue on, trucking along.

I have been jealous of everyone’s summer vacation social media posts.  While I have been enjoying seeing everyone’s pics, (and vicariously living through them) I have been a little envious that my only vacation has been to Boston. A private bed on the 10th floor at Dana Farber for 13 weeks and then a week straight at the Brigham both paid courtesy of Harvard Pilgrim. Man, I would LOVE to get away and spend some time as a family and forget about all this cancer/medical stuff. There was no time with all the MD appointments each week… chemo… being pregnant… now newborn…you all know. 

Miraculously, I don’t have any appointments or chemo or anything scheduled until the first week of Sept!!! Next week will be the first week (since last March) I won’t have any appointments! A whole week without seeing a doctor. That’s a great and very eerie feeling all at once. Ya know, we have put over 1,000 miles on Nate’s car since March driving to and from medical appointments alone! No joke- totally the truth. Now the car and my little body needs time to heal, rest and recover from the surgeries before we start things (treatments etc) up again. We have a much welcomed break. 

When I realized we would have some ‘time off’ I got thinking while I was up feeding Calvin in the middle of the night. I started looking for some last minute deals on VRBO, hoping I could score something decent to rent for a week. 4 Seasons quality and taste for the price of a motel 6 room. So I emailed a few people looking for availability. Long story short, I got to talking with this really lovely property owner. He is a Christian and said he was praying when my email rental request came in. We shared some information and I told him somewhat vaguely that I was in the middle of treatment for breast cancer and looking for a place to go and relax. A place to go to forget about it all.

I don’t know what he was praying about when I emailed, but … can you believe he offered us their place for an entire week (to unwind, to connect and enjoy each other as a family) at NO charge!?!?! FREE!!!! FOR A WEEK!!!! When can you get anything free, never mind a rental house, on the ocean, from a complete stranger for an entire week!?!?!? I was not expecting this! I was not expecting anything at all except possibly a last minute booking for maybe a small discounted rate that I knew we probably couldn’t afford anyways. I was on a wing and a prayer and got both.

Tears of joy have been streaming down my face since I found out. Thinking about how big this guy’s heart is, really floors me!  But good people DO still exist and I have been blessed by him. Flipping amazing…

I have and do really try to stay positive and keep my mental health in check through all of this. It’s easy to stay all ramped up and ready when your in the middle of the fight. But when the dusts settles a bit and there is a lull in treatment (like now) there is time to breathe. And when you stop to breathe, there is time to reflect. (Then the reality of what has happened starts to sink in a little… Woah!) I have started to realize the amount of energy and stamina that has been put into the last 6 months. Heck, the last 5 years!!! I realize I. AM.TIRED. This cancer poker face of mine has been going strong for 6 months straight. And damn, it’s hard to maintain that! My breath leaves me for a second when I think a little more about what has happened. I pause next and give a little head shake… shake off the trauma, the doubt. Shake off all the losses I have accrued, and put them neatly on a shelf in in my brain. It’s not time to deal with this yet. Not going there. I quickly pull it together. I got this, we got this. Forward thinking and ready to move forward. Back to Maine… Onto a quick little vacation and then the last legs of treatment. (Next blog will give those details)

Back to just thinking about a week away from it all in rural coastal Maine is going to be so prefect. Our little family of 4. It’s so easy to go down the cancer hole. Get wrapped up in all bullshit that goes along with it. And while yes, sometimes I feel like I am 1 second away from losing it completely or totally throwing it in and going off the reservation, I think about my family. I think about my faith and what God has brought me through. I think about the love I have experienced and the blessings. I think about our trip to Maine…

How we will have our morning coffee on the deck. We will have big comfy sweatshirts and warm slippers on till the chill of the night air leaves and the sun warms everything up. Sip after sip, the caffeine starts to work and our eyes open, we watch the fisherman in their boats leave the harbor to go collect the lobstah’s. A lovely start to the day. Later on when the sun is shining and it’s nice and warm out, Cora will be playing in the water, while daddy grills up something tasty for us. Calvin and I will be chillin- a bub for him and a glass of red wine for me from the expensive bottle Nate bought me for Christmas. I have been dying to indulge in and each sip will be a celebration of what we accomplished so far. At night, when the sun is gone and the stars are out, we will put the kids to bed. Kiss them on their heads, say prayers together and send them to dream land. (And now my favorite part of the trip) Nate and I will lay in the hammock, cuddled up in a big warm blanket looking at the unpolluted sky, probably lose track of time and savor staying up way too late, talking or just being silent in the comfort each others arms surrounded by the stars.

Take me there now! I’m so happy. This is just what we need right now. A little wind down before we wind back up. Time to forget it all and enjoy. Time to be us.

And we are officially home- all of us!!! We actually were allowed to take Calvin home Friday!!! He surpassed all expectations and the doctors were impressed with how quick he made a turn around. We enjoyed getting settled over the weekend together as a new family of four. Cora loves her baby brother and is such a great big sister. She is my little helper and full of hugs and kisses for Calvin.

No more CPAP for Calvin! He is breathing all on his own now. Praise God! Prayers next that he will have good eating skills and able to gain weight. Boys tend to be lazy… drink a little and fall asleep. He has lost some weight since birth, which is totally normal. But it’s time now his growth curve starts to trend up. So he needs to gain some weight and eat solely from a bottle before he can come home.

I would write more but I don’t have the energy. And, it’s too upsetting to talk about while I am home now and Calvin is still in the hospital away from his mother and family.

Calvin is doing much better today… he has been extubated and only requires CPAP to help him breathe. He is much more awake now. His beautiful little eyes were open, staring at us this AM. Don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer. This little guy has turned the corner and is on his way to heading home with us before we know it!

For me, I am still here in the hospital too. With out getting into a whole bunch of woman stuff, I will say this; it’s a good thing that I am having my babies in this century with great medical care. Otherwise, I would have been one those poor women that died during child birth. I guess my body was just not made or prepared to deliver babies. Even in a well controlled, state of the art, top medical facility in the USA, there were complications with Cora and Calvin that label me with 2 “traumatic births”.

Honestly, it’s all behind me and have 2 wonderful children now, to pour my heart and soul into. I’m feeling stronger everyday. I know the last 3 weeks were insane with an abrupt stop to chemo, scheduled surgery, an unexpected delivery with more surgery and a new NICU baby…however we have accomplished quite a bit which means the end to this is even closer than before. That’s a blessing I will take.

Lastly, I just want to say how thankful, grateful and truly humbled Nathan and myself feel. EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE has rallied behind us and supported us in ways we never expected; from the nurses, doctors, friends, family, neighbors, or complete strangers… With good there is evil and with light there is darkness… yes, we are in the middle of some pretty serious stuff right now, but that too comes with an opposite… an unimaginable experience of love and caring that can only be experienced in this kind of tragic setting. In other words the dark times are being alleviated by the incredible generosity and compassion that we are feeling from others; you have brought hope and light to our experience.