Monday, June 13, 2011

Moved!

In order to make this blog accessible from the computers in my school district, I have moved it to Wordpress. You can find it at In The Pink.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Celebrating Life

The finished product.
Yesterday was the 4 week anniversary of my having completed radiation.  What better way to celebrate than by marking an item of my Life Celebration list?

As you know I've written up a Life Celebration List (I'm sure you remember my aversion to calling it a Bucket List) of things I've always wanted to do but put off for one reason or another.

Some people, Joel Osteen is one I think, say that you should look for the positive in what comes your way. While finding something positive about having been diagnosed with cancer is an extremely difficult thing to do (even the most positive upbeat person would have difficulty making lemonade/lemon pie with those lemons) there are three positives that come quickly to mind.

First, I found out just how much I am loved.  My sense of self worth is not always what it should be, but the love and support of all my family and friends over the last several months have made me see things differently.

Second, I've come to the conclusion that while it is ok to be afraid (life is scary),  it's not ok to let fear rule your life. Sometimes, fear is just a bully that you have to stand up to - sometimes just standing up to your fear is enough to make it go away.  I'll be the first to admit it - I'm a Texas sized wimp, but my goal is to stand up to that bully and keep going. Many of the things on my Life Celebration List are things that I always wanted to do, but was too afraid or too convinced that I just couldn't do them. I'm not going to lie to you.  There are things on the list, that I'm not too sure I can accomplish - but I'm going to try anyway.

Third, I have a better appreciation for life.  Oh, don't start calling me Pollyanna. I know life is not easy. For  many people life is very hard.  Despite all of the whining I've done about the negative things that have happened,  I am very well aware that my life is very good. Still, it is not easy to see around the negative things, but if you spend too much time dwelling on them, you give them more importance.  I don't want the negatives in my life to take precedence over the positives.   I don't want to miss my blessings because I got too caught up with my burdens.

All pontificating aside, let's talk about the tattoo - the first thing on my list.  I'm sure that my friends from my college, high school, and early Army wife days might be a little astonished.  The words tattoo and Beverly were not something I ever thought you would find in the same sentence.  I was raised to believe that ladies did not get tattoos. Of course the person who pounded that into my young brain, drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney, cussed like a sailor, and couldn't find the word fidelity in the dictionary with a road map.  She was, perhaps, not the best person to define what a lady does and does not do.  And then there was that whole needle thing.  I guess that's one more thing you can chalk up to the cancer treatment - a better tolerance for needles.  Oh, I still break out in a cold sweat when I see one, but the urge to scream is not quite as great.

It HURT - well it stung very badly. And it's not an experience I want to repeat.  I've been told that I picked one of the more sensitive spots to get a tattoo.  But really, the ankle was the only spot. I wanted a spot where I could easily show it off and easily cover it up.  I don't know if I will have many more opportunities to wear strapless ball gowns, but just in case I do, I don't want any tattoos peaking out of the necklines.

This was the picture I downloaded for the artist to work from.
It's BIG - much bigger than I thought it would be. It's much bigger than the one in the photo I downloaded as a sample.   Or maybe my foot is just smaller than I thought. One thing I know,  unlike Meg in Little Women, I do not have an attractive foot.  Yikes, the pictures of my foot are almost as scary as the needle.

Of course, I wouldn't have been able to do this if Tony hadn't held my hand (and if I hadn't had a book to read). On the other hand I might not have even considered getting one if it hadn't been for Tony. It took almost 20 years and a cancer diagnoses to convince me to even consider it.  I hope I didn't embarrass him by being too wimpy.

Getting ready. Do I look worried?

The tattoo artis was awesome. 


It's been a long rambling post. But what I hope you will take away from it is this - regardless of what's going on in your life - take time to Celebrate Life.  It's much better than the alternative.

On to the next thing on the list - hiking Pike's Peak or learning to ride a motorcycle, shoot a gun, ballroom dance - you get the idea.  So, how do you celebrate life?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Goodbye Cancer Garden - Book Review

Telling family members you have cancer is not an easy task.  Telling small children is even harder.  The Goodbye Cancer Garden  by Jane Matthies is a beautifully illustrated and heartwarming story about a very difficult topic.


Summary:  After Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey that Mom has Cancer, the whole family goes to the doctor to ask questions. "Is Mom better yet?" Jeffrey asked. "Not yet," she said. "But we're working very hard to make her better-probably by pumpkin time." That gave Janie an idea...the family plants a vegetable garden. As the garden grows, Mom's treatment progresses...surgery, chemo, head-shaving and other side effects, radiation...and when it's all done, there are healthy pumpkins and a healthly Mom!


I personally liked the way this story focused on the positive without taking away the seriousness of the situation.  This is a good resource for providing reassurance for young children (and maybe old ones like me) facing a similar situation.  



Monday, May 23, 2011

Moving On!

It's been almost a month since my last radiation treatment and I think things are finally moving towards some sense of normalcy.

The sunburn is gone.  There is still some strange coloring, but no more burn.  No one is truly symmetrical, but I still seem a little more lopsided than I was before treatment.  Still most of the swelling from the radiation is gone, so I will need to get fitted for a new bra. Not exactly my idea of a fun shopping trip.

Most of the tamoxifen side effects are gone. My hair still seems to be coming out in alarming rates, but I seem to be growing plenty of replacements.  The hot flashes, chills and nausea are gone.

So, now instead of being caught up with feeling horrible, I'm beginning to appreciate just how wonderful I feel.

I'm working my way back into a good walking routine (those 39 miles in the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk are not going to walk themselves), getting more involved with breast cancer awareness and support, and continuing to make sure I'm well informed. (I think I may have checked out every book two different library systems have on breast cancer.)

Speaking of being involved with awareness, on Saturday Tony and I participated in our first Breast Cancer Motorcycle Poker run of the 2011 riding season.


I know I look like I'm really ticked off in this picture. I wasn't. It was just the sun. Even though it was a little chilly, it was great ride. This was the annual Deb Tryon Cancer Run.  All the proceeds went to the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation.

On Sunday, Tony had training for the Motorcycle Crew for the Rocky Mountain Avon Cancer Walk.  While I'm walking, he will get to ride around on his Harley.

In June, I'll go to my first Breast Cancer Survivor Support Group meeting. I was scheduled to start last week, but I had a job interview.  (And I got the job!) In July, after I've had several weeks to decompress after the completion of radiation, I'll have an appointment at Penrose to talk about what's next - medical wise. I'll keep you posted.

As for my Life Celebration list, I haven't given up on that. I'm just trying to get through the end of the school year before I start on it in earnest. Though, I might be marking one thing off my list this week - the tattoo. Stay tuned for pictures.

As I look back at my busy weekend and look ahead to all that I have going on over the summer, I am reminded that John Diamond was right.  "Cancer is a word, not a sentence."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Checking In

Things have been a little crazy since my last post. Part of me has been just trying to catch up on my rest since radiation ended.  The other part has just been trying to tread water with all the end of school things that need to be done.

Summer break is just days away. I still have lots of information I want to share, so I hope you'll stay with me. Regular posts will start up again soon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Am I Losing My Hair or My Mind? Maybe Both!

From time to time I've joked with my husband that I'm as bad as the animals when it comes to shedding hair. Hair dressers can't seem to agree on whether or not my hair is thick or thin.  At least it has always covered my skull fairly well.

Since January I've noticed that I seem to shed more. And when I run my fingers through my hair in the shower, they seem to come away with clumps of loose hair.  I'm not going bald - at least not yet, but I do seem to pulling quite a bit out of the drain.   I've been a little concerned.

Then, a few days ago, I read a story in a Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors about a woman who was not going through chemo but had thinning hair due to the Tamoxifen!  I thought I had researched all the potential side effects.  Thinning hair or actual hair loss is a rare side effect of Tamoxifen.  It's not too bad at the moment. And at least I know why so much is ending up in the shower drain.

Of course Tony said not to worry. I can always shave my head and get a wig - maybe multiple ones of different colors.  We'll see what the doctor says in July when I meet with the medical oncologist to discuss how the Tamoxifen is impacting my body.

In the mean time - I'm hoping to hear the results from the genetics test by next Friday. I'm trying not to think about it too much, but I'm a worry wart. And so it does creep into my thoughts now and again. But there's nothing to do until I do get the results, so I'm trying to concentrate on getting ready for the end of school instead.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

With Radiation In The Rear View Mirror - What's Ahead?

A week ago today, I had my last radiation treatment. I've sort of been on a blogging break since then.  However, my plan is to continue this blog at least until my first year anniversary of being clear. There's still plenty to do - not just for me - but for the general war on breast cancer.

Last Friday morning, I headed back to Penrose to give blood so they can test to see if I have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.  It will most likely be a week from this Friday before I get the results. I'm trying not to think about it too much until then.

Friday night I celebrated the end of radiation with three wonderful ladies (Bobbi, Brenda, and Katie)  from my old school, followed by dinner out on Saturday night with two wonderful friends (Jim and Laurel) without whom, I don't know how Tony and I would have made it through the last several months.

I am not in this battle alone and I hope that I never forget to let everyone know how much their prayers, support and help have meant to me.

This morning I'll be heading back to Penrose to drop off a bouquet of Pink Ribbon cookies for the wonderful radiation techs who took such good care of me. Yes, I know that's what they get paid for - but they were so good - so friendly and supportive, I wanted to show my appreciation.  (If you are in the Colorado Springs area and need beautiful cookies of any shape/design - let me know. I can put you in contact with an awesome cookie designer.)

So, what's next? I'm still waiting for my skin to heal. Part of it healed very quickly, one little area seems bent on being irritated. Of course it's on the side I tend to sleep on, so I'm hoping it clears up soon. I'm trying to get back into my normal physical routine, if the Colorado weather will just cooperate.

My fundraising efforts for my June Avon Rocky Mountain Walk continue. (Click here if you'd like to donate.)  The pink ribbon t-shirts will arrive this week and I'm still running a photography special connected to the walk.

I'm also working on my Life Celebration List. (Yep - that's the list with tattoo.)  I'll keep you posted.  I'm also continuing my reading on breast cancer.  Stay tuned for updates on that as well.

In the mean time, I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Radiation Is Over - Now What?

For the first time in six weeks, I didn't have to head down to Penrose Cancer Center before the sun was up.  Love those people, but so glad I'm not going to be spending more time with them.

So, what now? I'm still not sure what normal is.  Events over the last 12 months (not just the cancer, but a ton of other drama as well) have made me begin to question who I am.  When I look in the mirror, I'm not always sure who is looking back at me.  Just like I can't deny all the other things that have happened to me, I can't deny the cancer (though trust me - even after all the surgeries and the radiation treatments, I still experience a sense of denial - some idea that it was all some horrible mistake).  What I do know, whomever I turn out to be - it's going to be my definition - on my terms. Stay tuned. I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out.

In the meantime, I  started my morning with a pre-dawn 1.75 mile walk around the neighborhood. Got to get ready for the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk and hiking up Pike's Peak. I'm tired (didn't sleep well again), but it's a good tired - not like the radiation fatigue. The doctor said it could take a month for the radiation fatigue to go away.  Being active - eating right and getting exercise might lessen that recovery time.  I so prefer being tired on my own terms rather than due to the radiation.

Also next up on the to do list is a search for some books on what to do after treatment, as well as joining a support group in May.

Have a terrific Thursday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ringing The Bell - Radiation Day 33

It's official! Radiation is complete.  I hope everyone heard the bell.

So now what? The physical part of treatment (perhaps the hardest part) is now over. I will still have to take tamoxifen for five years, have regular blood tests to make sure the tamoxifen isn't damaging my liver and continue with yearly mammograms.

On Friday, I am having the test to see if I have one of the Breast Cancer Genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2).  When I met with the genetic counselor she said that based on what we know about my family history there's a less than 5% chance I have the gene. I considered not having the test - that fear of needles. But,  I don't know my mother's family history. I'm worried that we really don't know enough. And the fact that I was diagnosed before 50 is what made them suggest genetic counseling in the first place.  I decided that the stress of not knowing, of always wondering is more frightening than the needle.

If the test is positive, then I have a great deal to think about and to discuss with Tony and my doctor - as well as letting other family members know.  If the test is negative, then I can move toward getting back to normal, whatever normal is.  In fact in future posts I will talk about how it will all be a new normal.  But, even if the test is negative, I know myself well enough to know that I will be holding my breath for the next five years.


Even though my nifty certificate presented to me by the wonderful people at Penrose - states I Am A Breast Cancer Survivor - a part of will not begin to believe it until I've been clear for 5 years.  That's not to mean that it can't come back after five years, but once I reach five years without a re-occurance, the stats get better.  I've read lots of survivor stories about women who have gone decades without it coming back. And I've also read stories where women didn't make it five years.  Five years is just my first goal.  Once I reach that I'll just keep raising the bar.

Reaching 5 years doesn't mean I'll let my guard down.  Vigilance is key. Monthly self exams and yearly mammograms combined with diet and exercise are also vital.  My success is due in part to early detection.  Mammograms are no fun, but I hate to think what would have happened if I'd just decided to put it off to this summer. (Being an educator, I generally try to do all my routine health appointments during the summer - that's not a luxury I will continue to have, as my next mammogram is scheduled for six months form now - just before Halloween.  You can bet it's an appointment I won't forget.)

My battle is not over. I don't think it is ever over for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer.  It's just now I'm moving from an all out offensive to a defense - apologies to Tony as I'm sure I've not used correct military terms.  And I want to be active in the over all war against, not only breast cancer, but cancer in general.  Watch out cancer! You've been targeted by a red-headed, leather wearing, biker librarian.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Radiation Day 29

Today was the first day of the concentrated blast to the area where the tumors were.  Getting set up for this takes a little longer than the normal treatments.  Fortunately, they have everything marked either with tiny tattoos or paint pen Xs so that they are able to get me lined up just right.  Modern medicine is truly wonderful.

Four more days and the radiation treatments are complete.

Today I finished Stand By Her A Breast Cancer Guide for Men by John Anderson. I had started this book some time ago, but put it aside to read the book by Nancy Brinker.  This is a good book that I will review in more detail later. (It's late and as usual I'm tired. I spent an hour standing at book signing for one of my favorite mystery authors. Love listening to her talk, but really wish I had arrived early enough to get a seat.) I wish I had finished this book first. Even though it is written as a guide for men, I found some useful information for me.  It gave me some insight to what the men in my life are feeling as they help me through this battle.

There was also an interesting chapter about radiation - warning husbands not to be surprised that the radiation will make their loved one tired and progressively so.  It even warns that the fatigue can last up to a year after the radiation treatments are completed.  One of the last chapters touches briefly on the emotions and fears that plague a woman once the treatment is over.  That has given me something else to stew on (yeah, I know with so much stewing going on, maybe I better open a Soup Shop.)  I think I need to look for some books dealing with what happens after treatment.

There was one other benefit to finishing today's book.  I've been feeling a little anxious about how open (or whiny, depending on your viewpoint) I've been about what I've been feeling.  There have been a few things I haven't discussed here, but for the most part I've used this blog as an open window to my mind and heart over the past months.  Sometimes, I've wondered if I was too open.

As I was finishing the book I found myself thinking how great it was to read about someone else's experiences and know that I'm not alone in some of the crazy things I think or feel.  Then I remembered that was one of the reasons I started this blog - in hopes that my sharing my journey would give someone else that feeling I've had when reading about others struggles with the same issues.

Besides I've bared my breast enough since October, baring my soul shouldn't be that hard.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Radiation Day 28 - Take Two

In previous posts I talked about how many times I have been stuck or poked with a needle during all this.  Today I realized there's another activity I can count when I can't sleep or need something to distract me.

How many times someone has drawn on my breast? This morning they did a dry run for the boost treatments that will start tomorrow.  They also wanted to make a template so they drew on my breast and then took pictures. (Oh, yeah, let's hope Penrose never gets hacked and I never run for political office - those are NOT pictures we want publicized.)  I realized that they have had to draw on my breast with a sharpie or paint pen quite a few times.

For the surgeries, they wrote in black sharpie YES on the left breast and NO on the right one.  Got to be sure the surgeon didn't get distracted and operate on the wrong one.  To set everything up for the radiation treatments they drew dots, then gave me small tattoos.  And they drew a big box around my left breast. I don't think I ever understood why they drew the box.  Then last week when they did the MRI to create the plan they drew some Xs with paint pens and covered them with clear tape so the marks wouldn't come off in the shower.

Today, they removed one X and then drew some more.  Covered them with tape and drew some other lines for their template.  I never thought my chest would end up as big drawing board.  But trust me, we're not talking a great work of art.

Oh, well - we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Radiation Day 28

This morning is  my last regular radiation treatment. Tomorrow the treatments will move from treating the whole breast to just concentrating on the area where they preformed the lumpectomy.  After today just five more treatments.

You'd think I'd be more upbeat. Instead I'm having serious self esteem issues.  I was no super model before the surgery/radiation and while I know my treatment has been kind to me in terms of not losing my hair and I've not suffered from lymphedema, I also know I haven't come out of this without any physical changes.

I was smart enough to have finally got healthy just before I was diagnosed. I think that losing so much weight is one of the things that made the early detection possible.  But when you are a woman of a certain age and you lose 80 lbs, your skin isn't young enough to snap back.  So, in edition to wrinkles and gray hair, I'm blessed with stretch marks, circles under my eyes and a  couple of hideous scars. Radiation also causes swelling, so I'm back to being lopsided. (Though not quite to the cantaloupe/grapefruit ratio that I had going on right after the two surgeries. ) Oh and did I mention that lopsided French Riviera tan I have going on?  Add to that the fact that I seem to have lost all sense of rationality makes me no prize these days.

As I was getting dressed this morning, I happened to look in the mirror and I frightened myself.  It's a good thing we don't have students today or they would really think their librarian was from The Black Lagoon.

I'm not even sure what I'm rambling about this morning.  More of that radiation/lack of sleep mood thing going on.  I'm sure another cup of coffee and a nice long walk after school will do wonders for me.  But first things first - time to head off for another laser blast.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Radiation Day 27

Just six more treatments and I'm done.  There's a light at the end of the tunnel and it's getting closer. I'll be glad for it to be over - and not just because my skin is getting very uncomfortable and not just because I'm still not sleeping well. (Truth be told, the sleep problems have been around for much longer than the cancer diagnoses.)  No, I'll be glad for it to be over because it's getting harder to handle the mood swings.  This medical emotional roller coaster makes it hard for me to deal with the other road bumps in life.

This has not been the best of days and it started out with my getting aggravated with myself on the way to radiation.  A while back I decided that if I could fight cancer I could handle almost anything. And I was going to stop not doing certain things because I was afraid. Case in point - my future tattoo. After I finally came around to the idea that a small tasteful tattoo might not be a bad thing - I kept resisting because I'm afraid of needles (and ok, I didn't want to be referred to as having a "tramp stamp", but who could have a problem with a tiny little book? It's rather literary don't you think?)

So, as I revealed in a previous post, I came up with a to do list.  (It's not a bucket list - I'm not dying.) It's a get off my butt and do the things I've been too afraid or too lacking in confidence to do.

One of the things on my list is getting a photograph published.  In order to do that I've got to take some really good photos.  This morning on the way to radiation, the moon over Pikes Peak was gorgeous and I had the camera.  But I was too hesitant about pulling over to the side of the road with all the traffic to try to get the picture. I did eventually pull over but by that time I had lost the great view.

I don't know what I was afraid of - not getting hit - I should have been able to pull over far enough out of traffic.  Did I think I would look stupid? So what! It wouldn't be the first time and certainly not the last time.  The point is I hesitated and I lost the shot.  So I was angry at myself.

Then I read a chapter that bothered me - that thing I've been stewing about - yeah, I've been stewing about it so long - you'd think it would have all dried up by now, but it hasn't and I'm still not ready to talk about it.  And the doctor I saw today didn't do a thing about the fact that I can't sleep past midnight or 1:00 a.m.  I've been feeling an anxiety attack coming on for a few days now and finally on the way to school - it hit full blast.  That combined with the fact that I've been fighting a cold or the flu since Saturday pretty much tanked the day for me.

Truthfully, I don't know if the radiation has anything to do with my mood swings.  I do know it's easy to blame them on the radiation.

Life is too precious to avoid things out of fear, whether it's fear of pain (tattoo) or fear of looking stupid (stoping on the side of the road to get that perfect photo.)  I know better and maybe someday I'll act on that knowledge.

In the meantime here are three photos I did get, which look a little better after I did some editing.

The Moon

Trees

Reading Statue at Penrose

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Radiation Day 23

Day 23 - Just two more weeks and I'm done with radiation. Any ideas on how to celebrate (besides the tatt?)


Still very tired and having trouble sleeping, but I'm going to try the Ambien again tonight.

Today I finished Promise Me by Nancy Brinker.  This is more of an inspirational book about a sister's love than it is about various breast cancer treatments, though it does include information about the history of breast cancer treatment.  However, if you are looking for a "how to" book, this is not it.

I found it to be a great read. You can see my review here.

If you would like more information on the Susan G. Komen For the Cure click here

Not much of a post today, but it is several hours past 5:00 p.m. and we all know I turn into a pumpkin these days around 5:00 p.m.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Radiations Day 21 and 22

Yesterday was not a very good day. It seems that Mondays are bad days for me. Maybe we should outlaw Mondays.

Yesterday, after radiation I ran home to pick up Clementine, my pet hedgehog to share with my First Grade students.  Only, when I went to get her out of the cage, I discovered she had died. She was over 3 years old. Pet hedgehogs often don't live much longer than 2.5. I just couldn't tell the students she had died, so I just told them she was not feeling well.

It was a horrible way to start the day/week.  However, since I've been rather irritated with myself for whining so much lately, I decided that instead of counting my miseries, I would count my blessings.

It is really something we should all do more often. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a negative to make us appreciate the positive.

My blessings are many and won't all fit here. (Maybe when I can't sleep, instead of counting book titles, I should just count blessings.)

1.  My husband - he is a true saint to put up with me on a good day - much less when I'm feeling sorry for myself. I am thankful every morning I wake up and he's there next to me.
2.  My sons - Patrick is my true battle buddy. He helped me through the worst deployment I've ever been through and he's been one of my biggest supporters through all of this. Ryan is one of the most talented writers I have ever run across. I'm in awe of being related to someone with so much talent.
3. Clark and Sue - my parents by choice. I'm so lucky that they have adopted me.
4. Friends and co-workers. I hang out with a very cool group of people.
5. My job - how many people get paid for being a total bookworm?
6. My health care team - they have been fabulous.
7. Having an "innocent" cancer. I've been reading Promise Me by Nancy Brinker. If I hadn't already known how mild things are fore me, after reading this book, I certainly know it now.
8. Nancy Brinker and the Susan G. Koman Foundation. I've never met Mrs. Brinker, but I owe her a great deal.  Before she kept her promise to her sister, Susan, breast cancer was something kept hidden in the dark. Information and awareness are power.  Without all of her efforts, treatments for breast cancer might still be stuck in the dark ages.

I could go on, but I think I'll save my other blessings for another one of those Mondays when I'm feeling sorry for myself.


This morning's radiation appointment took longer than normal. There are only 11 treatments left and they needed to do a CAT scan to get ready for the super-blast treatments the last week of treatments. So far they have been treating the whole breast, but the last week will be a concentrated radiation blast to the area where the tumors were.  There's certainly a light at the end of the tunnel.

As for the Ambien and my inability to sleep through the night - well, I actually saw my radiologist today.  Tuesdays are doctor day. You see whomever is on duty.  I was beginning to think my doctor had run off.  I like him and really trust him, so felt better seeing him.  He said that the Ambien is supposed to keep me asleep. He asked me to give it another week - try taking a whole one (without the alarm clock going off at the wrong time) and see what happens. I trust him, so I'll give it another week.

After school we'll have Zumba today.  Tonight, I should be able to sleep without having to count sheep, books or blessings. Monday may not have been such a great day, but Tuesday is shaping up to be a much better day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

4th Annual Cowgirls & Cocktails

If you are in the Colorado Springs area in June, here's a fun event to help support local Breast Cancer and Military Charities.



For a list of vendors click here.  It looks like a lot of fun - but it is for women only - Sorry Guys!

I'd love to get together a group to attend.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In a Fog

OMG! Where's the coffee pot? Forget a cup - just give me a coffee IV (yes the needle phobic would gladly get poked this morning if it meant the fog would go away).


Earlier this week the doctor prescribed Ambien to help me sleep.  I seldom sleep past 2:00 a.m. and frequently wake up shortly after midnight.  Most of the night is spent waking up every hour or so.  Since starting the tamoxifen and radiation it seems to be even worse.  I didn't want to take the Ambien on a school night, so I took it last night for the first time.  It got me to sleep all right (but then getting to sleep is not my problem, it's staying asleep), but I was awake at 2:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. and so on.  I was awake, but felt as though I was in a deep murky pool trying to swim up to the surface. (Since drowning in murky water is one of my nightmares, this was not a good feeling.)  Still felt that way when I finally got up at 5:45 this morning. Hey, that is sleeping late for me, since I frequently get up at 4:30 or 4:45 on weekends.

Maybe Ambien just takes some getting used to - or maybe I need a different type of sleep aid. Most over the counter sleep aids don't work for me as they usually knock me out for about three hours and then I wake up and feel like climbing the walls.

Yesterday was Radiation Day 20 - only two and half more weeks of radiation.  The extra fatigue brought on by radiation will soon be going away.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

After four weeks of radiation I am beginning to get a little bit of a sunburn. It doesn't really hurt (as a pale freckled Texan of Irish ancestry, I'm very familiar with different levels of sunburn). It's just a different feeling.  When I was first diagnosed, Tony and I joked around with Patrick and told him that my breast would eventually start glowing from the radiation. (Sick, joke, I know - but you take your laughs where you can get them.)  It doesn't glow - not so that you can see through my clothes, but it sure feels warm enough to do so.

I'm off for a coffee refill - the fog is beginning to lift.  Maybe a late afternoon nap with help with the fatigue.

Here's hoping you all have a restful weekend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Radiation Day 18 or How Funky Socks to Battle Cancer

Ok. So funky socks are not really a treatment for cancer - not a medical one anyway.

Battling a disease takes a lot of energy. Even if you don't lose your hair or have a severe change in your weight, your self esteem can still take a beating.  For me, so long as I keep my shirt on, there is no outward sign that I'm fighting cancer.  Unless you count the tired haggard face that often stares back at me from the mirror. But truth be told that face was looking back at me long before the cancer diagnoses.

Sometimes you just need a little pick up to make you feel better. It can be a mani/pedi with really cool colors, a new lipstick, a new hairstyle OR a new pair of funky socks.


It's a small thing, perhaps a little silly. But these days I'll take anything that makes me smile and puts a spring in my step.  Besides they are so bright, just looking at them chases away the grogginess/fatigue.

Everyone should treat themselves to a pair of funky socks once in a while. (Want a pair just like these - check the $1 Easter supplies at Target.)

What puts a spring in your step when you are feeling low?

Radiation Day 17

Yesterday was see the doctor and weigh-in day.  It was a better experience than last week.  First I lost two of the three pounds I had gained.  Yeah!  And the doctor gave me a prescription for Ambien to help me sleep.  He seemed a little irritated that I'm not sleeping - but he might have just been having a bad morning.

I'm worried about how I will react to the Ambien so I'll wait until Friday night before I take one. That way I can tell how it impacts my mornings. It's not going to do me much good if it works too well and I over sleep - missing my radiation appointments.

Didn't get to walk yesterday, but a parent at my school is now offering a Zumba class on Tuesdays.  I was exhausted afterwards, but it felt good. I'm not very coordinated and so I look like a crazed chicken whenever I try to do the routines. It's a testament to how much I want to get exercise and how much I trust my co-workers for me to actually do this class in front of them.

Last night, Patrick's middle school held an 8th Grade Learning Fair to highlight things the students had learned during the year.  Each student got to pick two or three projects to showcase.  Parents were given a brochure with signature lines. If they talked to a total of 10 students and got their signature, then their child would get an extra 10 points to be used for any class.  It was very interesting.  Three or four of the students I talked with had done a project on photography.  (Patrick researched Kevlar.)  I learned that the 5 second rule for dropped food is really not a good idea.  I saw an awesome project on the Bay of Pigs - the display board was as tall as the student.  And I met a very nice young woman who had moved to Colorado Springs from Canada. She was very proud of her first report on American History - it was about George Washington.

Of course my favorite display was Patrick's.  He showed off his research on Kevlar, his project on the U.S. Constitution (making sure to tell everyone that it was his dad who had burned the hole in the paper when trying to make the paper look old) and the pink ribbon he painted for me in art class.

It was very crowded, which was a little overwhelming for a woman experiencing random hot flashes and fatigue. But, I was prepared.  Once I had talked with ten students and taken Patrick's picture, I snagged a semi-quiet corner near the door and a cool breeze and pulled out my ever present book. (One of the girls that talked to me about her display, told me she was reading the same book. I'm such a book geek, I get really excited when kids want to talk books. )

Even though I'm out of energy by 5:00 p.m. every day,  I'm glad I went to the Learning Fair and didn't play the the fatigue card and stay home.  Of course, I was asleep before 10 last night - too bad I was awake again by midnight and several times after that.  Not to worry - Friday is not that far away.
Patrick with the beautiful ribbon he painted for me and wearing Dad's Tigger  tie, which he tied himself.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Radiation Day 16

Three weeks down. Three and half to go.  At least this morning there were no computer glitches.  Still it's a Monday. Sometimes I really don't like Mondays.  I hope someone has some Brie handy, because I'm in a whiny mood tonight for sure.  I'm tired. For some reason, sleep is getting harder.  I'll have to mention it to the doctor tomorrow. But since it's not keeping me from functioning, I doubt they will be too concerned about it.

Those of you who know me, know I'm a complete book geek. I'm always reading something. I'm most comfortable in room full of books, whether it is a school library, a public library, a book store, or my bedroom which has books stacked everywhere.  I don't just read. I multi-read - multi-tasking at it's best.  And of course when I need information on something, I read up on that topic.  Mixed in with the stacks of young adult novels and mysteries, I have several books on breast cancer in my every growing to read pile.

I mentioned on Saturday that the book I was reading on Friday, rather put me in a funk - I'm still stewing on it.  So I set it aside for a while and I've been reading Nancy Brinker's  Promise Me: How A Sister's Love Launched a Global Movement to End Breast Cancer.  It's a fabulous book. But it's not an easy read.  Yesterday I was feeling under the weather, so I spent most of the afternoon on the sofa reading. Anyone who has ever heard of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure, knows how this book is going to turn out.  It's not as though there will be a surprise ending.   I knew this would be an emotional read. I thought I was prepared for it.  Obviously not. Thankfully, it was just me, the two dogs and the hedgehog so I could read and cry and read some more.  I'm only halfway through the book and I think I'm over the truly rough part - Susan's battle with the cancer.  Still that battle is resonating with me.   I am in complete awe of a woman who was in agonizing pain and still her thought was for others.  The promise referred to in the title is the one Susan made Nancy give her - the promise that they would do something to help the women fighting breast cancer  - something to make it better.

And that is why I get irritated with myself. I'm tired.   I'm a complete mess. I'm feeling under the weather (is it possible to feel over the weather?) I'm tired and I have a horrible urge to dig out the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that I have hidden in a place only I know about.  I'm not sure I can make any sense. (Perhaps a little chocolate would make me coherent.)  But I'm not in agonizing pain. My hair is not falling out.  My appetite is just fine, perhaps too fine.  Some might say I should cut myself a little slack.   I'm sure Susan Koman had some bad days where she felt sorry for herself and her sister might have left that part of the story out of the book.  Or maybe I glossed over it in my reading because I was so in awe.

But despite being whiny tonight. I don't want to cut myself any slack. I want to fight back.  I want to help Nancy Brinker keep that promise to her sister.  I want to find a way to make a difference.

I recently read a fiction book about Army wives: You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobahn Fallon.  One of the wives in the book was battling breast cancer.  A few days after finishing the book, I saw something on TV about a real life Army wife who is breast cancer survivor and has started an organization Cindy's Hope Chest to help women fighting breast cancer.  I believe I mentioned this in a  previous post. This got me to wondering about the number of military wives that might be battling breast cancer.  So far my super ninja librarian skills have failed me in my efforts to find any information.  If you google Army wives and breast cancer you get the TV show and their wonderful efforts to support breast cancer awareness.  Battling breast cancer is not easy. Being an Army wife has it's challenges, too.  Combine the two and the challenges multiply greatly.  My husband is nearing retirement, so the challenges for me are not as great as they could be.  But that may not be the case for others.  I want to make a difference for everyone fighting breast cancer, but I especially want to make a difference for my fellow Army wives.

Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. I promise to consider them when I'm feeling "over the weather."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Catching Up or Saturday Ramblings

It's been a long week.  I think maybe the radiation is really beginning to catching up with me. I seem to be even more tired more often.  I'm usually good until 5 p.m. and I can go longer so long as I keep moving. But once I sit down, that's it. All energy goes out the door. And without going into too much graphic detail I am noticing some visual changes.  Carrying books close to my chest on the left side is not  as easy as it was last week.

The week started off rough with going back to school after spring break to the loss of a student in a car crash.  Then on Tuesday, my weight was up.  Wednesday and Thursday I was just tired and Friday, ended the week with technology problems.

Friday's radiation appointment was delayed for two hours due to a computer problem. Yes, my treatments rely heavily on technology.  The computer people had done an upgrade the night before, assured the radiation techs all would be well and disappeared.  Best laid plans.  It was two hours before they had everything fixed. Still they did manage to get the computer back up and running and the staff was very pleasant and helpful.  I had a book to read (I almost always have a book on hand), but unfortunately, the chapter I was reading in the book (a guide for men with loved ones with breast cancer) touched on some fears I didn't want to think about, but ended up stewing on anyway - truth is I'm still stewing on them. I'm just not ready to air them - at least not here. It's a good thing I have my little pink journal I mentioned in a previous post.

Because of the delay with my radiation treatment, I was late to school, where my technology/computer challenges continued. It's hard to teach 20 children how to use a citation website, when you only have one computer and it doesn't want to work.

The rest of the day was a little better. I won an autographed copy of a new mystery book by one of my favorite authors. And I booked several photography related activities for this weekend. (Yes, I'm sure that will make me tired, especially since I couldn't sleep last night - but at least I'll be tired on my own terms.) Perhaps it's silly of me to make such a big deal about why I feel tired. Tired is tired. I guess it's just a struggle for a little bit of control.

Cover from GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7898208-promise-me

Earlier in the week I received an ARC of Promise Me: How A Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer by Nancy G. Brinker.  The book was published in September 2010 and has been on my to read list.  So when I received an uncorrected proof of the book earlier this week, I moved it up my list.  Now I'm reading two breast cancer related books - nothing like multi-tasking.  Even though I've just started Promise Me, I'm already learning a lot and once again, I realize how lucky I am.  Brinker includes information about the history of  breast cancer treatment over the centuries.  Not only am I lucky to have had such an innocent version of breast cancer, but I am being treated with modern medicine.  I'll take being tired and feeling like someone put a hot roll in my bra over having my breast hacked off without anesthesia any day.  I should have this book finished with the next week.  I'm very impressed with the book so far - it's very well written and it's very informative.  Part of me wishes I had not moved Promise Me up on my reading list, as I think it would be an excellent book for my book club to read.  I just couldn't wait until it was my turn to pick the book we would read.

I'm going to try to get in a walk before breakfast, then off to do some photos and maybe end the day with grocery shopping. Not bad for a Saturday.








Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Radiation Day 12

It's Tuesday. That's doctor day.  Still haven't seen my actual radiologist since I started the radiation treatments. Maybe next week.  What makes Tuesdays so bad is I have to weigh in - not fun. And today I was up by 3 lbs.  Before someone yells at me about being silly about fretting over a mere three pounds - keep in mind I have a weight problem.  I have spent many years over weight - very over weight. And that is one of the things that can contribute to cancer.  It's only been in the last 18 months that I got rid of the excess weight.  Being skinny and relatively healthy (except for the cancer) is still new to me.  So when I go up, of course I worry.  Usually two pounds doesn't bother me, but three or more and I began to fret.

And I'm a stress eater. I've been trying very hard not to give into that temptation. I try to keep healthy snacks on hand for when I can't fight the temptation.  But lets face it. There are just some foods I can't keep in the house. It's rather frustrating to have gained weight after last week, when I finally managed to get in some decent exercise.

The rational side of me knows that the few pounds this morning were most likely a combination of water (I had just had finished drinking roughly twenty ounces of water - not only is drinking lots of water good for you in general, but with the radiation, it's important to get at least 64 ounces a day) and the big sweater (yes it's spring, but we woke up to snow on the ground here in Colorado this morning) I was wearing.  Though weight gain can be a side effect of the tamoxifen, I can avoid it - if I spend more time concentrating on being healthy and less time whining.  So it's nothing to panic about - yet. However, I don't want to fall in the trap of making excuses either. It's a fine line to walk between cutting myself a little slack and keeping myself on track.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Radiation Day 11

It's been a long day. Normally, after radiation, I run home and have another cup of coffee or two before heading to school.  This morning I headed to school early for a staff meeting.  A student at school was killed in a car wreck over spring break.  This was the first day back to school after break and staff were meeting to plan how to help each other and students work through this very tough time.

There were no classes in the library today and for that I was glad.  As a military wife, I've had crisis and care team training and (unfortunately, during the last deployment I had opportunities to put that training to use), but since I've started radiation, I noticed my emotions seem to be very on the edge. It doesn't take much to bring out the tears. And I was worried about being strong for the students.  With no classes in the library that was not a problem and I was able to fall back on another strength - finding resources for helping children deal with grief.  The collection at school did not have any books on this topic (we're a relatively new school and still developing the collection), but other schools in the district were quick to loan what they have. That's just one more reason I've love my school district.

Even though I didn't have much interaction with students today, I did talk briefly with one third grader who over the break, shaved her head and donated the hair to Locks of Love.  I'm hoping I can interview her and maybe if she's willing and her parents ok it, post her picture on this blog.

It's going to be a long week, but one that serves as a reminder that we should never take things for granted.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

And Training For The Walk Begins

This is one wall of the Penrose Cancer Center. Even though this is an add for Colorado Spine Care, I was feel as though this lady is trying to tell me something - don't give up - keep climbing.

 This past week was Spring Break - a good time to get back into walking and to start training for the Avon Rocky Mountain Walk in June.

I managed to get in 14.03 miles this week. Not bad, but if I'm going to do a marathon and a half, I need to up my mileage.  It's true that walking, even just around the neighborhood adds considerably to the fatigue brought on by the radiation.  But it's a good fatigue. It's a productive one.  I know that the fatigue brought on by the radiation is also a good one - in that it's my body forcing me to rest so it can heal.  But feeling tired because I chose to be active feels so much better than just being tired from the treatments - I guess because it's my choice. It's also good for me. I also feel it will eventually help me get my energy back.

This week, on Monday,  I hiked around Ute Valley Park with a good friend and clocked 4.36 miles. On Wednesday, I hiked around Fox Run Park by myself. Even though my horrible sense of direction got me lost, I still managed to clock 2.6 miles before finding my car.  Today, Tony and hiked around the Air Force Academy. We started out on one trail and switched to another one. Even though I ended up falling on my butt, I think I may have found a trail that will help me train for going up Pike's Peak. But first I must get a good pair of hiking shoes.

This is the trail that I managed to walk up even though I managed to fall halfway up and wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it the rest of the way up.  Fortunately, Tony was able to help me to the top.  There's a reason one shouldn't go hiking alone.
This is me after we made it up the hill and down the other side.

I'm tired, but I feel good and I'm hoping I'll sleep like a calm baby tonight!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Radiation Day 10

I've now completed two weeks of radiation and so far no sunburn. Trust me I'm not complaining. I'm hoping I'll be a rare fortunate case. But, fair skinned people with freckles don't usually get that lucky.

Today there was a new person (at least new to me) working with the ladies that do my radiation treatments.  This was a young man. I can't remember his name. I had gotten used to it just being ladies - it's a little easier to flash them than it is to flash the guys.  This increases the number of men that I have knowingly exposed my breasts to since October to 11.  The radiation department has three doctors that rotate rounds on Tuesdays, so there's always a chance I could make it an even dozen.

The radiation team at Penrose (as is all the medical people I've dealt with there) are such a nice group.  My appointments are at 7:00 a.m.  So you know there day must start very early.  Yet, they are always cheerful, friendly and very pleasant. It really makes this all much easier.

 To show my appreciation I baked them a batch of Red Velvet Cake Balls.  I'd like do something else once the radiation treatments are over, so let me know if you have any ideas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Radiation Day Nine (and a list)

 I don't know if it's the drop in temperature or what, but the cold chills are back. Someone told me they are reverse hot flashes. Annoying is what they are.  Still, considering all the horrible side effects I could be having, I'll take the hot flashes and weird chills.

In addition to reading lots of books (I read 290 in 2010) I also read quite a few blogs. One of the bloggers I follow regularly was talking earlier this week about having received a medical wake up call and was therefore making several significant changes in their life, particularly in regards to their health.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is definitely a wake up call. It has made me appreciate my blessings and even though I know I'm winning this battle, it's also made me appreciate how short life really is.  Too often we put things off for someday. If we put them off too long, someday never arrives. My beloved Granny made this mistake.

So I've been thinking about my "list" a lot lately.  I refuse to call it a Bucket List - I just don't like the sound of that.  And it's not a wish list. Wish lists are too, well wishful.  This is my Adventure To Do List.  I thought putting it in writing and sharing it would help me be more accountable about accomplishing the list.



So here goes:

1. Give in to my wild side:
  •  Learn to ride a motorcycle.
  • Get a tattoo (a tiny little book on my ankle - this could also count as conquering a fear)
  • Learn to shoot (and actually hit the target.)
2. Be more active

  • Hike up Pike's Peak (already planned for August of this year)
  • Participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, NM
  • Learn ballroom dancing
  • Learn a martial art  - (can't you just picture me as a leather wearing, pistol shooting, ninja biker librarian?)
3.  Become more involved in the fight against breast cancer

  • Participate in fundraising (Avon and Susan G. Komen walks)
  • Join a support group (to help myself and to help others)
  • Find a way to help other Army wives battling breast cancer (there are more than we realize)
4. Follow my dreams

  • Take a trip to Ireland/Scotland/England
  • Attend the National Book Festival
  • Become a published writer and/or photographer
  • Earn  National Board Certification as a librarian
  • Become the Nancy Pearl of School Librarians
  • Learn to paint with oils and re-learn to paint with water colors
  • Learn pottery
I know it's a long list. But it's doable. I should probably think about setting some time lines. But now at least I know what I want to do. (Of course, I do reserve the right to tweak the list a little.)

So, what's on your Adventure To Do List?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radiation Day Eight

A week and a half of radiation and except for some fatigue I'm doing ok.  Thte strange chills I was experiencing  last week have made no appearance this week.  Still getting the hot flashes, but I suspect I will have them for the full time I'm on the tamoxifen.

It's Spring Break for my school district. Originally, I had a long to do list that I had planned to work my way through. However, I decided to be good to myself and only work on those things I really want to work on. So, I've done a lot of reading, a little photography, a little walking and some catching up on TV shows I've been too tired to watch when they first aired.

One of those shows is Army Wives. I had missed the last episode from Season 4, back in August. But thanks to DVR I was able to watch it yesterday.  During that episode they shared some information on Cindy's Hope Chest.

Cindy's Hope Chest is an organization created by Cindy Summers, an Army Wife diagnosed with breast cancer.  Their mission is to support women battling breast cancer emotionally and financially.  They  provide  education, support, and encouragement for  women while undergoing treatments. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Radiation Day 7

Seven radiation treatments and I'm actually feeling pretty good. I'll admit I'm a little tired. Yesterday, I celebrated spring by hiking 4.36 miles around Ute Valley Park.  I usually walk by myself - it's often hard to find someone with the same schedule as mine. But yesterday, I was fortunate enough to hike with a fellow educator. I had a great time and I confirmed my belief that more exercise will go along way to helping me feel better. I'm not sure I can ever get rid of the fatigue. I'm not a restful sleeper, but walking is very therapeutic for me.

Walking allows me to plan lessons, write book reviews in my head and sort out problems in peace. I've even been known to have an epiphany or two.  In fact walking around the neighborhood this past Sunday I had just such an epiphany.

Let me back up a little bit though.  When the mammogram techs were placing the wire that would guide the surgeon during the first lumpectomy, one of them commented that the doctor was very concerned about getting the incision for the guide wire as close to the incision for two biopsies.  Apparently, he was concerned about the cosmetic impact of the scar.  At the time, I was very uncomfortable, a little nauseous and just wanted the whole thing over and done with. I responded, that I didn't care about the cosmetics  - I'm a librarian, not a swimsuit model.  Immediately following the first surgery, I though the scar looked pretty good. Then they had to go back in and they used the same incision.  After that I sort of avoided looking at the scar.

However, since starting radiation, I've made it a practice to check  it on a daily basis. I have to check for any skin changes due to the radiation. I told Tony that I thought that since the second surgery and the radiation, the scar doesn't look quite so good.  I might have used the words "hideous" and "rather scary".

I'm not sure what I'm worried about. It's not like anyone will ever see it. Even when I wear a bathing suit, you can't see it. (I tend to go for rather modest suits.)  Still it's not a pretty sight.  At least that's what I was thinking until I sorted things out on my Sunday walk around the neighborhood.

My scar isn't ugly. In fact it's beautiful. That scar is just one more sign that I am a survivor. And a lucky one at that. I got to keep my breast, when some women don't. That scar is a sign that the cancer has been removed and that I'm winning the battle.  I won't be showing it off - but it doesn't bother me anymore.

 Nothing like a good walk to get your head on straight and see things with a better perspective.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Radiation Day 6

Today was a little scary.  Before they blast me they always ask me to take in a deep breath and hold it.  This is necessary because the radiation is directed at my left breast - over my heart. They don't want the radiation to harm my heart. Taking in deep breath and holding it causes the heart to move back from the chest wall.  This morning there must of have been something wrong with their mike because I didn't hear them tell me to take a deep breath.  I just happened to take in a breath right before the laser came on.  When I saw the light and heard the buzz, I didn't breathe out. Taking that breath at just the right time was God looking out for my heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Strange Saturday

No radiation today. Only on weekdays. But it has been a strange day. Started off about normal.  As usual I was awake several times during the night and finally gave up and got up around 4:30 a.m.  I settled on the couch with a cup of coffee and one of my current reads.  Then Patrick and I met friends for breakfast. Tony had to go into work.

That's when normal ended. Patrick and I were running errands, one of which was a stop by the mall. I received a gift card in the mail for filling out a health assessment with my school's health insurance provider. Even though I don't take their insurance, they offered the gift card to any employee who completed the assessment.

My Payless version of Shape Ups are worn out and if I'm going to get back into my walking routine, I needed a new pair of shoes.  Skechers  has a pair supporting Breast Cancer Awareness. They've been on my wish list since the first of the year. But they are rather expensive. I have a hard time paying a lot of money for shoes.  But, I found a local shoe store that had them on sale - significantly. And my gift card covered most of the cost.

After purchasing the shoes I went in search of Patrick who was window shopping in one of the game stores.  On my way I decided to stop off at clothing store I particularly like. They were having a 40% off of everything sale - still shopping for things other than shoes was not in my budget.  But I went in anyway. I'm really into pink these days. And they had several lovely pink items, including a pair of pink capri pants. Unfortunately, their smallest size is too big for me - that's why I like this store - I can buy really small sizes.  So instead I bought a beautiful green top and a purple wrap.  Then I headed off to find Patrick.

Patrick wanted to know if I could advance him some money on his allowance - or give him a loan that he would then work off. I told him no. He'd already received an advance.  He didn't give me any grief, but the look on his face was very sad and the next thing I know I was in tears. Let me be very clear, Patrick didn't give me any back talk or try to argue with me.  I don't know why I was in tears, but for some reason I was so upset, I almost went back to the clothing store to return my purchases.  Patrick was a little unnerved, to say the least.  And I'm sure he was really freaking out as I continued to cry all the way out to the car and on the drive to the next stop on our list of errands.

Recently, someone mentioned in passing that they either knew someone or had a relative who had gone through radiation and found themselves a little fuzzy headed. (That's me on a good day without radiation.) But in my research I've not found that to be one of the symptoms.  Random crying is not a symptom I've found either.  Poor Patrick.  He was doing his best to try to make me feel better. I think he would have promised me the moon to get me to stop crying.  And I did stop, just as abruptly as I started.  We finished our errands. I came home and proceeded to bake a Bailey's Bundt Cake, A Green Velvet Cake and a Shamrock Silk Pie. (We're celebrating St. Patrick's Day a few days later with a group of wonderful friends tonight.)  I will be the designated driver. If shopping reduces me to tears, who knows what a cup of Irish Coffee would do to me.

I may not know what brought on the tears, but I do know that I'm truly blessed with the men in my life - Tony and Patrick have done a wonderful job supporting and taking care of me over the last several months.  Patrick handled my tears with more maturity and calm than you might expect of a 13 year old. I know it hasn't been a piece of cake for him or his father.  Breast cancer is not just hard on the woman it attacks, it's hard on the men in her life, too.  And that brings me to my last topic for today.  I selected for my next breast cancer read a book titled Stand By Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men by John Anderson.


I chose this book for two reasons.  One, I want this blog to be helpful for not only other women diagnosed with breast cancer, but I want it to be helpful for their loved ones as well.  The second reason is I thought it might give me some insight into how my fighting cancer impacts the men in my life: my husband, my sons, my wonderful Dad by choice, (my biological dad passed away a few months before my diagnoses) and my male friends.

I'm not very far into the book, but so far I'm finding it to be an excellent read. I plan to ask Tony to read it and let me know if his opinion.

Here's hoping tomorrow will be somewhat more normal (whatever that is). I'm off to find a little Irish Cheer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

B.O.O.B.S - A Book Review

Check out my book blog (Booklady's Booknotes) for  a review of this book.

Radiation Day 5

I am not dying of cancer. I am living with cancer ---- Unknown.


That was the quote at the beginning of the chapter I was reading in B.O.O.B.S. this morning.

My undergrad degree is in English/Art.  Just as much as I enjoy playing with photos, I enjoy playing with words/quotes.  Here's my version of that quote.  Feel free to quote me.

I am not dying of cancer. I am not living with cancer.  I am kicking cancer's butt! -- Beverly Archer

So even though I woke up cranky this morning, I am obviously in a better mood than last night.  I guess I don't handle fatigue too well.  A little bit of sleep, hearing from my wonderful Zeta sisters and a good friend from North Carolina and my perspective is back where I want it to be.

Today was Vampire Day!

That's right. I had to give blood. I won't know until Tuesday when I see the doctor if this will be a weekly thing. If it is, I hope that the young woman who took my blood this morning is always on duty. She was very good. Maybe I should see what her schedule is and only show up when she's there.

They also took an x-ray. I said this team was very thorough about monitoring everything. I am blessed to be in such good hands.  In the reading I've been doing, I've read some horrible stories where the medical team was not as thorough.   Kicking cancer's butt is going to take all my energy.  It's good to know that I don't have to question the expertise of those who are fighting this with me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Radiation Day Four

As the old saying goes "I feel knee high to a grasshopper."

It's not just because I'm tired. Or because of the strange chills I've been getting or even the fact that I feel like some one put a heating pad in my bra. No. I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm ashamed of myself for not being super woman.

I recently found out that an acquaintance has breast cancer. She hasn't told anyone. She only told me because she thought we might run into each other at the Cancer Center.  This woman is quite a bit older than I am, yet when she had her surgery she returned to work the following day. She is quite proud of the fact that she "recovers quickly." She spent a good bit of time going on about how she so's resilient that no one even knows she had surgery. She didn't even take any time off from work. She says that's just how she is. She doesn't know what all the fuss is about. She says she's already beat the cancer (she hasn't started her radiation treatments yet) and she doesn't need counseling.

I spent most of last night mentally kicking myself for beingn such wimp and a whiny one at that. If I had any doubt I'm a big baby, well after talking to her, now I know I for sure that I am.

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about what I'm going through. Does that make me whiny? It's not my intent to be whiny. I drone on and on about all that I'm going through because I thought that if I could talk about what I'm feeling (the good, the bad, the whiny - all of it) it might help others. A doctor can tell you about the challenges you'll be facing, but somehow it doesn't seem quite real unless you hear it from someone who has actually experienced it. That's why I've been reading so many stories about breast cancer survivors.

I wanted to find out way to do something for others (and I'll be honest, airing my fears and concerns - and my successes and blessings on this blog is helpful for me.)  Tonight, I just don't know. I know I'm rambling. It's been a long week. The radiation has zapped my energy more than I ever expected.

On Monday, I thought I was doing well, all things considered. But now I'm not so sure. I guess I'm just having one of those days. Maybe I'll be more rational tommorrow.

What do you think? Should people with an illness/disease keep it to themselves? Carry on as though it doesn't exist. Should we all be Wonder Woman or should we just concentrate on being human?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Radiation Day 3

Fortunately, today's appointment was another quick one and I could run home for another cup of coffee and post my blog before school.  (Today is going to be a long day - the Book Fair will run to 7:00 p.m. and based on the last two days, my energy will run out about 5:00 - just when I expect business to pick up - so I know that nothing will get blogged once I get home.)

I found this list on a literary blog this morning before I headed out to Penrose.  I thought it was good enough to share. And I've added the author's book to my to read list. Actually it was already on my to read list, but I think I might move it higher up the list.

Found at Chick Lit is Not Dead.  Ellen Meister is the author of  The Other Life.


CHICK LIT IS NOT DEAD PRESENTS: ELLEN MEISTER’S 5 DO’S AND A DO-OVER (I'm not posting the Do-Over. Though later I might post my own Do-Over. We all have them and sometimes, it might be good to air them out a little. But that's a post for another day.)
DO’S
1. Listen to your mother, no matter how old you are. She’s always right.
2. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink … to get up and dance … or make love … or take a phone call from a friend. The dishes will still be there when you’re done.
3. Say yes to the things that scare you. You will never regret facing your fears.
4.  Spend more time with the people you enjoy and less time with the people you don’t. Life’s too short.
5. Say “I love you” the moment you think it.
1. Those of you who know me know that I have never really followed this one - at least in regards to the woman who gave birth to me.  There are very good reasons for that - but I do listen to my surrogate mothers (my Granny, my Mom by Choice - Sue, and my mother-in-law - Patty. Sure miss her this morning.)
2.  Never had a problem with leaving the dishes to later, but I need to remember this in regards to when I need to be away from the library. As my principal often says - the library isn't going anywhere. The books will still be there when I feel better.
3.  I'm working on this one.  (No Tony, this doesn't mean I'm getting a tattoo - yet.)  Within the last year I have embraced motorcycle riding. And who knows, maybe someday I'll learn to ride on my own.
4.  I try to do this one as much as possible.
5.  This is one I truly believe in - tell the people who are important to you that they are - even if they already know that - it's nice to hear it voiced.
I hope you all have a wonderful day.  What's on your "DO" list?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Radiation Day Two

Curled up on the couch and snoozing just like this puppy - that was me last night. The only reason it's not me tonight is due to sheer stubbornness. I didn't think the radiation would make me so tired, at least not this soon. And I'm still not convinced that's what did it.  Yesterday I blamed it on the time change.  Today's fatigue could also be related to that.

Last night I was so tired, I never made it off the couch until the coffee pot turned on this morning.

After just two days of radiation, I shouldn't be having any side effects -right?  But the fatigue is not the only strange thing I'm feeling.  In addition to being just flat out exhausted by 5:00 p.m. the last two days, I now find myself freezing several times during the day. I mentioned that I'm cold natured.  Spring in Colorado can be chilling. But this is a strange chilliness. I feel cold from the inside out - if that makes sense. I'm not really sure how to explain it - except that when I get these chilly spells, I find myself wishing for a hot flash.  


Still, I wouldn't classify the fatigue as severe. That's one of the questions they asked me this morning - is the fatigue sever or mild?  Every week on Tuesday, after my radiation treatment (by the way I counted this morning - each blast takes between 17 - 20 seconds) I will get weighed, interviewed by a nurse and seen briefly by the doctor.  It's comforting knowing they will be monitoring me so closely.

One thing that is not comforting is that I have to get poked yet again.  They want to do a blood test this week so they can monitor my white blood count - again monitoring my white blood count was something I only associated with chemo. So this comes as another surprise. I didn't think to ask if this means they will be taking my blood every week.  (I swear sometimes I think doctors/nurses are really vampires in disguise.  A vampire bite might be less painful. After all, don't they have some natural pain killer enzyme that oozes out with the bite?)

On the bright side, Spring Break starts on Friday. And even though I won't be able to sleep in due to the early morning radiation treatments, I can at least take a nap.

Monday, March 14, 2011

That Was Quick

Today was my first radiation treatment.  Over the weekend I jokingly posted that it takes longer to get undressed than it does for the treatment.  Turns out it's not a joke.












My treatment is a Penrose Cancer Center - a wonderful place.  It's a civilian hospital of course. After years of dealing with military health providers, I'm well trained in showing up 15 minutes early (with a book of course, because with military appointments, you show up 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment and you are lucky if you see the doctor  30 minutes after your scheduled time.

Another person was scheduled ahead of me, but since she wasn't there, they went ahead and took me.  My appointment was 7:00 a.m. I was done by 7:03.

Because of my position at school - I'm a licensed librarian, working as a classified librarian - hourly and not allowed to go in early - I found myself back at home with a good half hour to kill.  That was unexpected.  I could have gone over to the pharmacy to buy the special cream they want me to use to help with skin irritation.  However the pharmacy doesn't open until 9:00 a.m.  Thankfully, they are open until 5:30, so I'll have time to run back by there after school.

So, how am I feeling after this first treatment?  Hyper aware. I know that any side effects would not show up 30 minutes after the treatment, but I feel as though I'm on alert for any twitch or hiccup.  I'm sure that will subside as I get into the routine.

Now, it's time for another cup of coffee and then off to school for the challenge of learning how to run a cash register for the book fair and hope the hot flashes don't cause me to sweat too much.  Turns out that I can't use deodorant under my left arm for the entire  6 1/2 weeks. Gross!  That will be another interesting side effect. Since taking the tamoxifen, I've noticed that the smell of my deodorant - one I've used for a long time - what is supposed to be a nice fresh powder scent - sometimes makes me nauseous.   With one side smelling sickly powder fresh and the other side like a Texas football player who just finished two-a-days no one is going to want to stand too close to me until May.  At least I'm doing this during March in Colorado and not July in Texas.