Fuzzy and Cancer Free

Yesterday, I got the best news I could ever hope for. My doctor called to let me know that after two surgeries and chemotherapy, I am officially cancer free!

This news doesn’t get me out of the radiation and future treatments (which will keep me cancer free), but as of now, I do not have cancer.

Coming with the cancer free news, my hair is starting to come in. It is a very light fuzz, but it is thick enough that you don’t have to look with a microscope to find the hair.

2016 is going to be a great year. I just know it!

Dear Person With Hair…

Dear person with hair,

When I saw you at the movie theater, I recognized you as “a cancer patient”. Speaking as a cancer patient, I am so sorry that I had that recognition come to mind. However, you were rocking the shaved head far more bravely than I am. I couldn’t tell if it was just coming out, or if it was growing back. It had the uneven loss look that made me believe it was chemo-related hair loss and not just a hair style choice. I know that when I first shaved my head, I was (and still am) very shy to share it with the world. When I am at home and with close friends, I can do  the bald thing, but I cannot bring myself to show the baldness to the world the way that you are doing it. I congratulate you for that boldness!

I love that you still had a little hair. When I had that amount of hair after shaving, I thought I would never feel it was “a lot of hair”. But now that I am growing mine back and have the baby fine wisps of baby hair that you can only see if you are “really” looking, my first thought when I saw you was that it was in progress of growing back and I wanted to ask you how long it took and I was envious of your mass of hair.

I hate it when strangers recognize (and mention) my cancer patient status, so I opted to leave you be. But I want you to know that your hair looks awesome and I can’t wait to look just like you.

84 Months

Dearest Bean,

You have celebrated another birthday and you have done so much this year.

  • You (loudly) exclaimed that Daddy was buying moonshine glasses, while he was shopping for canning jars. Now we know that you watch ‘Moonshiners’ with daddy.
  • snow15We went snow tubing. You learned that going backwards is horrible, forwards is awesome.
  • Since you were in Kindergarten last year, you got to experience snow days. You loved them, Daddy and I liked it less because we had to stay home with you. OK – I liked it more than Daddy did, since making a snowman was fun for me. This year, you learned how to actually do the building instead of just directing me what to do.
  • Early in the year, you learned how to roller skate. You had a ball, but there was a lot of time spent falling, so you wanted to keep going, but complained about your bottom hurting. Thankfully things got better for you through the year.
  • You convinced me that Valentine’s Day is a better holiday than I ever gave it credit for. You said that it was like Thanksgiving – a day for love, a day for thanks. Both are needed.

Continue reading

How to Diffuse a Fight With a 7-year-old

The last month or so, our lovely Bean has been going through a “phase”. By “phase”, I mean she is being a jerk more frequently than I wish.

In fairness to her, there is a lot going on and I can see why she is having a hard time in general. I also know that at her age, she can’t verbalize her issues, so it comes out as a jerk language… but it still stinks as the parents of this child.

Part of her homework is to read for a certain amount of time every day. She loves to learn and she will read on her own, but on her terms. Her terms don’t happen every day, so she decided to fake it til ya make it. This is where our story begins.

I was trying to motivate her to read by offering up almost anything with words in it. Typically, when we are doing our reading every day, I will let her pick anything she wants to read. Most of the time it is one of her books, but to emphasize that she can ready anything, one time she read toy building instructions to me and that counted. This day, she didn’t want to read anything. The debate took a turn when she said that she did it already with the after school people. This isn’t impossible, but they will leave a note saying it was done – so I asked for that. Then the story changed. Then when that was question, the story changed again. You see where this is going. So the debate about what to read was turning into a “discussion” about honesty. While discussing, I looked at the chart that a grown up is supposed to sign and I was surprised to find that my name had been signed about 10 more times than I signed it.

Busted. (although, points for effort – execution was poor)

So the “discussion” was officially turning into a “you are busted, here’s your parental lecture on honesty.” This is where the meltdown began.

She started screaming about how everything is unfair. We are so mean.

Then she tooted.

All children cannot help themselves when that sound comes from anywhere, mine can only do a belly laugh when it comes from her. But since she was just getting into the swing of the fit, she was conflicted. She had to giggle. She had to scream. What to do?

She went with try really hard not to laugh and forget why she was having a fit. (points for me!) The reading did begin, although she giggled more than she read.

Lesson – if you are trying to diffuse a fight with a child – do anything you can to make them toot. Now you know. You are welcome.

DIY Photo Blocks

For the my daughter’s first birthday, my sister made photo blocks made of pictures of the baby, our family, and other friends and family that she saw all the time. SHE LOVED the blocks because she loved looking at the pictures, but they could also be stacked and tossed.

This was such a great idea, that I had to do the same for our best friend’s baby. Here is how it was done…

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First, drink cartons of milk, juice or whatever you can in the 1/2 gallon cartons. We went with milk mainly, but the OJ came in handy for a few festive screwdrivers (it was in the name of a gift for friends).

After you cut off the top part of the carton, measure the width of the carton and attempt to cut off the top evenly, leaving enough height to fold down to be the “top” of the block. Once the top is off, cut the corners half way down, so they

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will fold evenly. Finally, use packing tape to secure it down. If it is done well, you will be left with a perfect cube of equal sides. If you had one too many screwdrivers, or decided to “wing it” on the measuring part, it won’t be perfectly equal – but it is a baby who doesn’t know the difference, don’t beat yourself up over it. (This is the theory I went with – although my sister, who is more into “following directions”, disagrees with my theory.)

blocksFinally, print photographs on your printer to the size of each square. For those (like myself) who forget – there are 6 sides. Not 4. You will need 6 photos (not 4) to do one cube. I used photo safe rolling tape to secure the pictures. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just enough to hold it down. The next step is to wrap each cube (carefully) with sheets of contact paper. The kiddo can put the contact paper in the mouth without the toxins of shellac (my first idea – glad I went back to the drawing board on that one), and it looks neater than clear packing tape. The challenge is getting the contact paper even and wrapping it so there are as few seems as possible. The second block looked better than the first and the third was even better, etc. I don’t recommend the addition of vodka to this part of the plan.

But – when it is finished, they are really cute and babies love seeing pictures of themselves – bonus, they get to play with blocks that won’t hurt when they fall!

Cancer Sucks

I know I have been handling chemo really well. In fact my blood tests are so good that the doc says it the results are almost as though they are from a patient not on chemo. For me chemo has not been as advertised and I have been feeling good. I really am eternally grateful for that and have been taking everything that happens with the most positive attitude I can muster. With that said, I have to say that this latest side effect totally sucks.

If you, or someone you love has had a horrible reaction to chemo, you might want to stop reading. This is a complaint that to me is big, but to most cancer patients will be petty. Fair warning. Continue reading

You Teach, Even If You Don’t Realize It

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As I get older, I also get wiser (go with me on this one). I learn lessons through my own experiences and perceptions of other experiences. Now I find that I am a teacher.

My dearest sister likes to point out that I like to learn my lessons the hard way. I am the one who is most likely to try out the bad idea – just to see if I can do it. I like to point out to my dearest sister that sometimes I can! Other times just make good stories.

Now that I have breast cancer, I realize that I can take my craptastic adventure and teach others the importance of two things: 1) live your life now! Don’t wait until it is more convenient. Don’t wait until your dreams come knocking on your door. Live it while the livin’ is good. And 2) take your life (and health) seriously, but not at the expense of leading a life that you think sucks.

With the start of my chemotherapy, I was told that I WILL lose my hair. Even though the internet said there was a chance it wouldn’t happen. The trained and smart doctors said it WILL happen (they keep calling me young, so clearly they are right). Knowing I was to lose my hair, I came up with a plan. This takes the proverbial lemons and makes a mighty tasty margarita. I was depressed at the thought of losing my hair. The only thing that would make it worse is the prospect that the Bean would be afraid or freaked out in some way by this. The internet said to talk to her about it. Done. But I was still worried. Mainly because I was sure it was going to be a great big sob fest of me alone in the bathroom with a pair of clippers. THAT sounded HORRIBLE – so I changed the ending to that story.

I decided that one things that most 6-year-old kids never get to do is cut REAL HAIR. They never get to design a hairstyle for their mom. And they never get to feel good about mom’s diagnosis of cancer. So I decided to turn something truly scary to me (and her) into a “fun family haircut night”. She was so excited that right after I did my first chemo treatment, she asked when she gets to cut my hair. She had ideas of how she wanted to do it and questioned if I “really meant it”. I assured her that I did mean it, but we had to wait until the hair was falling out.

Finally, the day came. My hair was really falling out. In clumps. In handfuls. I freaked out! My hair was in a pony tail at the time and I was terrified to take the rubber band out. I knew a huge clump of hair was going to come out. I also knew that night was the wrong time. I needed time to have a little pity party before I could face the music. Thanks to my dear friend for letting me cry on her shoulder that night, out of sight from the kiddo.

The next night, we ate dinner and set up the hair-cutting supplies on the kitchen floor and off we went. My mom and kiddo took turns chopping and styling and spiking and Mohawking and hair horns and anything that seemed fun at the time. Once we were done with the styles, the kiddo used the clippers to buzz cut my hair. The kiddo seemed to really have fun, as did mom. Upon reflection of the evening, it was very ceremonial. It was cathartic for me to watch my beautiful daughter in the mirror taking such care in cutting my hair off. When done, she couldn’t keep her hands off my head – just touching and stroking the hair that was left.

Finally – I had one more plan that was inappropriate for the kiddo. So she went to bed and I asked my mom to use the clippers to write a special little phrase that I have to cancer in my hair. My mom – who does not curse – ever – wrote “FUCK CANCER” in my hair. Then – to make sure the kiddo didn’t see it, she shaved my head (and the message with it). Hubby was there to take pictures of the whole event and I felt so empowered (and a little cold from the lack of hair). I shared pictures of my new doo with my sister and a couple of friends. And now, I am working on really owning this whole no hair thing… I’ll have to report back on how that goes.

I know that I am teaching my daughter many things. Some are intentional, some not intentional through my actions. I do hope that this experience can teach her that sometimes really bad things happen. Sometimes you get scared. But you can only be brave if you face your fears and look for the silver lining in everything you do. Sometimes the silver lining is really hard to find, but it is there.

I Am So Lucky

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Sometimes you realize long after the fact the time when your life changed. Sometimes you know the very instant. My most recent life changer was instant realization.

I went in for my regular mammogram and didn’t think anything of it. My nerves were slightly freighted when I was asked to check some “dense” tissue in a follow up mammogram. But it was the kind nurse asking if I brought anyone with me to talk to the radiologist that shook me into reality and my life just changed dramatically.  30 minutes after the talk with a radiologist saying there was something suspicious I had an appointment with a breast surgeon and a biopsy being done. It was a whirl wind, terrifying and comforting – all at the same time. I didn’t think there was any reason to bring the hubby, nothing to worry about, just a normal follow up. I didn’t know I’d want to speak to a breast surgeon that day to biopsy the “something suspicious”. But she was exactly the personality type I needed to hear the information I received. No sugar coating, no pity, just straight facts and nothing more. I am eternally great full to her for that.

24 hours later, I had an official diagnosis. Breast cancer.
With my diagnosis, I met with my surgeon and was given a lot of information about my team of doctors, waiting their turn to poke and prod. Before I knew I had a need, I have this team of doctors. In my mind they are wearing capes with boobs on the back of them. As it turns out, there are no capes, but they are all amazing people who make me feel like they know what is happening and they have my back, for all that is to come.

The worst place to turn for what to do next is the internet. The Internet can make you freak out when there is no cancer, but I had to be able to research on my own. The doc knew that and had several sites to recommend. As hubby and I were wrapping our head around this, we were sharing our news (which I have to say is equally as hard for me each time I spit it out. There isn’t an easy way and everyone has a different reaction.)

What I knew before, but was relived over and over is I am surrounded by great people. Each of my family and friends serves a very different part to my personality and no matter what my worry is, I have so many people I can call who will drop their worlds to listen to my worries. I am so very lucky to have this family (both given and chosen). I know that this diagnosis is not just on me, but on kiddo and hubby and our family is here for all of us, no matter what. I always knew this to be true, but never planned on calling in quite like this. We are so lucky.

I am grateful for doing whatever it was to give me the friends and family I need now. I am grateful for getting a team of doctors that I can believe in (and who will laugh with me when I propose the cape idea).

I am lucky.

Lame Excuses

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When I dream about the most awesome life I can ever have, it includes my husband, my daughter, a 2nd house at a beach (it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it must be safe, have the basic comforts of modern life, and the ability to hear and see the waves crash from a porch where I will spend A LOT of time) and my writing profession will lead me to be sought after, but not famous.

Hubby and daughter are a forever work in progress and all in all, going well in terms of fulfilling my dream. The beach house dream is one that is possible and something I continue to work on through being fiscally responsible and knowing it will happen. For some reason the writing profession always leads to a stumbling block. I write in various forms for a living, and have kept a blog for a very long time (though don’t pay enough attention to it), but it isn’t going far because I have various reasons that boil down to nothing more than lame excuses. Here are the top excuses:

1) Write every day?? Are you crazy? I don’t have time for that. I do have time for TV, social media and snacks that are also unneeded.

2) I can’t focus on a topic. I have 1,000 ideas, none are complete and only a small handful even have beginnings.

3) Even if I don’t focus on the same topic all the time, I can’t seem to focus on one topic at a time. Same excuse, but this time you add the “shiny bobble distraction syndrome”. My blog was even named partly so I don’t have to focus on a single topic.

4) But I need money! Um… writing doesn’t cost anything. If I write – which is a passion – it will hone the skill and then people will want to pay me for it – right??

5) I am too embarrassed to share my writing. What if “they” don’t like it. This one has a build in blocker – “They” won’t like your work, so don’t write for “them” – write for you and your people. I write (partly) for a living, and share it. It’s received well – why is “outside work” writing different?

It’s funny how the things you practice at the most are the things you are best at doing. Sadly, I am an expert excuse maker.

Literacy is Overrated

As an adult in America, I cannot dispute that being literate is critical to success in any productive member of society. It isn’t overrated for the average adult. But as a parent, I have spent my child’s entire life spelling things to avoid having to tell her something. I leave her Christmas / Birthday list on the fridge, so we can discuss it over time. I want her to be a smart, productive member of society. Really. But maybe it can be put on hold when it is convenient for me.

Going into Kindergarten, the kiddo knew all the letters and their sounds and had a pretty good list of “sight words” that she could read. Now, she is reading. Actually reading. And it is becoming inconvenient for me when I want to talk to hubby about going for i-c-e c-r-e-a-m after dinner. Now, she knows what that is and the jig is up.

My sister warned me of this. She would explain various signs in restaurants and stores to her kids, saying that they warned of children’s bad behavior and the unwanted consequences. Her kids were sure that the sign in the cart at the store said that bad children would be asked to leave – pointing out the circle with the cross through it, proving her claim. Other signs in restaurants, even in the kids menu would explain that kids had to eat their veggies.

My dear kiddo – the Bean – is a genius. It isn’t just me though. Grandparents, aunt and uncles, and many others agree. I wonder if there is a way for her to develop a lack of literacy skills, but only at our convenience. Otherwise, read on my darling girl.

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