Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pick-Me-Ups

At least someone in the family is getting exercise...

video

Quinn is quite the little yogi lately. At daycare, they practice breathing with their movements, holding their poses, and working their core to stay centered. And he's more than happy to show off his moves--at home, at the grocery store, in the middle of Ikea... The daycare center emails me these reports every afternoon letting us know what the kids did that day, and it arrives right in time to bring me out of that 2-3pm post-lunch slump. Just as I'm about to fall asleep at my cubicle, my "What in the World of Twos" comes through and I have a moment where I wish I'd become a pre-school teacher. I could so get behind the idea of finger painting and yoga all day long.

And since I made it known that I'm feeling that mid-afternoon slump more often than not lately, so many of you have reached out to me with offers of help over the last few days. I didn't realize I sounded so desperate until the emails and texts and phone calls started coming in, asking if we needed extra hands, offering dinner, babysitting, just a night out with friends. You all are pretty wonderful, you know that?

The truth is - yes, we do need more nights out with friends (so we're making it happen, increasing our efforts to do more "normal people" things). We're meeting our neighbors, and one girl--a senior in high school--has offered to babysit anytime. We also have some dear friends in town visiting this weekend, so we're taking a break from our house to-do list to hang out by the pool at their hotel. And as soon as I'm healed (May 23rd is the 6-week mark, not that I'm counting or anything--fingers crossed my incision stays closed this time), I'm reviving my yoga practice. I'll be doing my down-dogs right alongside Quinn. 

In the meantime, I have some beautiful sunflowers brightening up my kitchen and bringing a smile to my face. A friend had them delivered "just because" the other day. I seriously know the best people.

Thank you all for being in my life. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Iron Woman

I've been doing my best to hide it, but I've been especially exhausted lately. Six months of chemo and two surgeries have finally caught up with me, and I'm officially very anemic (although it's getting better). At least there's a physical explanation for my lack of get-up-and-go. I'm taking iron supplements daily now, and at some point they're supposed to make me feel like myself again. Which reminds me: I need to buy more iron supplements.

Exercise has also been off the table since I broke my arm in January, so that probably isn't helping my energy levels. I know it's not helping my mood. I will probably get clearance from my plastic surgeon to start aerobic activity again right around the time temperatures reach triple digits here in Phoenix. Murphy's Law.

You know what else causes exhaustion? Two year olds. It's a fact. Ask your doctor if you don't believe me. Yes, we have daycare during the week, and yes, I feel guilty that I probably need it even though I definitely need it because of that whole full-time job thing. I am honestly not sure I could keep up with this perpetual motion machine all of the time while totally healthy, let alone while recovering from chemo and surgery. It doesn't help that my right side is essentially useless at the moment.
Also, we've moved into our new home (which I love, don't get me wrong), but trying to shop for furniture and organize a kitchen and hang pictures and do all of the things that one needs to do when moving into a new home is a gargantuan feat with a two-year-old around. You might as well try to organize your paperwork for tax season outside in the middle of a tornado. Plus, everyone knows that riding tricycles around the block is way more fun than putting together Ikea furniture. 

Chris told me last night that he feels like we're running just to stay in place lately. 

But seriously, are all moms this tired? Are all two-year-olds this active? On Sunday morning, we walked around the zoo for two straight hours with friends and their toddler, spent another couple of hours walking around Ikea (because assembling furniture with allen wrenches is the key to a stress free weekend -- trust me, really! wink, wink. also, I promise this post isn't sponsored by Ikea), hoped Q would fall asleep in the car ride home (but he didn't), tried for a nap once we were home (but failed), went to the grocery store where Q practiced yoga, and still he would. not. sleep.
And two year olds need naps. Blah blah brain development blah. It's also about their mood swings. Their very melodramatic, Oscar-worthy mood swings, described so perfectly by Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com here (even though she's talking about her three year old):

Because here’s the thing: MARLO. She’s the thing. She’s a kicking, screaming, should have stopped at the tenth shot of tequila and is determined to convince you she is not drunk thing.

Pretty much sums it up. But then five minutes later? It's all giggles and "Mama, read this read!" and sometimes I swear we should have named him Jekyll. Or Hyde. Can we all at least agree that two year olds are lucky they're cute?

I also suspect that my not being able to hold him these past few weeks is taking a toll. No, I don't think I'm doing any lasting damage to his emotional development here. But I do think that in the short-term, he's not getting what he wants and is acting out because of it. If this were just him asking for a toy at the checkout line, I'd say, "Tough luck, kid," and be done with it. But all he really wants is his mama to hold him, and I can't. It is so hard.

And again I want to say, "Screw you, cancer." This is just one more instance of cancer interfering with my life in ways that are not one bit welcome.

When I was pregnant, I knew parenting was going to be a challenge from time to time. I expected that. I just didn't expect this particular set of challenges. I certainly didn't expect cancer. And I didn't expect having to have my surgery redone, in part because I've been lucky not to have many complications since my diagnosis (other than, you know, the recurrence thing). I am still not completely used to this two steps forward one-half step back way of life that seems to come with the territory of having a chronic illness. I still wake up some days expecting my doctors to say, "Just kidding. Our tests were wrong. That wasn't really cancer. Our mistake."

Until that day, I am really looking forward to about a month from now when I will have the permission (and hopefully the energy) to hold my son again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Finish Line

I'm a little over three months out from my last round of chemo now, which means I'm also supposed to be due for my every-three-months PET/CT scan to make sure things are still clean. That's been postponed a few weeks because of my surgery last week. According to my oncologist, if we scanned me now, the surgery site would light up like a Christmas tree because my cells are working so hard at repairing the tissue there. We certainly don't want any false positives, so I can hold off on chewing my nails down to the quick for another few weeks.

In the meantime, here's the status of my hair, which honestly doesn't look all that different to me than the photos I posted of it a month ago. Do you guys see a difference? And, yeah, yeah, I know I need a better photographer. I'll admit I'm not very good at self-portraits. Vogue will not be knocking down my door to grace their cover anytime soon. And I'm fine with that.



Difference or not, I've started going au naturel, at least for walks around our new neighborhood, which happens to be exactly the kind of neighborhood I always dreamed of, a place where Quinn rides his tricycle up and down every single driveway as we make our way around the block -- and the people are overwhelmingly happy to meet us, to introduce themselves, to welcome us into our new home. 

We are settling in, figuring out which light switches control which lights, slowly picking out new furniture that works with our existing things, and unpacking the last of our boxes (which is a seemingly endless process with a two year old around). 

And it turns out our next-door neighbor is also a breast cancer survivor and a mom to a couple of boys a few years older than Quinn. She finished up treatment very similar to mine just over a year ago. It continues to astound me how common this disease is. She is also a personal trainer, which might be exactly what I need in the coming months.

I haven't really been able to work out these past three months, since I broke my arm just three days after I finished chemo and just as I was recovering from that, I had my swap-out surgery; last week, my recovery time for that got pushed back another six weeks. My ass is going to be the shape of our couch soon. Don't laugh. I'm serious. Be happy I'm not posting pictures of that every month.

This has been a very long-winded way of letting you know I've signed up again for the Avon Walk, this time in San Francisco at the end of September. (Also, I have no idea what's going on with the fonts on my participant page, so apologies about that.) I have the five hottest months in Phoenix to train for this trek, but if I did it while on chemo last year, I'm fairly certain I can find a way to make it to the finish line this year. As of now, I've managed to walk the 1/2 mile loop around our neighborhood almost every day this week. Athlete extraordinaire over here, let me tell you. Watch out, San Francisco.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Helpers

Just a quick update from Vicodin la-la land. I'm told my surgery yesterday was a complete success, that my surgeon was very happy with how easy it went. He didn't have to replace my implant and didn't have to give me a drain (like I had after the mastectomy). He just re-sewed my incision from the inside out and bandaged me up. I'm not in too much pain because Vicodin is powerful stuff. Thank you all for checking in on me and sending love (and food!)

I've spent the past two days in yoga pants, mostly on the couch (they should be renamed "couch pants"), propped up with lots of pillows and drinking a ton of water. Chris' wonderful family and my dear friend Laura have swooped in to help me with Quinn, since I shouldn't probably drive to daycare on painkillers, nor wrestle with Quinn to change his diaper lest I pop another stitch. Chris gets home tonight, thankfully.

I am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life, who will drop everything at a moment's notice to take care of me and our little boy. Thank you a million times over for being so willing to help us out. I hope I never have to return the exact favor, but I hope you all know if you ever need anything I will drop everything for you, too.

I remember seeing this quote from Mr. Rogers after the Newtown shootings, and it bears repeating: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,'" He continued: "To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world."

I'm not going to lie: I was pretty scared Wednesday night when my wound opened up and I was by myself with a cranky 2-year-old who wanted to be held, wanted me to bathe with him, wanted normal 2-year-old things that I couldn't provide. It certainly wasn't on the scale of what happened in Newtown, but in that moment, I was having my own minor disaster and there was no way I could have handled everything that needed to be handled on my own. Then my helpers arrived, my surgery went well, and it all seems manageable again. Crisis averted because of all the caring people in my world.

All of this to say that I'm okay, if a little sore, a little exhausted, and a little less cocky about how quickly I think I can recover from major surgery. I'm so very lucky to have the people in my life that I do. Thanks for being my helpers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Setback

I started today with a quick good-bye to Chris, who left for a conference in Tennessee, followed by a 7:30 a.m. meeting with our architect to discuss setbacks and site plans and elevations. (We're building a two-car garage, and I swear the permitting process makes it seem like we want to erect the next Sears Tower.)

And I ended the day with a more major setback of a different type: my damn incision split open, and I'm headed into semi-emergency surgery first thing tomorrow morning to fix it. Apparently, this is fairly common on irradiated skin because it just doesn't heal that well, so while my left side is almost perfectly recovered from that swap-out surgery 3.5 weeks back, my right side is a bloody mess tonight. I've got it covered in gauze and took a valium to calm myself down because go back and re-read that first sentence. My husband is in freakin' Tennessee. 

Luckily, we have incredible family who have rearranged their schedules last-minute to spend the night at our house (even make their own guest bed because I wasn't expecting to have to use it so soon), take me to surgery tomorrow, take Quinn to daycare, pick both of us up, and calm me down because they're able to handle the logistics while I focus on my second surgery in four weeks. This is the same family who helped us move last month. They organized packing parties, saved newspapers, rounded up boxes from other family members, managed our contractor--even when he threatened to walk off the job because we were asking him to fit too much into a one-week period--and scored $10-a-square-foot tile for us for $3.25. I am grateful beyond words. This family is a keeper.

Also, maybe this time I should take my doctor's advice and rest a bit after my surgery instead of trying to fit in a move and set up a new house. To be fair, I know the moment the incision tore (I mean, you can't miss that kind of pain), and I was getting out of the bathtub. So, see? I was trying to relax, even if it was a bath with Quinn. But it's a deep tub, and I must have flexed my pec muscle too hard boosting myself up to get out of it, and I split my damn incision. DAMN DAMN DAMN.

I honestly thought I'd popped an internal stitch, that my surgeon would be able to use that surgical glue stuff to hold everything neatly in place, and I'd be fine. But he took one look at me today and said he'd have to go back in and possibly even exchange my implant if there are even the tiniest signs that the environment is no longer sterile. (By environment, I mean my breast pocket. Just to be clear.)

I tried not to cry in my surgeon's office as his assistant made a bunch of calls to get me on his surgery schedule tomorrow. I was not successful. I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is minor. As one survivor said to me, "Every molehill is a mountain when faced with this [expletive] disease." But there's also a gaping wound where my breast used to be, the timing is awful, and this means the clock starts over until I'm allowed to pick Quinn up again. Six weeks is a long time not to be able to hold your kiddo.

Damn molehills. Damn setbacks.