Monday, March 14, 2016


Every month, I get to attend a breast cancer support group meeting through a really neat organization called "Lifting Hearts," right here in Utah County. They even provide free retreats for cancer patients where they pamper current patients and survivors, offer education, encouragement, and an environment of sisterhood. It's pretty awesome. Anyway, at our meeting this last Thursday I brought hummus (one of my favorite healthy snacks,) and a bunch of the ladies wanted my recipe. So this post is all about sharing it!
I love cooking and baking and food. I love playing with recipes. So, unfortunately, sharing a recipe isn't always as easy as a list and directions! I made my hummus Thursday night to taste. I don't have a clue what my measurements of most of the ingredients were! But, here's a basic recipe, and then I'll explain some of the alterations I made.


2 cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/4 to 1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
I know, I know, it's not very precise. In fact, I probably put closer to a tablespoon of lemon juice and garlic. Cause you know, I love them. Anyway -
Almost drain one of the cans. I just use the lid to quickly get most of the water out of the beans/peas, leaving about a tablespoon of liquid in the bottom. I dump both cans (the other full of the liquid) in my Blendtec blender. A powerful motor is a must for hummus, so if you don't have a great blender, use a food processor. Then I add the lower limit of the rest of the ingredients, and keep adding more of whatever I think it needs after I blend it up. I blend mine a lot, because I like it smooth. This works really well with making it to taste, because while I wash the spoon, I'm blending it again.

Let's talk about the tahini for a minute. Tahini is listed as optional in most hummus recipes, but in my opinion, it is a must. You can find tahini (which is paste made out of sesame seeds) at the local grocery store. Seriously, Macey's is where I got mine here, but I found some at Kroger in Georgia. It can be difficult to locate, so I recommend asking a clerk to help you find it. It's also the most expensive part of the hummus.
As you make hummus, you can try adding in different flavors. Leave the cumin out. Leave the garlic out. Try roasted red pepper. Try paprika. Greek yogurt. Olives. Avocados. Cheese. The possibilities go on and on, though I recommend only trying one new ingredient at a time. I hope you enjoy making hummus, too!

"Exercise IS your medicine."

If you've read my last post, then you already know my Nurse Practitioner told me that exercise is my medicine in response to hearing that I hadn't noticed any side-effects from the Tamoxifen (daily chemotherapy pill that supresses female hormone production). I've also previously posted about my love for Yoga, and the gym and how they threw me a Zumba party fund-raiser. But what most people do not know (including the Nurse) is how very true this statement is.
Exercise IS my medicine.
I want to shift gears for a little bit and write about some difficult things, so you will know my deep-dark-dirty secret. I am not as nauseatingly happy as I appear. At least, not always. The problem is, I am normally such an exuberantly happy, bubbly person, that when I'm feeling down I act more like just a normal person. My deepest depressions still appear to other people as though I am a healthy, well-functioning, happy human being. But I'm not. Depression can be as evil and pernicious as cancer. I shared a bit of this story on my post titled "The Gym", but I'm going to get into some of the nitty-gritty today.
Back when I was depressed, I would load the kids into my van, and drive around. We spent hours doing this, week after week. I'd tell myself "You're so lucky that you aren't living in this van," and then I'd think "but we could, if we had to." I'd look at all the homes for sale or for rent, and cry. I'd see the families living just down the street from us, or in the next town, in their beautiful homes, and I'd feel a deep-seated envy. The bad kind of envy that the Bible warns about. The kind that says "Why do they deserve that, and I don't?" I'd fantasize about stealing things that 'those people' wouldn't even notice were missing. I wanted to share some of the pain I was feeling by spreading it to others. I'd dream about squatting in a residence, and what that would be like.I'd think "Gee, I wish we could be driving in the canyons." Then I wouldn't have to look at all the wealth surrounding me that I was not a part of. I could just get back to nature, and enjoy the beauty of the Earth that our Father in Heaven gave us.
But no. That was the worst thing I could do, and I knew it. I knew it all the way down in my core, because I also fantasized about driving off of one of those beautiful cliffs will all the kids in the van with me. This wasn't an occasional thought, either. It was one that recurred often. I knew it would hurt. I knew it would cause heartache and pain to our family and friends. But I also knew it would end the pain I was in. That it would draw attention to the crazy situation that has lead us to this point in our lives where not only do we have mountains of debt, my husband has this amazing education that he can't use. Where we did all the sacrifices, passed the tests, all to have the opportunity to help other people, only to be denied the last step that would allow all of this to actually benefit the people who would have been my husband's patients. Yeah. He's been pretty depressed, too, so it's not surprising he didn't notice my depression and send me in for help.
Honestly, the day I realized I was in trouble beyond what I could handle was when I was trying to apply for some aid. I couldn't fill out a form on the computer. I tried. My sister-in-law babysat the kids for me so that I could fill it out without interruption. I sat at the computer for two hours crying, and didn't get past filling in our names. We needed this help, and yet, I couldn't ask for it. There was something wrong. I knew I was depressed, but I also knew that it went beyond that because I could no longer even take the steps necessary to help myself or my family. That was when I went and saw the Doctor. He explained to me how the stress I had been under for so many years had finally caused a chemical imbalance in my brain, and how I wouldn't be able to 'snap out of it' on my own. It would take medication. He was so right. After several months of the medicine, I was ready to join the gym. After several months of going to the gym, I was ready to stop taking the medicine. Many (if not most) cancer patients suffer from depression after their diagnosis. For me, it woke me up out of my depression further than either medicine or the gym. It made me re-evaluate my life. It made me grateful for each and every day. But living it every day isn't easy. That's where the gym being my medicine comes back in. It reminds me, everyday, to be thankful for my body. To be thankful for the Doctors, nurses, and countless others who have helped me and successfully treated my cancer. It reminds me of all the people who love and support me. Exercise is truly a miracle drug.
Not only do I reap the benefits of physical fitness, I've also made amazing friends at the gym!
I never did end up stealing anything, or squatting, or hurting myself or my children. In fact, people have stolen from us on more than one occasion. Perhaps they were desperate when they stole the seat covers that protected my van's seats from the children's car-seats and spills. Perhaps they were thoughtless when they stole my daughter's scooter, or cruel and bitter when they stole Christmas presents from the trunk of the car. Perhaps it doesn't matter. I forgive them. I pray for them. I hope their situation is not as desperate as I imagine it could be. In general, I've been able to banish most of the envy. It creeps up and blind-sides me every once in awhile, and I have to pray and work through the emotions to let it go all over again.
Do you know how good you have it?
Do I?
I know there are far worse circumstances than our own. I know most people are the same. They know that others have it far worse than they do. And yet we all let things rob us of our happiness. We let worries consume us. We choose to wallow in self-pity. We know the solution to these problems. Giving our cares to God. Serving our fellow men. Taking good care of what we have been blessed with, and being grateful for it. We can choose happiness, and as someone who has chosen both sides: unhappiness and happiness, I know that choosing happiness is the better side. I testify that God wants us to choose happiness, and that a lot of what we are here to learn in this life revolves around learning how to choose happiness, and all the virtues that go along with it.
I am grateful for my cancer. I am grateful for my husband's education. I am grateful for his desire to help patients. I am grateful for our support system. I am trying to be grateful for our circumstances, but until I can be grateful for them, I will choose to be happy despite them.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The "End" of Treatment and Remission

What can I say about chemotherapy that you don't already know or suspect? I know people were expecting a post long ago about my progress, but if you don't have anything good to say.... ;) No, actually, I do have good things to say, so here goes:
#1. For me, personally, being pregnant was a more difficult experience than the chemo.
#2. Physical fitness makes dealing with health problems MUCH easier.
#3. Water parks can be fun for the whole family, unless you're recovering from chemo.
Ha ha. No really, I should have known better than traveling 6 hours from home for a family reunion right after my last chemo treatment. I spent the whole reunion in bed, sleeping, and then when it came time for the last day and fun at the water park? I was so sick I made everyone leave early. We drove straight home from the park, and it was NOT a good trip for me. Once we got home, I climbed straight into bed. And puked all over me and the bed and everywhere. And my husband cleaned up everything by himself from both my sick and the trip, and he didn't bat an eye. Yes, he loves me. The next day I had my check up, and they gave me GLORIOUS IV fluids. And scheduled me for more the next day! I felt SO much better after the fluids.
6 weeks later, in the middle of August, I went in for surgery to remove more tissue from where the pathology reports indicated I had some DCIS remaining. Technically, it was "Excision of a deep malignant breast tumor..." which makes it sound way scarier. The procedure wasn't very long or difficult, meaning my recovery period was about two weeks, and I could no longer do push-ups. Again. But the best part was when I went in for my follow-up. "Have you heard?" the Nurse Practitioner asked me as she entered the room. "Your pathology report just came in, it was cancer-free!" She printed off the report for me. It reads "Neither residual invasive carcinoma nor ductal carcinoma in situ is observed." Those crazy poisonous chemo treatments totally did their job and killed my cancer! Then, we pulled more tissue out on top of that, so I feel pretty good about being in remission, and especially about being "done" with treatment! Are you wondering about the quotation marks? Well, I am still taking a daily chemotherapy pill called Tamoxifen.
It's a lovely drug that suppresses my body's ability to make estrogen/progesterone and gives most people unfortunate side-effects. I have yet to notice those. The Nurse Practitioner suspects my lack of side-effects is due to my physical activity. She told me "Exercise, for you, IS your medicine." So at least I can dump some of the guilt I put on myself for spending so much time working out instead of being home!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hair-shaving Party!!!

     So, true to cancer forum predictions, my hair started to fall out around day 14 after treatment.
At the hospital for an echo-cardiogram,
day 15 after treatment.
Truthfully, my first experience with the hair loss was the evening of day 13. I reached up and tested my hair, and painlessly came away with a pinch of 12-15 hairs. Yikes! I giggled nervously as I showed my husband and sprinkled them on the carpet. My expected response of tears was suddenly forestalled when my three-year-old reached over, grabbed twice as much hair than I had just pulled out of my head, and laughed maniacally as she sprinkled it in my upturned face. I was trying to see how much she grabbed when she let it go and it was all over me! She honestly thought it was hilarious that mommy's hair was coming out! We went to bed, and I was relieved when my pillow wasn't covered in hair the next morning. However, three different times during the next day, if I was distracted by homework (or Facebook or whatever,) baby girl would reach over and yank out another handful of hair! I tried to get mad at her, honestly I did, but she laughed and giggled each and every time she did it. Stinking-cute spoiled little angel.
     By Saturday (day 16) morning I started seeing the damage on my pillow. By the afternoon I decided I'd had enough of the mess, and I scheduled a head-shaving party by texting a few friends and my family. Sunday I showed off my nifty trick to some kids at church in Primary. Some of them appreciated it, one of them did NOT. Oh boy, sorry honey!
     After church, I took a nap in the backyard so the kids would play outside. It was so nice to curl up in two cancer quilts in the sun! When I woke up, I asked my five-year-old son if he wanted to try and pull some of mommy's hair out, because we were an hour away from the party, so why not?
     To my surprise, his handful was MUCH larger than his sister's, and I knew he'd left me with a pretty decent bald spot in the middle of my mohawk! We chased around the yard for awhile, he kept trying to get another handful, and I kept tickling him.
     By 4:00 we were at Relik Salon in Orem where my sister-in-law, Nateal, works. We brought cheese squares, crackers, a veggie tray, and brownies. We waited the customary fifteen minutes or so for everyone to arrive, and then I gave anybody who wanted a chance to pull some of my hair out. Yes, kind of creepy. But in that fascinating way. Then Nateal taught my children how to use the clippers, and if they wanted to, they gave them a try on my head. Shane took a middle stripe out of my mohawk, and if I hadn't been laughing so hard I would have cried! It didn't take long once the clippers were safely back in Nateal's experienced hands. The hair loss looked pretty funny up close, I'm not sure if anyone got a picture that showed how funny the little lines and spots of baldness looked.

Unfortunately, my nephew was not thrilled
about joining the head-shaving. 
     Pretty soon, my brother's head was shaved, my twin sisters' panels done, my brother-in-law's, my other brother, my nephew... the hair just kept hitting the floor.
     When it was my dad's turn, they told me I should be the one to cut his hair. That's when I finally cried. I didn't want anyone to cut their hair, but they all wanted to show support for me. My dad has cancer, but won't need chemo. There was something just really sad to me about cutting his hair off for my cancer.
     Anyway, then Nateal had a panel, courtesy of her husband (she trusted him with the clippers?!), and my baby girl came up to me and said "Mommy, I want a haircut, too!" "Really? You want just a little cut off?" "No! I want it like this..." and she motioned and indicated my head. "No, honey, we are not shaving all your hair off."
     She wandered off for a bit and came back later. "Please Mommy? I won't even cry. I promise!" She is super animated when she talks, and uses excellent hand motions and all. I caved in and let her get hers done like her Aunts'. I cried a little then, too.
     Another sister-in-law took the chair, and two hours after we started we were finally done and ready to take pictures of all the baldies - including the little niece who just has barely any hair because she's a tow-headed little blondie.
     In all, twelve of us had something shaved.
I had two dear friends in attendance. One wore a scarf in her hair in a show of support, and the other brought me a bag of M&Ms with a super cute poem. Three additional family members and friends who don't live near us sent me pictures of their head-shaving, as well. It was quite the party, one I don't think any of us will ever forget.
     Another friend shared this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit, and I just had to steal it for the occasion:
     He said, "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

     If I wasn't Real before, cancer is the sure-fire way to make it happen. I am surprised at how little my baldness bothers me. I don't mind covering my head in public to make others more comfortable (and it is a lot warmer) but you may also spot me happily bare-headed in the grocery store, or cheerfully explaining my hair loss to a child. I also have no reservations about posting pics online. Baldness has always strangely fascinated me, so if you share in that fascination please forgive my grainy pictures. I'm sure my sister will take some fantastic ones for me soon.
The day after.
I figured about 40% of it was gone.

2 days after

Can you tell I sat out in the sun for 15 minutes with suntan oil on my head?
I plan on swimming with the kids this summer. I don't want to accidentally get a sunburn, so I'm going to slowly expose my scalp to the sun each day. 
Can you imagine if I hadn't cut it and just let this much... come out? 
The patchiness is normal, and it's why most people choose to cover their head.
The Dr. told me not to "Bic it", since your scalp is sensitive,
and one mis-swipe and you've opened yourself up for an infection.
     I'm so grateful for my support network. I can't even thank everyone who has made a difference, because it would be in the hundreds. People are constantly checking in on me, asking how they can help, opening up with me, sharing their feelings and love, sending me gifts, making me laugh, and saving my life. Do you really wonder why I'm so happy when I've been constantly surrounded with, buoyed up by, and inundated with love? I love you all, too! <3

Friday, April 17, 2015

Removal of my purple Lego (Portacath Removal)

     Here I sit in the hospital again. Unscheduled. AND I missed school! GRRR!
So my port got infected. Who knows how! It happens to all surgeons eventually, but it hadn't happened to one of my surgeon's patients in so long, she was super disappointed. I tried to reassure her - "Hey, if it's going to happen to someone, it might as well happen to your most positive patient, right?!" I got her to agree, but not cheer up. :( Just to be clear, while blood infections are somewhat common, pocket infections like mine are extremely rare (like 5%), and they don't always know why they occur.
     Anyway, as I had previously posted, my port placement went really, really well. So almost a week later when it started appearing irritated and causing me pain, I was surprised. It just kept getting worse. I saw the plastic surgeon on Tuesday to get my expanders filled - but there was no way they were going near the site of my port with a needle. He took a picture and sent it right over to Dr. T. We were in touch with her office, with a list of symptoms to watch for as I headed home with a prescription for antibiotics. 
     On Thursday I had my Nadir appointment (to check how my body responded to the chemo, it's the low point of my immune system), and Dr. C - my oncologist's partner - examined it and said the same things: we don't know if it's an infection, it sure looks irritated, watch for any sign of fever, etc. 
     I found myself popping more and more pain pills, and getting less and less sleep. By Sunday evening we were pretty certain there was a problem, but since I still wasn't running any fevers, we knew I could wait until Monday morning to contact the Doc. This proved harder (and easier) than I had thought - I could not sleep due to the pain I was in, and finally, FINALLY crashed around 7 in the morning with plans to wake up and call Doctor T's office at 9. 

From Friday night to Monday morning
     I'm so glad that the nurse called and woke me up to check on how I was doing at 9:30! I told her (groggily) that things were definitely worse. She gave me a phone number to text a picture to Dr. T, who was in surgery all day. During class, I received phone calls from both the nurse and the hospital to schedule surgery to remove the port, and by 5:00 we were at the hospital. It turns out it was a good thing I got a late start to my day because I hadn't had lunch, and they were able to put me under anesthesia by 6:00 to remove it. Last night was a bit rough as they pumped me with IV antibiotics and the pain subsided through the night, but I'm feeling a LOT better all ready. Dr. T will come by in a couple of hours to repack my site, and hopefully I'll be home in time for class tonight! I found this really awesome site for more information about these kinds of infections -

Notice how much less irritated my
skin is about 20 hours after surgery.

Dr. T. changing my wound dressing. 
    It's been a few more days since I wrote this. We have to re-pack my wound every day, and it hurts! Things have been going a little better, although my body finally let me know it needed some serious rest today. I am going to bed early. I delayed my post so I could add some more pics from the hospital. Thanks to my mom for using a dry-erase marker... I am STILL wearing the lines!
Dr. Tittensor and I sans beauty supplies. She humored me despite a LONG day of surgery. :)
     My brother-in-law came to visit me the morning after my surgery. He works in the hospital, so he stopped in after change of shift. He's been going through some tough times. Poor guy ended up with a lecture from me. I can't help but feel like the conversation was engineered by grand design. So, to Craig - if all of the pain from the infection and surgery were designed so that we could talk: IT WAS WORTH IT. YOU are worth it. Don't give up on yourself. You are stronger than you think, but it has to be YOUR choice. 
     There I go, lecturing again. I just love him, and want him to be happy. Life doesn't always turn out the way we think it will, but there is a point to all of it. Yes, life hurts. Yes, sometimes it feels like we have been betrayed when God takes us on a path that will refine us. Don't lose track of the big picture! Mortality can blind us! I've been promised that if I will read the scriptures, I will be able to see the big picture and keep it in mind. It makes a world of difference in how I handle trials. I pray that Craig will be able to find the healing he so desperately needs. His wounds are deep, but the atonement is deeper. There's a reason Christ is referred to as the master physician.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Portacath, First Chemo treatment

Bard Power Port
My purple Lego
     "How are your veins?" I hate this question! My veins are a combination of responses! They can be great. I can be an easy stick. My veins can also roll, They tend to be shallow. They infiltrate. They hold firm. They bruise. They get irritated. So when the oncologist  asked with reference toward my impending chemo, I was grateful for my husband's presence. He had no problem telling the Doctor that my veins have given me a lot of trouble at times, but not always. Dr. R. reviewed my chart, and stated "Well, you've had a double mastectomy, and most of the time when we deal with those, we usually recommend a port anyway. How would you feel about a port?" No digging for my veins? No risk of infiltration (when the medicine ends up in your arm instead of in your vein)? "Sign me up!"
     When I spoke with my General Surgeon again, she showed me the port that would be placed under my skin, and explained a little about the procedure. "What kind of recovery will I be looking at?" I asked. "Nothing compared to what you've already been through!" She happily replied. But I was like, "What?! It can be in the same sentence, though?!" Yikes. I have class the week of my port placement. I want to go to class. I need to go to class. We went home from that appointment, and a week or so passed. My husband's mom contacted me inquiring about the port placement. "Are you sure you want to get it the day before you start chemotherapy? My niece's port has been painful and uncomfortable. She says it's taken days to ignore the pain from it..."
See those cool palpation points? That makes the port like a lego brick.
Yup. I have a purple Lego under my skin.
     Yikes. I thought this was no big deal! Like, it's just a catheter like an IV being place inside your body with this little triangle, no biggie, right? So I got online on the cancer forums and started reading about port placements. SIGH. GROAN. I read about horror story after horror story. Most people get their port at the same time as another procedure, so they don't know how much pain was due to the one or the other. Many are on the forum with the explicit purpose of stating how terrible their pain is, and nobody warned them, and has anyone else experienced shooting pains up their necks three days later that can't be controlled with medicine and leaves them in tears and I HAVE SCHOOL TO ATTEND!!! LOL!
     But the placement is scheduled, and quickly approaching, and there is no better date to insert this device into my body, so I attend an earlier section of one of my classes on Wednesday, and we head to the hospital. The doctor is a little behind, so after being confined in the pre-op room with my hubby (who likes to torture me by offering me food and drinks that he knows I cannot have) for more than an hour I am more than ready for the procedure to start.
Since operating rooms make me want to dance,
I wonder if I missed my calling in life? ;)
     I wake up in the recovery room and there are some of the same nurses from the last time I was in this room. Yeah! Let's party! "Hey, do you remember me?" I ask, because people sometimes don't anymore with the punk haircut. "I think I do," says one nurse, "I seem to remember dancing with you the last time you were here." "Yup, that's me, you guys should be dancing. Wouldn't life be better if we all took a little time to dance at work?" Yeah. I'm telling you, anesthesia makes me a party in a hospital gown. I didn't take ONE SINGLE LORTAB for my port placement. I went to class, came home, went to bed, got up, went to chemo, came home, went to class, went to bed, etc.... My portacath has been relatively painless. Thank goodness for the small favors, huh? Spoiler, I didn't publish this post and have re-evaluated my recovery.
Chemotherapy - the ultimate depilatory
Yeah, and don't even get me started on what the... why
this... picture is so crazy wrong. Hair removal and
flowers and near nudity and floating in sunsets. GAG.
     So Thursday we drop the kids off at various sitters houses, and head off for the hospital again. As the medial assistant leads me back through the suites I say to her "So, I understand you're here to offer me the most expensive depilatory on the market." She stumbles for a minute and says "...yes, chemo is very expensive..." with that kind of question in her voice that wonders if she's responding correctly. I suppress a sigh. I had hoped we'd start off the day with some laughter! Since my chemo was the very next day after port placement, the surgeon left the needle in for the chemo nurses. Yay! It takes awhile before they begin my treatment, and three different people ask me "Are you ready?" To which I reply or imagine replying things like "Hook me up!" "Let's do it!" "Let's get the ball rolling!" "No, I'm here and ready to go, and am now going to lecture you all about why chemo is a bad idea for treating my breast cancer..." I'm sure if I had more sarcasm in my body it could have come pouring out to great effect. Unfortunately, sarcasm usually occurs to me after a situation has concluded. I would be way funnier in real life if I had sarcastic bones in my body. Maybe. I can dream, right?!

   The pre-drugs (anti-emetic and steroid) are no big deal. The first chemo drug makes me queasy. The second makes me uneasy. We don't have to stop my treatment once. I ask my husband for a coke, and for crackers or nuts during the treatments to help with the nausea. I had brought a coconut water with me, which I mixed with the Coke. This seems like it should cause lightning strikes due to the sheer monstrosity of my blasphemy, but hey, I'm getting poisoned by medical professionals, so I guess it all works out somehow. By the time the kids are going to be getting home from school, we are done and on our way home. Just like the nurse said, the best way to describe how the chemo feels is not very easy to communicate. I feel a little "off" or "uneasy".
     I feel uncomfortable inside. I feel tired. The queasiness isn't quite like morning sickness. It sits higher in my digestive tract. It's lighter than morning sickness as well. I suspect by my next treatment that will be less true. I took some compazine in the afternoon to ease the queasiness, and dragged my mom out walking with me because the nausea subsides as I walk. I slept fine the first night, but only after I took a lorazepam the Doc and given me. I was up with my littlest on the couch watching a show and eating lemon drops one moment, and collecting my drool in my hand and dragging her to bed the next! Yuck! LOL, but by the next morning I was doing pretty well again. I took another compazine, and we were off and running for the entire day. I went to bed the next night around 10:00 pm or so, and woke up at 3:00 pm the next afternoon! I could tell I'd slept in, but honestly, I expected it to be ten or eleven in the morning when I got up. It was rather unsettling to sleep that long and not realize that I had been so out of it for so long. Thank goodness with it being Saturday my parents and sister and daughter all took turns taking care of the kids!
     Since then, my days (and especially nights) have been rather yucky. Like, stay near the bathroom yucky that ain't no one, no how, ever gonna' read about that kind of yucky, yucky. Not fun.
     I was supposed to get my expanders filled today, but even my mom didn't like the way my port looked this morning. By the time I saw Dr. J's Nurse Practitioner she said "I don't think we want to get anywhere near that thing with a needle right now." It's been hurting, too! Grr. I was so okay with not taking any pain control for the port placement, but here I am, nearly a week post-op, and I took one tonight.
I have to leave the steri-strips on until they fall off. Notice how the skin around
my port looks angry at me? And you can see the redness as it extends up the
catheter. What I don't have a clue about are all the red spots. They must be like
"We're mad, too, cause the purple Lego should have been rainbow colors.
     We're not certain it's infected, in fact, we're rather assuming it's not infected, but just to be on the safe side I'm on antibiotics. Funny, I had noticed it was getting more and more tender each day rather than less painful, but the general yuckiness of the chemo convinced me not to get too concerned. Let's hope tomorrow will find my skin looking less bruised, angry, or whatever the heck it is trying to communicate. We'll go for calm. Calm skin. And maybe some yoga... I haven't made it back to the gym since the port placement, and my husband keeps telling me it's not going to happen if my body isn't up for it. Well, "Come on, body! We need this, so deal with the trauma!"
     Oh, one additional note - everyone at Dr. J's office LOVED MY HAIR today! They made me feel so special and pretty and tough and punk and YES, I CAN KICK CANCER'S TRASH. YES. I. CAN.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Karma, Prayers, and Pink Cowgirl Boots

     Yesterday after my first class I went to the restroom in the CS building at UVU. I found the cutest pair of sunglasses sitting on the sink. No one was around. I felt the slightest temptation to claim them, but did what I always do in these situations. I hunted around until I found the lost and found! I had some errands to run after class. Specifically, I wanted to buy some Biotene products in preparation for the chemo, as recommended by my nurse. My sister had given me a Target gift card during my stay in the hospital, and it was time for me to use it. My youngest had given me a bad time all day, but I knew if I was going to go to Target before chemo started, it had to be between classes while I was still in Orem.
Mouth sores are a common side effect of
my chemo drugs, products like biotene
help prevent and reduce symptoms.
     I looked at scarves. I couldn't justify the cost, especially because I have another gift card from friends waiting to be used at a shop that specializes in cancer products. I looked at sunglasses (after all, those ones in the bathroom were cute, and I could probably use another pair,) but knew that was way down on the list of things I'd like to get. I headed toward the pharmacy and walked through the girls department. Hello, they're really selling a cute frilly size 3T skirt for $3.98 on the clearance rack? How could I pass that up? I picked up some band-aids on clearance, some deodorant for my 13 year-old since she had run out, and selected Biotene toothpaste, mouthwash, and some dry mouth lozenges.
     I don't go shopping very often, since we don't have money to spend. I try to imagine spending four times what the price tags list for things, because by the time we pay back our student loans that is how much we will repay for every dollar we borrowed. At this point that is likely to be a gross underestimate with our extra years of limbo and not being able to pay on our student loans. You get the idea. Shopping isn't very fun when it comes with strings attached, and I add pressure on myself for spending gifts from people wisely.
This picture does not do these boots justice!
They are adorable!
     I had promised my little one sunglasses, so we went to the toddler's department and picked some out for her. They are her first pair, and I hope they last for several years. On a whim, I decided to browse the children's shoes. For months I have been trying to find affordable cowgirl boots for my three-year-old. I bought her last pair of cowgirl boots a size too big, and she wore them five out of seven days a week, until they no longer fit her! When I had to take them away and hide them so she didn't ruin her feet, she made me promise that her new boots would be P-I-N-K. I didn't realize they would be so hard to find at a price I'd be willing to pay, but there they were, on Target's shelf! $24.99 and 20% off! Now that is the high end of what I'm willing to pay, but they were less than half the price of any I've found over the last three months (yes, I've been looking since before Christmas).
Target can replace lost or stolen gift cards
with purchase information or the gift
card number. My sister has reported it and
they will send a replacement.
     I skipped up toward the registers excited to be done with our trip and then I discovered that WE HAVE LOST THE GIFT CARD. Baby girl was throwing a fit, and to mollify her I made a mommy mistake. I let her hold the 'money'. She dropped the card somewhere in the store. I ran to the service desk, "Has anyone turned a gift card in?" "No." I re-traced my steps, my heart in my stomach. Nothing. I said a prayer, and retraced my steps more slowly, with tears starting to flow, and desperation and anger as well. I had just turned in something valuable that someone else had lost, and here was my repayment. Where was the karma? The good deed in return? I paid it forward! I asked my little one "Do you know where you lost it? I can't believe I let you hold it! I know better! And now someone has found it and taken it, and we will have to put everything back. We have to put your pink cowgirl boots back. We don't have enough money to pay for this stuff." And I kept looking. And a mother on the toothpaste aisle sensed my frantic despair, and asked if she could help me by being a second set of eyes. She helped to search my purse and I cried as I told her what had happened - including the reason for our trip.
 If you're the angel who helped me I'd love to send
you the replacement card Target is sending!
     She had her hands full herself, with a toddler and a beautiful little newborn. Target didn't have the product she came looking for. She insisted on paying for my selections. I tried to argue, but she insisted again. I volunteered to put back the unnecessary items. She said no. I told her I could cover whatever amount was over the amount I expected the gift card to cover. She said no. She told me "Just let me do this for you. I can do this, it's really okay." I cried and cried. I let her buy my products, and I thanked her. I asked for her phone number in case they can recover the gift card. She refused, saying should they recover it I should use it for whatever else I might need. I offered my blog address to her and let her know she will appear in it, and that right now what I have to give to others is my testimony.
Various gifts from before my double mastectomy
     This woman was an answer to my prayers. She is but one example of the many answers to my prayers I have been receiving. One example of the great kindnesses being extended to me on a regular basis. I don't know why there are times in life where it is difficult to receive answers to prayers, and why other times we get answers daily, but I know that these answers are not coincidences. They are all part of our Father's plan. He provides tender mercies, guidance, and comfort. He hears us, and He uses our faith to bless our lives and the lives of others.
Post surgical camisole provided by a friend.
     Thank you to the kind stranger who recognized a sister in distress. Thank you to the friends who have babysat my precious children. Thank you to those who have provided shoulders to cry on. Thank you to those who have sent meals, presents, cards, and treats. Thank you to those who have helped me clean my house, and to those who have visited me. Most of all, thank you for your prayers! I feel them. I feel the support and love from so many people, and even from people I haven't met yet, and it helps me keep my spirits high! I love you all, and hope you feel my love and gratitude.
Breast cancer quilt made by my cousin, pillows from Lifting Hearts - an organization that supports breast cancer survivors.

Tulips from my cousin - she sent front closure clothing for my recovery and more.
These are just a few examples of people's care and concern and kindness. 
There are more than I can list!