Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More random pictures

Since I seem to get the most response from picture posts... here's some more...

This is Alan and the doggies... and yes, the one below is all three of them playing tug of war. Alan had had some drinks.

Harry's favorite sleeping spot... our fireplace

Harry's a construction dog....yes, that's bits of drywall all over his face.

End of random photo post.

Important Breast Cancer Article...

Just thought I'd pass this on. It's about IBC- Imflammatory Breast Cancer... I know about it cuz, well, I've read a lot of books, but most people don't. And let me tell you, even to those of us who actually have cancer, this one is scary. Please read it... it talks about symptoms and whatnot. Again, touch yourself up and get to know those girls.


Being as I'm on the upswing from my recent nervous breakdown, I have been thinking a lot about me- who I was, how I'm different, yada yada yada.

Then Alan and I went to the Tom Jones concert. Yep, you heard me correctly. Tom Jones and all his leather pants wearing, open shirt exposing, dirty mouth welshman talking, ways. See, Alan and I spent too much time on cruise ships, and somehow had become oddly fond of "What's New Pussycat" or more recently, "Sex Bomb." When I hear that song, I think of Dutch officers with no rhythm drunk off their asses trying to hit on women. It's freaking hilarious.

So off we go to this great outdoor theater thing...Think Ravinia without as much lawn if you're from Chicago. You know, old people with full candlabras and brie. And there were a fair number of old people there...being as Tom himself is no spring chicken. I think he's like 65 or something. Definitely AARP material.

Then Tom performed. And I have to say, I give the old guy props. I mean, this is the only concert I've ever been to where women swooned. And by swooned, I mean they flashed their tits and threw underwear on the stage. Really? Women do that? For Tom Jones? Are you fucking kidding me? They didn't even do that when I went to New Kids on the Block... then again, most girls there weren't wearing bras yet. But man, if we were...

So I'm watching Tom motion to his good ol' boy and women scream. He wipes his sweat with shirts, he sings. Man, he's got some pipes on him. And there's a part of me that says, "Good on you, Tom" I mean, wow- he's got some mojo. That's the only way I can describe it. Except when he danced. Ohh, that wasn't good. Stop dancing Tom... really, you're showing your age. Seriously, stop. Stop right now. Ow, my eyes. My side hurts from laughing. Stick to pelvic thrusting. Works much better for you.

Dancing aside, it's the mojo, baby. It's not just for Austin Powers. Tom Jones has it. It's that certain something that assures everyone you know you're the shit. You don't necessarily have to flaunt your fishizzle, it's just understood. You can read it in the way you hold yourself, talk to others, choices you make. Breast cancer aside- I definitely used to have it... how do you think I got all those stories I can't repeat in front of my parents? I think my mojo has hidden behind my chemo port. I can't seem to find it anywhere. And everyone has it, I know they do. So maybe it's time to embrace our own inner mojo...pelvic thrusting aside, of course. Unless you're into that kind of thing. In which case, call me later with the story.

Bottoming out...

Okay, I apologize for not writing this earlier, but you know, Star Jones got canned, Tom Cruise pimped pictures of his "daughter" (I use that term loosely) for cash, Britney posed nekkid on the cover of Bazaar... it's been a busy day or so. Oh, yeah, and I had to work.

So anyway, about a week ago I hit bottom. If I were an alcoholic, and my Lifetime movie were a mini series... last week would have been the scene where some well meaning person would have found me, Kitty Dukakis style, clutching a bottle of nail polish remover. Yes, I referred to Kitty Dukakis. The Duke in '88, baby. I digress...

Okay, so maybe I'm not an alcoholic. My bottoming out was more of a spiritual self image bottoming out. See, I had to get a new Driver's License. This entailed putting on my wig and going to the DMV. I hadn't put on my wig in a couple of weeks... it's very hot down here in the South. I struggled with the task- it involved giving up the dream that I was, in fact, still 120 pounds. When I was in Illinois and renewing my license, they would ask, "is all your info still correct?" Sure, I would say. 120. Yes. When I was sixteen, that is. Ha! Suckers.

Needless to say, I got dressed, put on my wig, and started to put on makeup. Why we bother to put on makeup for the DMV picture, I will never know. But we do. Face it. You spend a half hour on your face to wait in some smelly hot linoleum tiled room and take a split second picture that you're not even ready for. Why? So some bartender/waitress/cop who pulls you over might one day say, "Hey, nice picture"?

Stupid shit.

So anyway, back to my meltdown. Upon looking at my reflection in the mirror, which I don't do very often, I started to cry. I somehow looked...I don't know... "Garish". Yep, garish. Like some Toulouse Lautrec, Moulin Rouge wannabee. My face was fat. I mean, fat. No hiding it. My beautiful, wonderful, expensive wig didn't look right on my fat face. The hair ended right at the most unflattering spot. The make up looked like too much on my pasty face. I felt, honestly, like a bad drag queen. Like all this attempt at femininity was a sham. All the highlights and the Clinique in the world would not hide the fact that I had lost my cuteness, my hair, part of my breast... part of me really. I didn't see me when I looked in that mirror. I cried. The mascara ran. I rubbed my eyes... eyelashes came off on my fingers. I couldn't win.

So mid-meltdown, off to the DMV I went. As I was leaving, Alan asked me what was wrong, what he could do to help. I freaked out and just told him to let me go. He looked so confused as I drove away. All I wanted to do was rip off the wig, go put on some yoga pants and wake up when I was me again... fake hair color and all.

They say you have to hit bottom to come back up. That was it. That moment in the mirror. The moment I realized that for all my "you're so strong, you're handling it so well, you're a fighter" bullshit, I had in fact, lost complete control. That feeling fat was just a symptom of the greater issue. That while I had actually been "putting on my wig and makeup" for months, there was a part of my that had been taken over. So that very night, I got off my ass and decided to do something about it. I walked three miles that night. More movement than I had done in months. I'm going to find me again.

And yes, my driver's license picture is hideous. I do actually have two chins in it. And yes, when I am hot again, I will be "losing" my license and getting a new one. Cuz after all, what if I do get pulled over one day?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gratuitous House Picture

Yeah, yeah, it's been a week. I know. And I have many posts to write. See, I've had a bit of an epiphany. But in the meantime, I've had requests for home info and pictures. So, here you go. This is my (still unfinished) office. Most of the time you can imagine me there, slaving away. Or looking online for window treatments.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

There goes my kitchen table!

Alan and I have sat and wondered many times in the past couple of months where the fuck our money has gone. I mean, I make a very decent living, enough even to support us both while Alan was finishing school. (Not to say I won't be peeing myself in glee when his first paycheck arrives, cuz I will)

Granted, we've moved, and taken on a mortgage, spent enough at Home Depot to feed a small country...but, really, there should be more cashola around. So where in blazes has it gone?

It hit me today. Cancer. Fucking Maria. I wrote a check today for $950.86 for my genetic testing. The bill finally came. Granted, my insurance covered more of the 3k test than I thought it would, and granted- they have covered lots of things, but still. This for a test that, in the early stages of diagnosis, I demanded to have- even though I didn't really have the risk factors for it. And of course now, in a more rational state of thought, it was negative. Fucking $950. That was a big chunk, if not all, of my kitchen table. Alan and I will be eating outside for a while. Good thing it's summer in the south. And I have such a cute new patio set :)

My genetic test is probably the last of the "bills" I will have to pay...thankfully. That's after deductibles, co-pays, etc. Where I really got slammed? Driving 360 miles round trip almost weekly for 3 months while going to Chicago to be treated. Then driving another 100 miles round trip from my parents to Chicago. Did you forget gas is like $2.75 a gallon? Alan and I are guessing that's probably a grand or two there. Fuck living in the boonies!

I should stop bitching... after all, one of these days I will add up how much it's costing the insurance company to treat me. Or Northwestern who was so generous with our fertility treatments. I am lucky. I have wonderful insurance, a great job and I can afford the $950. Still doesn't mean writing that check doesn't hurt a little. Who knew something 1.6 cm X 1.4 cm X 3.6 cm could be so expensive?

But I'd rather be poor and healthy than rich and sick.


You know that scene from "Old School"... The one where Frank "the Tank", Diet Pepsi in hand, refuses the beer bong at the party? When asked why, he says something to the effect of:

"We have a nice little Saturday planned. We're going to Home Depot. Maybe Bed, Bath and Beyond. We'll see if we have time. Big day tomorrow."

Yep, that is now my life. Yesterday we went to the outlet mall. The nice one- Pottery Barn, Willams-Sonoma and Restoration Hardware. All my suburban, I live in a cookie cutter house in a subdivision, heart could desire. And I desired. The end result- you're looking at it here. My current favorite home purchase. Why, you say? First and foremost, it has stripes everywhere. Many are aware of my longtime stripe obsession. If Maria, my tumor was striped, I'd probably want to keep her too. Secondly, being as we currently have no kitchen or dining room table, it now allows us to actually sit while eating. No more copping a squat on the carpet/concrete/grass for us. Alan has been grilling about 5 out of 6 nights (ARG ARG, FIRE FIRE!) so this is nice for us. I woke up this morning to find Alan reading the paper outside, drinking a cup of coffee, while my puppies played. A Pottery Barn suburban life has its perks. Almost makes you forget you have cancer.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

At least it's not cancer!

I know someone recently who had a health scare. And by health scare, I don't mean they came down with a "social disease" or anything. As in, they thought they might have cancer. The doctors were running lots of tests, there was a lot of waiting for results, yada, yada, it all sucked. Turns out it wasn't cancer. When someone told me she got her results, they actually looked me straight in the eye and said, "God, at least it's not cancer. Anything but cancer." I thought it was funny that they had the balls to say that to me. Then again, I've never been one to turn away a set of balls.

Cancer. The big "C". The "C" word. The "club". Cancer itself is a very scary word. People are afraid of the word alone. Why? Well, shit. It could be because so many people die of it. Most people I know have had a grandparent or someone die from it. Cancer is as bad as it gets. It's up there with like, I don't know- AIDS, Ebola, Bird Flu. Maybe because Cancer has no cure- only a treatment. There is no known cause. It sucks. Finding out you have cancer is probably one of the worst pieces of news there is.

So, armed with this knowledge that I am currently going through one of the scariest things you can go through in life, and that there are few things much worse (although worse forms of cancer are definitely up there) and that I am, for the most part, okay, I find this phrase "At least it's not cancer" uniquely funny. Hell, I've even been known to say, "Shit, it could be worse. You could have like cancer or something." In fact, I still say that now. Only now, it's with a sense of Alanis Morrisette Irony.

I find the phrase "At least it's not cancer" liberating. Kind of like when I got my first C in college. See, I was strictly and A and B kind of girl. But apparently when you don't show up to class, read the book, break up with your boyfriend, have your grandmother die and have tech week for a show, midterms become low on your priority list. So when I got that C in Greek Mythology, I said to myself. Wow- that sucks. The class wasn't even hard. Then again- you know what? I got a C. I'm fine. Still hot. New boyfriend. Great resume. I will not lose a job because of this C. Felt good. Felt liberated. Much like the liberation of getting cancer and hopefully coming out the other end. Well, almost like it. Although they both start with "C"- hmmmmm....

See, when you get this thing that everyone associates with one of the shittiest things that can ever happen to you- especially when you get it so young, you think...yep, I got cancer. And you know what? I'm still here. Still working, still decorating my new house, still playing with my dogs. (kylie, my golden retriever is just now learning how to fetch. We should have gotten her a back yard years ago.) So now, there's tons of crappy things that can happen. But- hey, at least they're not cancer. So if they aren't as bad and I proven I can already do cancer- then I'll probably be okay. Gives you perspective, I suppose.

You notice how my perspective is directly correlated to how I'm currently feeling? For example, see "Tears in the Shower" below. Funny. Not to say it won't be shitty sometimes. And it won't suck. And it's not scary. Because it's all those things. And there are good days and there are horrible days. Hell, it IS cancer, after all.

But if cancer also involves playing fetch with my dogs in my new backyard, watching my husband grill, I wouldn't be anywhere else. Everything else I can deal with.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pins and Needles

I must say, this Taxol chemo is much better than my A/Cs. However, it's not without its own problems. Some of them kinda rough. The biggest side effects to Taxol are bone pain (and we know how I feel about bone pain) and neuropathy- as in tingling and loss of nerve feeling in your fingers and toes. You can also have problems with your nails. Within two days I had all of these. Granted, I didn't feel like I was going to curl up and die. I was, however, unable to walk one night. The bone pain is pretty intense. I feel it in my back, which I'm used to, but I was surprised to feel it so much in my legs. My shins, ankles and feet were wracked with pain. My legs buckled a few times and it hurt to move. Thankfully, the worst of it was over within a few days. I am left now with residual pain and a lot of tingling. It's like my feet and fingers are constantly asleep. It feels funny. And annoying. I feel kinda stupid cuz a day or so after chemo I was going on and on about how easy it was and how I was fine. I am- sort of. I just need to adjust to a whole slew of other issues. It's kind of hard to type- I can't feel my fingers and at the same time they hurt. Sort of difficult to do my job when I can't type well. I have spellcheck on overdrive with my typos. The wierdest thing so far had been my nails. The last couple of days my nails have started to hurt badly- like a slammed all of them in a car door and they could fall off at any minute. Can't drum my fingernails on my desk, can't open a can of Coke, it hurts too much. Bummer.

But I don't feel like I'm going to puke. And I have very nice drugs. It's amazing how your mood improves when you don't feel like you're going to puke your guts out. Even not walking seems not too bad.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Chemo #5- Mama's got a brand new bag!

IV bag, that is! I had my first chemo of the new kind (Taxol) at Emory last Thursday. So far, I really like Emory. The doctors are cool. They all know my oncologist from Northwestern. I feel like I'm a part of a big oncology sorority. I knew the secret handshake and everything. They don't have a penthouse or fancy individual chemo rooms, but they do have this chemo center type thing- there are like 30 little lounge chairs all set up at their own little station. Each has their own TV, their own requisite IV stands and pumps and an extra chair for the lucky mofo who comes along. Alan said it's not very comfortable.

This type of chemo takes a lot longer than my last one. Before, it was almost like drive thru chemo- I was in and out in less than 2 hours. This chemo can cause allergic reactions, so they give it to you very slowly. First there's the steroids, then there's the benadryl (for the allergic reaction), then there's the Taxol. All in, I was there almost 6 hours. Fortunately, thanks to the benadryl, I was asleep for about 4 hours of it. When I wasn't sleeping, I was peeing. They give you a bunch of fluids and my bladder is tiny.

Nothing says cancer like a bald girl dragging her IV pole and pump to the bathroom. Good times.

Being in community chemo was interesting. Because I was there so long, I watched everyone else come and go. Most were older- I mean old older. No one was even close to my age. I definitely was the most perky, even asleep. There aren't a lot of smiles in the chemo room. That's sad. Mostly people are quiet, watching TV, sleeping. Usually chemo day I feel great- almost forgetting how shitty I'll feel in a couple of days.

The downside to community chemo- people looking at you. A couple came in- it had to be for the husband's first treatment, as he still had all his hair. They were probably in their 40s- young for cancer, but not compared to me. The wife sat in her designated chair and just stared at me. Maybe it wasn't at me, but it sure felt like it. Her blank stare. It was a stare that screamed, "I'm fucking scared." She looked lost and alone. And she looked at me, with my port and my bald head, like I should be pitied. I wanted to tell her to relax, that I was going to be fine. Seriously, I'm not as sick as I look. I wanted to tell her that her husband would be okay, but then again I didn't know that.

Instead, I made jokes about unplugging my IV pump and my tiny bladder. I don't think it helped. Instead, it reminded me how scary this whole thing is. How scary it can be when you first find out. How shitty it all is. Then again, perhaps half the shittiness lies in our own attitude.

My apologies

Okay, I apologize to those of you who use this page to procrastinate. You know who you are. You have a project, a paper, a to-do list...Instead, you sit on the internet and check an assorted list of sites to put off what you're really supposed to be doing. What's the news? CNN? MSN? Celebrity gossip? Eonline? It's Monday, have you checked the latest And hey, has Courtney written any quality missives lately?

I have slacked on the job. I'm sorry. See, writing this blog is as much procrastination for me as reading it is for you. But unfortunately, I have been crazy busy. Too busy for procrastination? Really, Courtney- that doesn't sound like you. I know, I know. See, we moved across the country- and between setting up internet at all and the 1400 trips to Home Depot, it's been hard. Oh, yeah, and I also started my new chemo. Nothing says welcome to the neighborhood like a fresh IV bag of poison!

It all ends now. I have a whole list of things to chat about on this blog, so check back more regularly. I promise to keep you better up to date.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I think I'm in love !!!!

And no, it's not with my husband, although I am quite proud of him this week. Alan graduated this weekend, second in his entire college class, no less. Who knew he was such a nerd? Certainly not me when I met him. Then again, when I met him, he was drunk in a bar wearing a "Male Escort Service" Shirt with the name "Dick" on it. No, right now, it's not with Alan. I haven't felt this way since I was bound to marry Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block.

It's with Stephen Colbert, Alan's graduation speaker. Yes, Alan's tiny little school had Stephen Colbert. I think they asked him like 2 years ago before he was famous. I was this "-----" close to him on a couple of occasions. I stood proudly next to the kid whose sign said, "End Tyranny- Stewart/Colbert '08" My mother would not let me scream, "I love you Stephen" during his commencement address. My mom is no fun. She didn't like me hanging Jordan's poster over my bed either. I wanted him to be the last thing I saw at night and the first thing in the morning. I wonder if there's a Stephen Colbert poster?

Things about Stephen Colbert. Real life- tall. And cute. And smokes. And one of 11 children. And smart. And funny. And a fellow Northwestern alum. We're meant to be.

Anyway, his speech was funny. And well written. And serious too. And made it the best graduation I had ever been to.

For a full text of his Speech, check this out. It's a good read. Except that on the page, where it says he said "oops", he actually said fuck. Then he said, "be sure to take the Fuck out when you post this." Fuck at graduation. Why we're destined to be together.

I love you Stephen!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Have you touched yourself up today?

Yes, ladies- that means you. (Although men can get it too) Time to check yourself out. In the shower, in the mirror, whatever. Get yourself used to looking at the girls so you can tell if anything looks different. Feel free to make it a group effort. (And by group, I mean couple- or if you are in a group, I hope you're drunk.)

Seriously, please please please do this regularly. And If you're over 35, if you haven't gotten a mammogram this year, Run, do not walk, to get one. And if you're under 35 and you feel something weird, or hell, you just want to be an over achiever... and I'm all for that- get an ultrasound too. Ultrasounds are much better for younger women.

(stepping off soapbox)

Oh- we're halfway there!

Sing with me now - "Oh-oh! Livin' on a prayer..."

Anyway, I'm halfway through chemo. Sweet ass. And I am officially done with the a/c chemo. Thank fucking God. It sucked. I mean, su-ucked. If I had to do 4 more cycles of it I think I would gouge out my insides with the packing tape dispenser I currently wield. It would feel better. I'm over the hump, I think. Funny how optimistic I was about chemo before it actually started. Chemo blows. I'm very very thankful I will be switching to Taxol next week. Apparently Taxol is a breeze compared to A/C. Although who knows, I got breast cancer under 30 so I don't really hold a lot of stock in people's predictions. I was looking back on a couple of posts, and I found the one that listed all the side effects. It made me laugh out loud. My brazen screw you to side effects. How 8 weeks can change a girl.

Nausea- check. And just because the drugs keep you from puking doesn't mean you don't feel like you will at any moment.

Low blood counts- check. Sure, I got the expensive shot. The same shot's side effect of "bone pain" turned out to be almost as bad as the chemo itself.

Mouth sores- check. I currently have two cold sore like things on the corners of my mouth (think paper cuts) They've been there for about 3 weeks now. Also, about a week after chemo, it feels like I've burned the roof of my mouth.

Hair loss- check. Haven't shaved my armpits or my legs in two months. Membership has its privileges.

Fertility problems- check. Hot flashes, moodiness. I hadn't had my period since I started chemo. Although it's recently arrived. 60-some days later. TMI? Please, I've been talking about my tits and my ovaries for months. This is actually cause to celebrate. Menopause is my greatest fear. I haven't been so exited to get my period since I was in college.

Fatigue- check. Try not wanting to get out of bed.

Poor appetite- check and uncheck. Things taste funny. I only ate carbs and starches for 4 days straight. However, the steroids make sure I'm good and fat.

Discoloration of the skin or nails- hmm. No. In fact, my nails look fucking great.

"Digestive" Problems- check. Wow, I had no idea that my body good do such amazing things. When I was diagnosed, my friend Dave gave me a chemo care package with ex-lax, metamucil, beano, pepcid, mylanta, tums. I have used them all. Every day.

So, looking back, I've gotten the full buffet. Lucky me. (Raising glass) Here's hoping the next rounds are better!