Cancer Chronicles X: Emotional

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately (to the few of you still reading…Hi, Mom!) but the start of the school year is insane. I’ve barely had time to sleep!

I am so much better physically. My radiation burns have healed, I’m not in constant pain and the fatigue is getting better each day. When I have my treatment every three weeks, it’s not too bad. I’m a little achy, a lot tired, but not sick. I can function. It’s a big difference from the spring.

But emotionally? I’m a hot mess.

I’ve struggled with an eating disorder my whole life and I’ve never really been treated for it. I think I have it under control and then BAM something like cancer happens and it rears its ugly head. I’m really struggling in this area right now. I know it seems ridiculous that I’m in the middle of a cancer battle and I give a shit about my weight but it’s not a rational disorder. I’m really trying to love myself through this. To be patient with my body as it recovers from being through hell and back over the last seven months and still anticipating the seven months it has left to be bombarded with chemicals that feel like they’re trying to kill it. I’m sure my body is constantly thinking “WTF IS SHE DOING TO US???” and so I’m trying to appreciate all that it is doing for me right now. But that’s easier said than done when you already struggle in this area.

Three women in my community have passed away in the past month from cancer that started out as breast cancer. One of them was a dear friend of a family member. She just finished chemo one year ago and thought she was fine. These stories haunt me and scare me. I know I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but that doesn’t matter. I. have. cancer. Something that people die from all the time. Something that people use as a “could be worse” as in “well, at least it’s not cancer!”. I have it. I’m fighting it. And I’m trying not to live in a world where all I think about is the fact that it could come back. I can’t live that way. That’s not who I am. But at the moment, it’s really hard for me to ignore the voice that’s telling me “it could come back!”.

I have glimpses of my “pre-cancer self” here and there but I’m not myself yet. I’m just not sure how to get my mojo back I guess. Again, I’m trying to be patient with myself. I’m trying to give myself credit for all I am going through and trying to realize that it’s ok if I’m not myself for a bit. Maybe I won’t ever be “myself” again. Maybe I’m permanently changed. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’m just not sure. I do know that I’m usually a happy, positive person and I’m trying really hard to stay that way. But it’s not easy.

I think part of the problem is I’m just worn out. This is hard work physically and emotionally. It’s a lot of pain and fatigue and appointments and phone calls and paperwork and worry and doctors. It’s just heavy. I’m just tired. And I get overwhelmed by how much farther I have to go and the fact that it might not be enough.

I keep telling myself I’m a fighter and, no matter what comes my way, I’ll handle it. But sometimes I just wish I didn’t have to.

Happy This Week

I started getting my nails done again and it makes me so happy!

We are all ready for back to school. I started on Thursday and my new students start this week. I’m really excited to meet them all! My kids start this week too…they are not looking forward to waking up early!

Our 7th annual golf outing was a success. Thank you to everyone who supported us!

Project Runway and America’s Top Model started this week. I love those shows!

The boys started soccer this week. I love watching them play and seeing them excited about playing.

I missed my work friends and am glad to see them every day!

What made you happy this week?


***I was riding my bike today, listening to this song, and felt as though I needed to re-share this post with you. I guess iTunes knew I needed the reminder of just how special my Olivia is to the world…and to me.***

I don’t know about you, but there’s little I enjoy more than a new song that speaks to me in some way.

I had to start with this one. I have to be honest and say I don’t really like Natalie Merchant in general. But this song speaks right to my heart. Even if you’ve heard it before, listen again along with the lyrics. When I first paid attention to the words, it blew me away. It brings me to tears every time I listen to it. I just think of one little girl who is a miracle and changed my world forever…Olivia…and how this song must have been written just for her and me.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed they’re disbelieving
What they’re seeing

They say, I must be one of the wonders
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask such intimate questions
They want confessions
They turn to my head, they try to steal the glory
Of my story

They say, I must be one of the wonders
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see they can offer
No explanation

I believe
Fate, fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle

“Know this child will be able”

And laughed as my body she lifted
“Know this child will be gifted…
With love, with patience and with faith…
She’ll make her way, make her way

People see me, I’m a challenge
To your balance, I’m over your heads
How I confound you
And astound you

To know , I must be one of the wonders
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see they can offer
No explanation

I believe
Fate, fate smile and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle

“Know this child will be able”

And laughed as my body she lifted

“Know this child will be gifted”

And laughed as she came to my mother

“Know this child will not suffer
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way, make her way
Make her way, make her way”

The line about “laughed as she came to my mother…know this child will not suffer. With love, with patience and with faith…she’ll make her way” brings me to tears every time. I need to listen to this song more often because it centers me. Is there a song that “gets” you every time?

Happy This Week

So much for my goal of writing more often this summer, huh? I honestly don’t even know where the summer went…I can’t believe we’re back to school soon!

I had my last radiation treatment on Wednesday! It feels soooooo good to be done! It was very cute though…the ladies that did my treatment asked me to come back and visit. I probably will when I’m there for a check up. It made me feel good though!

My BFF and I had a girls’ day to celebrate. We got pedicures, went out to lunch and went shopping and then got the kids and hung out for the evening. It was an awesome day and the perfect way to celebrate.

Matt and I went to the Harry Connick Jr. concert at the zoo on Tuesday with our friends Robin and Tom. My friends Robin and Alexis got me the tickets for my birthday. Harry is amazing in concert! We went out to dinner beforehand too. The whole night was so much fun!

I’ve been riding my new bike almost every day and I love it. It definitely makes me happy!

We got our new carpet and most of our new furniture. It looks like a whole new house!

The boys went to “cancer camp” this week. It’s Camp Kesem and it’s for kids whose parents have or had cancer. It was Matthew’s first time away at home (besides Grandma’s) and he was very nervous. The counselors have been posting pictures every day and it looks like they’re having a great time. It feels like they’ve been gone FOREVER and I’m so excited to pick them up today!!!

Olivia had a fun week being the “only child”. We took her golfing, which she loved, we went out on my in-laws boat and went swimming, we did puppet shows and she even had a “picnic” lunch in the basement while watching Dumbo on the projector. She missed the boys but enjoyed the 2 on 1 time!

My friends Kim and Kara made us awesome dinners this week. I also got cards from my friends Glenn and Terri. Thank you!!

Olivia’s Open golf outing is this weekend. It looks like the weather will be perfect. Fingers crossed for a great turnout!

What made you happy this week?

Cancer Chronicles IX: Radiation is OVER!

I finished my last radiation treatment this week!!! I had to go to the hospital every day, Monday through Friday, at 8:30 a.m. for 21 days straight and it’s finally over!!! I am so thankful to have that piece behind me.

My radiation therapists were so sweet and kind and took such good care of me. I am very worn out and sore which is to be expected. It will get worse over the next couple of weeks before it gets better because radiation is cumulative and keeps going after your treatment. But the good news is I should start feeling “back to normal” in about a month. I already feel like a huge weight is lifted just being done with this piece.

Now all I have left is chemo every three weeks until March, genetics test (fingers crossed for good news), heart tests every three months and I start taking my daily pill soon which I will take for the next 5-10 years. That all seems pretty “easy” compared to the last 7 months. It still feels like a long road ahead but definitely one I can handle.

I got a new bike about a week ago and I’ve been riding it almost every day. It’s my new favorite thing to do for exercise. I haven’t been able to lift weights this week because my left side is too sore so it’s been nice to have my new bike instead! Hopefully I’ll be back in the gym next week.

School starts next week and I’m a little nervous about being exhausted. My body is just very worn out at this point. But that’s what sick days are for, right? I’m so thankful I still have some left! I’m excited to get back to work, even though I’m a little nervous about keeping up.

It feels so good to say radiation is over!

Happy This Week

I made it! Matt’s been gone fishing for over a week and I survived! Woo hoo!!

I am done with 5 more radiation treatments and one more chemo. One step closer to being done!

I didn’t gain any weight this week!

I had a few friends over on Monday to hang out. It is always fun to just sit and chat and drink wine.

My MIL, SIL and BFF all pitched in to help me out this week while Matt was gone. I’m so thankful for them!

My Mom and the kids and I had a great time on our overnight to Frankenmuth last weekend.

Who else watches Hannibal? I finished season 1 this week. Holy cow is it good!

My friends Amy and Julie made us wonderful dinners this week. I was extra thankful for these since Matt was gone!

My friend, Ashley, brought us dinner too and came and hung out with me for a while on Wednesday so we could catch up. I miss her!

I watched the movie This is 40 again this week. Man, I love that movie.

What made you happy this week?

Happy This Week

Is anyone else watching Astronaut Wives Club? I am loving this show. I love the retro clothes and food and houses. It’s a very cool show.

I’m a third of the way done with radiation!

I had the most wonderful day at the spa on Tuesday. It’s a program for people going through cancer treatment and they totally spoil you the whole day. I had a whirlpool bath, a massage, a facial, a mani and pedi, a haircut (LOL! She buzzed my incoming hair to even it up!) and scalp massage and then they did my makeup. It was such an amazing day.

I went out to dinner with my work friends on Wednesday. It was so nice to catch up and see them all. I miss eating lunch with them.

I had another great golf night with my BFF and her family.

My friend, Kathy, made us a delicious dinner this week. Thank you!

My Mom, the kids and I are going to Frankenmuth for the weekend. We are all so excited to get away and have some fun.

What made you happy this week?

It Doesn’t Get Easier

Back in January, when things weren’t going so well for Olivia at school, we made an appointment with a therapist to see if Olivia has autism on top of Cri du Chat syndrome. She went through some testing, we answered many, many questions, the school filled out forms and we just got the results this week.

She doesn’t have autism.

The label really didn’t matter to us at all. We just truly thought she might also have this dual diagnosis and wanted to make sure she was getting everything she needed.

Hearing the report was awful. I struggled to hold it together as the therapist was saying things like “severely mentally disabled” and “40 IQ” and “toddler behavior”, etc. It’s not the therapist’s fault but it’s never, ever easy to hear those words about your child. I know all of these things about Olivia, I live it every day, but seeing it on paper and hearing it out loud from a professional is a very different animal.

When we get these reports and recommendations, I always feel overwhelmed. I constantly feel like I should be doing more for Olivia. I feel as though I need to quit my job and devote myself 100% to her and what she needs. I feel like she needs more therapy, more interactions, more everything. That’s always my initial response. But then I remember a conversation Matt and I had 14 years ago when we decided it was more important for Olivia to be a kid, and for our family to be a family, rather than putting Olivia, and us, through hours of therapy and groups that may not even help her. Let me be clear, this was what we decided for our family and we are not saying it’s what you should do or judging others for how they handle their situation. We decided that Olivia being part of our regular family life and doing what she likes and wants to do was what we would focus on. She would detest going to therapy after school. In fact, she’s so stubborn, she probably wouldn’t get anything out of it because she’d be so mad she was there instead of at home with us in her pajamas. But I still feel like I should be doing more. Always.

Having a child with special needs is difficult. It just is. You think as they get older it will get easier, and in some ways it does, but in so many ways it gets harder. The reality of their diagnosis and what their life is like really sets in. The reality of the fact that you don’t get a break, that you can’t fix it, that she won’t outgrow it really sets in. The reality of life after high school, of trying to fit into the community in some way really sets in.

One really awesome thing that came out of meeting with this therapist was that she is well-known for her behavior therapies including potty training kids with special needs. She feels there is no reason why Olivia can’t be successful at potty training. We have thought this for years but can’t seem to find the right “system” that works for Olivia. We are so hopeful that this behavior training will finally be the one that works for Olivia. Fingers crossed!

To all of you out there who have kids with special needs, know that I get it. It’s never easy to hear those reports describe your child who you love so fiercely. I remind myself that she is my Olivia and she is perfect in her own way and, most importantly, she is so very happy and loved.

Cancer Chronicles VIII: How I’m Doing

I’m getting really frustrated when well-meaning people think I’m done with treatment just because I’m done with the really bad weekly chemo. My husband is even one of those people! I am far from done and right now I’m really struggling with the long road ahead. March 2016 seems SO FAR away and that’s not even the end, really. But it’s the finish line I’m focusing on for now.

I started daily radiation this week. It’s a giant pain in the ass but my symptoms haven’t been too bad yet. Most of the time your symptoms don’t reveal themselves for a couple of weeks. I’m tired (what else is new?) and I’m a little sore in the area that’s getting treatment. Not too bad and not sick like I have the flu which is a blessing. But it’s still a giant pain to go to the hospital every single day at 8:30 a.m. and get scorched. I’m very thankful I’m able to have this done over the summer because I think I’d lose my mind if I had to go teach all day and then go to the hospital for treatment each day. Silver linings, right? Three down and 18 to go!

I had my first every-three-week chemo last week. It wasn’t bad at all. I was definitely exhausted the day of and the day after, but not sick which was good. I have approximately 14 of those left.

Unfortunately, because I was so overwhelmed with paperwork and info at the beginning, my genetics testing was forgotten about and now I can’t get in to see that doctor until September. It is very unlikely that I have the gene that causes breast cancer, but then again it’s rare that I have cancer in the first place! So I’m having the test. If it comes back positive, that will mean more surgery and worry for Olivia. I’m not even worrying about that for now. Or I should say I’m trying not to worry about that for now.

There are so many appointments it’s ridiculous. I don’t even want to go to the dentist because it’s one more flipping appointment to go to.

I’m basically in chemically-induced menopause and it sucks. There’s no other way to say it. I was already up 10 lbs. over where I like to be when I started all of this nonsense (thank you stress!) and now, thanks to chemo and menopause, I’ve gained another 10 lbs. Those who know me know I’m freaking out right now, right? I’ve been working out and eating super healthy and…haven’t lost an ounce. Matt’s new hashtag for me is #yourbodyholdsontocalorieslikeamotherfucker and it’s fitting. It makes me laugh too, which I need right now. I’m bald and fat and feeling really awesome (that’s the sarcasm font in case you don’t have that on your computer). The last six months have just been a ball of fun. I get online to look up if what is happening is normal…because who the hell GAINS weight on chemo when you’re basically sick all the time and not eating? Turns out it’s very normal. And, according to a lot of people online, it only gets worse when you add in the Tamoxifen that I’ll be taking for the next 5-10 years. But I’m trying not to freak out. At least I won’t be bald forever…

I feel like an asshole because I should just be thankful that they caught it early and my prognosis is good. And I am thankful. Thankful and frustrated.

Can you tell I’m tired and frustrated and just want to be back to normal? I’m starting to feel like that Tiffany is gone and this new one is who I’m stuck with. Luckily, even though this one is fat and bald, she’s still smiling and trying to find the joy and positive in each and every day. I guess that will have to do for now.

More Summer Reads!

I’ve been loving being able to read so many books this summer. It has always been my love and favorite way to spend time…and it still is today! I can remember so vividly going to the library as a kid and picking out new books to read. When we moved to Sylvania from Dundee, I couldn’t believe how big and fancy the library was!! It was super exciting. I still love going to the library and getting a new book. It’s one of Olivia’s favorite things to do too.

The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones

This was a great book. I read it quickly and couldn’t wait to get back to it when I was doing other things. That’s the sign of a great book, right? It’s the story of Susanna, a mother and unhappy wife, whose wild sister, Ronnie, goes missing in their small town. The author does a fantastic job of weaving a bevy of subplots together into this one major plot. Susanna is the main character and is joined by Tony, a detective and former crush of Susanna’s in high school; Ronnie, the wild sister who has gone missing; Emily, Susanna’s 13-year-old student who finds herself in the middle of this mess; Christopher, the new boy in town who is connected to Emily; Wyatt, the aging blue collar worker who gets pranked by his younger coworkers and Sarah, the nurse who falls in love with Wyatt. The main plot is not anything extraordinary but the subplots and the connection between all of the characters is what makes the story so good.

Found by Harlan Coben

This is book three in the Mickey Bolitar YA series by Coben. I worship Coben and always enjoy his books. I really enjoy YA novels too and this series is fantastic. I would definitely start with book one and two or else you’ll be very confused! This time around Mickey, Ema, Spoon and Rachel are trying to figure out if Mickey’s Dad is indeed still alive, while trying to figure out the connection between the bullies on Mickey’s basketball team and Ema’s new online boyfriend. The story is exciting and the ending is perfect! It left you wanting more and here’s hoping Coben doesn’t take too long to write the next one!

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

I have so many books on my Pinterest page (which is where I keep track of all of the books I want to read) that I can’t even remember where I heard about them in the first place. This is one of those books. It was so unique and thrilling and kind of gruesome and I loved it. The main premise is that there is a time-traveling serial killer of women and one of his victims lived and is trying to solve her case. Sounds crazy, right? It’s not! The author did such a great job of telling the story that it isn’t weird or confusing at all. At least not to me. Kirby is the only survivor of Harper’s multi-generational killing spree. She is now a journalism student who is trying to solve her own almost-murder. She finds strange clues that suggest her killer is connected to murders from decades ago…but how can that be? I love finding books that are original because I’ve read so many books that sometimes I can figure them out pretty easily and get bored. This is definitely unique! It’s a little scary and gruesome so maybe save it for when you’re not alone.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

This book is short which is one of the reasons why I finished it. It was one of those books that you keep reading because you think something’s going to happen…and then nothing really happens. But the marriage of Jodi and Todd, which is the main focus of the book, is oddly fascinating because it’s so twisted and messed up, but at the same time you understand that it works for the two of them. Todd is a habitual philanderer and Jodi knows it. She’s almost OK with it in a way. She is a part-time therapist and enjoys the life Todd provides. When Todd gets involved with a much younger woman in a serious way, Jodi decides she’s had enough. I made my BFF read it to see what she thought and she felt the same way. The book was intriguing, and you wanted to finish it, but the ending was so anti-climactic. I’m going to say pass on this one.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I loved, loved, loved Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars, and wanted to read the rest of his books but forgot about them until I saw this one on the shelf at the library. I will never understand how Green can write so well as a teenager, as a girl, as so many different characters all at once and do it so genuinely. His character development is so good too. You really start to care about each one. It’s fascinating to me. This story follows Miles, a.k.a. Pudge, as he begins a new adventure at a boarding school. He desires the “next great perhaps” and, after being ostracized at his current school, decides his father’s alma mater is the place to be. His roommate, the Colonel, proves to be a wonderful friend and partner in crime. Alaska is the stunning girl across the hall who steals Pudge’s heart. The chapters are titled “100 days before”, “80 days before”, etc., so you know it is leading up to some major event. I can’t tell you what it is without spoiling it! It’s really very good. Green captures the teenage mind and angst and confusion perfectly.

Right now I’m reading a Kindle freebie, Crooked Little Lies, and I find myself skimming a lot. Bummer. Next up is Finders Keepers by Stephen King. What are you reading?