I am into week 2 of round 2 of chemo. This one has been easier. Dr. Krie, my oncologist, actually told me that the first round is probably the hardest. Your body is reeling from the shock of the introduction of nasty toxic chemicals to its system, and you get all these side effects. Once you've been through it, however, you mentally and emotionally know what to expect. So this time around, I have had way less gastro-intestinal distress (because I anticipated and medicated sooner), I knew what to expect on the first weekend, and how long for the ennui to last. My mouth is still in the sensitive stage, and I try to remember to carry Kleenex with me for the frequent, spontaneous nosebleeds.
I have to confess, I threw myself a little pity party on Monday (round 2, day 4). I was on my 3rd day of not feeling very energetic, I had to work, and I hated the way I looked in the mirror in the morning. Felt a little like this:
I sat down and had myself a good cry. Then I threw up. Well, dry-heaved. I hadn't eaten yet. I pulled myself together, went down and got the kids ready for school, then I told my Facebook friends what was going on. (Isn't that what everyone does? Cries, vomits, then tells all their friends?) OK, I didn't mention the vomit, but I said I was feeling sorry for myself, and got all kinds of support from Facebook-land. "You go ahead and cry... It does you good... You need it..." etc. But here's what happened. I started to let that self-pity seep in, and another wave of nausea swept over me.
I recognized it immediately that time. My attitude has a lot to do with my symptoms. Wow. I mean, I can't control my cardboard tongue or anything, but the nausea is related to how self-absorbed I become. I made a decision then and there to not let that self-pity (a form of pride) sweep over me. It's not a feeling I like anyway, and I can sense how it pulls me away from a God-centered life.
So, I pulled my attitude out of the mud, and got back up on the positive side again. Does this mean that I have to also live under the pressure of always staying all happy-peppy? Of course not! It just means that, just like I tell my kids, I do have a choice how I am going to respond to each day, and some days for me, that choice means the difference between head in the toilet or not. My circumstances do not have to dictate my inner peace.
Well, I got through the three hard days, also identifying that part of the reason I was upset was that Matt was leaving for a week on Tuesday morning. I really, REALLY miss him when he's gone. I don't know how some moms do it with a dad that isn't there part of the time. I would really suck at it. I guess we all learn to adapt to the curves and turns life throws at us. It wouldn't be so hard to lose him if he was a bum, but he's really helpful around the house, and is such a good dad. And he's funny. And I love him.
Tuesday morning rolled around, I dropped Matt off at the airport, and got both kids up and off to school. I had a few errands to run, then met my mom for a little retail therapy. She totally spoiled me, as she took me shopping for shoes, a swimsuit and a couple of dresses. Oh, and a new wig. I will be sporting a short, blond cut occasionally this summer now too. Thanks, Mom!
Tuesday night, I got to go be a runway model at a Mary Kay makeover/ style show event they were having in town. There's this cute little shop in Downtown Sioux Falls called Chelsea's Boutique, and my super-effervescent friend, Sarah asked me if I wanted to be a runway model for their fashion show. So Tuesday evening I found myself, incognito (because nobody really knew me or that I had cancer) and chatted it up with some of the other girls. All of us, just regular gals who also had never done this before. I tried to blend in. I practiced being like my friend, Amy Lu, who is one of the best listeners I know, and asked questions about the person I was talking to, without needing to interject a personal anecdote every other sentence like I usually do. It turns out, it's hard to casually drop into a conversation that you're going through chemo treatments. But I do anyway. I'm a barrel of laughs.
At one point, one of the MK ladies came over to me and complimented me on my hair. I smiled suspiciously, looking to see if she had been sent by someone I knew, which she was not. I can't quite just say "thank you." Instead I said, "Are you... serious? Because I am going through chemo treatments for breast cancer, and this is a wig."
She immediately said, "Oh I am a survivor! I had my left breast removed in 2009! You look great! I can't believe you're in treatments right now!" (MK ladies have a way of speaking with a lot of exclamation points.) I have entered the twilight zone. I swear you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a breast cancer survivor. Somehow, I have 2-3 conversations like this every day.
Anyway, I got to strut my stuff on the runway. I didn't actually get many pictures, but I did have Mom snap this one of me in one of the outfits...
Mom stayed with me overnight and helped get the kids where they needed to go on Wednesday morning. I decided it was time to break out some fun at Maia's school, and wore my pink wig to be a classroom helper. I was not at ALL a distraction.
Best conversation of the morning with a 1st grader in the hallway:
Kid: Why are you wearing that pink wig?
Me: Uh... well, I don't have any hair.
Kid: Yes you do. I've seen it.
Me: Nope, it's all gone. You can ask your mom.
Kid: I saw you yesterday, you have hair.
Me: No I don't. Why are you in the hallway. Aren't you supposed to be going to the bathroom?
Kid: You have hair.
Me: No, actually. I don't. Want to be freaked out? (start to pull wig away from the side of my head)
Kid: (turns his back to go down hall to bathroom) Whatever, lady. You have hair.
Thursday was exciting because I made my television debut. I had to force myself to stay up until the 10:00 news, but here is the story that KSFY did on me. They were very complimentary, and I like that they didn't water down the faith element of who I am. A big thanks to Mark Roper for his kindness, and high school classmate, James Jansma for suggesting the idea in the first place.
A lot of friends have shared my little story on Facebook (poor Matt felt the need to stay up late until it was posted online, so he could watch it before going to bed), and a few people mentioned seeing me on the news the next day. I have received messages from people I don't know, telling me how the story and my blog have impacted them. It is all very humbling and flattering.
Saturday was the Avera Breast Cancer Race. I have never been a part of this event, or any other race for that matter... well, since I injured out of cross country in high school with stress fractures in both legs, but that's another story. Anyway, one of the teachers at Maia's elementary school asked me if I wanted to be on the school's team. We have a handful of survivor moms and teachers, and one In Memory Of. I took her up on it, and we named the team the All City Tiaras and Tutus. So, we donned our tiaras and tutus, and let the fun begin!
There were some very clever team names and t-shirts. I didn't have the presence of mind to capture some of them. I liked the team dressed as bumble bees for Julies Boo-Bees. There were Tutus for Tatas- one of their guys was dressed in a pink body stocking. With a tutu. Awesome. One team went past and they were all wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and on their backs they had "I'm running for Mickie" on their stickers.
I loved these t-shirts, and was impressed at the hand-lettering on them:
I learned a few things at my first Avera Breast Cancer Walk:
- It will probably be cold. At least the sun was shining on us today, but it was about 40 degrees, and a bit breezy. All the pictures I've seen posted from past events have had people bundled up against the cold, sometimes rain. Hopefully not snow, but don't count it out.
- Get there early to get the goods. They have all kinds of free stuff to give away, but you don't get it after you're done. You get it first, because by 10 am, everyone is gone. This is not the kind of thing that you can wait until you get there, or wait until after to get your poop in a group (which is unfortunate, because that's how I usually roll).
- Be the captain of your own team. Kayleen, who suggested this in the first place, is a 5th grade teacher, and it's the last 2 weeks of school. She did not have time to pick up and distribute all the race packets. I happily did most of that this year, but was not the official contact person. It was a little messy, but now I know what to expect, and can take the bull by the horns next year.
- There will be food there. I spent so much time getting fabulous before leaving the house, that I didn't leave enough time to eat, so I threw in some food and a leaky water bottle from home. Not necessary.
- This is not a one-time deal. I had a pretty nice crew this year, but now this stamp of being a "survivor" is on me forever. I don't have to do the race every year (By the way, I took the 3-mile walk option with several others from our team. I don't run), but people wanted to do it on my behalf, it was fun, and it is a tremendous fundraiser and the funds go directly to the Prairie Center.
- Tutus generate a lot of static electricity that transfers immediately to pink synthetic hair and shocks you in the face. I did not know that before today.
- I am really, really lucky. I think I have the easiest cancer treatment ever.