Monday, June 11, 2012

5 Things You Should Never Say to a Cancer Patient/Survivor ....

Or at least to this cancer survivor.  Anyone who has been through anything like this knows the drill.  People say the darnedest things when they feel uncomfortable and are wanting to offer some sort of comfort.  We, the recipients, learn to smile and say thank you for the kind words.  Meanwhile, in our heads we are thinking WHAT?  We know you all mean well.  We know it is coming from the best of intentions.  But, it gets old and silently you start screaming when you hear it once again.

1.  You're so strong!  - No, I'm really not.  The alternative is death.  I have basic self preservation skills, not the strength of Hercules.  Strength is leaving your cushy job, cushy house and going to a third world country to teach children how to read and adults to farm.  I just didn't want to die.

2.  I don't know how you do it! - See above.  I don't want to die.  This is what I have to do not to die.  That is how I do it.

3.  Karma - Anything to do with Karma should be tossed out the window.  I can't think of a single thing I did to deserve getting cancer.  I can't even think of a 100 things put together that I have done that would warrant that coming back around to me.

4. The Secret - Much like the karma deal, people are constantly telling me their belief that what you put out into the universe is what the universe sends back to you.  I put out to the universe that I wanted a baby, the universe gave me cancer.  Karla Homolka put out the the universe that she wanted to rape, torture and murder young girls, including her sister.  The universe gave her a home in the Antilles with three children of her own.  I don't think I need to expand on this any further.

5.  You are so lucky. - Obviously, this one is for the survivors.  Winning the lottery is lucky.  Finding a $100 bill in a river is lucky.  Putting your body through months and sometimes years of toxins is survival.  Lucky is never getting cancer at all.

If you have said these things, don't cringe.  Like I said, we all know it is coming from a great place.  Behind those words we do hear, "I love you.  I can't understand why you have to go through this.".  We appreciate you trying to be our cheerleader.

But next time, get them a funny cancer T-shirt and simply say "I love you. I can't understand why you have to go through this.  But, I will be there for you however you need me to be."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why I Relay ...

Most people would think that I relay due to my battle with cancer.  They would be partially right.  Or it might be for my family members who have battled, some won and some lost.  Again, partially right.  So why do I relay?

I was lucky enough to have great work benefits and be surrounded by family and friends to help me through my battle.  Through my many months of chemo, I met so many that we not quite so fortunate.  I met so many who were struggling to pay bills, having problems paying for medication (that stuff is pricey!), and even struggling just to find a way to get to treatment and back home.  The Canadian Cancer society was there for each and every one of them.  

I don't just relay for the hope of cure, I relay to help others have a better chance in their fight.  I relay so that everyone can have the same support I had even when they are not as fortunate as I was.

The best part of this event for me, is that I relay with the WonderMoms.  The wonderful ladies I barely knew, but took my family under their wing and nurtured us through our fight.

I have a small goal this year, $300.  Please donate.  No amount is too small.  Please click on the link below and help in any way that you can.  It is so much more appreciated than I hope you will ever know.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

"The" Post Part IV - We all knew it was coming, but it didn't make it any easier to hear.

Mom had come to save the day and made things lots better the way that only Moms can.  But, it was time for her to get back to her job and to my Father who was missing her terribly.  It was a sad good-bye as she knew I still had a difficult road ahead.

I went to my appointment to see the Oncologist.  I knew what was coming.  Hubby and I had discussed in depth that there was really only one road left to take.  It still didn't make it any easier as the Oncologist and the nurse sat with tears in their eyes and told me I would have to have a hysterectomy.  These past five months of hell were all for nothing.  I would be losing my ability to have another child.

I was very brave in the office.  I told them how much I appreciated all they had done, how much their endless compassion and humor helped me through this whole thing.  I was even brave when I called Hubby to tell him that indeed what we thought was going to be happening.  Then I numbly drove myself home.  All my bravery left as I lay on the floor of the nursery wailing and crying and screaming.  My four legged baby sat by my side not sure what to do, but knowing I needed him.  About the time Hubby and the Boy should be home, I did what all Moms would do.  I got myself up, washed my face and put on a smile.

The next day we found out that the only cancer hospital that could fit me in that week was in downtown Toronto.  I would be having my surgery in three days.  Hubby and I had very mature, emotionally detached conversation about how it was most important that the Boy was kept in his routine.  That we need to save Hubby's vacation days for after I got home.

The pre-surgery ordeal was less than fun.  Because I had a confirmed, rather large blood clot, they needed to make sure I didn't have any more waiting to detach and start roaming my body.  Have you ever had a full body ultra-sound?  It gives the term I feel like I was hit by a bus a whole new meaning. I was black and blue all over by the end.

They wanted me to check in a day early.  So the next day Hubby brought me to the hospital and we got me all checked in.  I was given a lovely gown, but negotiated being able to stay in my clothes until absolutely necessary.  Hubby had to leave a little early to make it all the way back to our town in time to pick up the boy. We decided to tell him that I was going to a Mom's week away to a spa with one of my friends.  It was the worst spa I have ever been to!

After he left, they brought me in a gallon jug and told me I need to drink it all to clear the pipes.  It was so gross!  I downed glass after glass feeling like my college days were finally paying off.  I finally finished and the next time the nurse came in I told her I was done.  Her response was "Hmmm.  I've never seen anyone finish it before."  What?!  That was an option?????  I was lucky enough to be in a room by myself for the night so I actually got to relax and get a decent nights sleep.

Early the next morning they came to get me to get a blood filter inserted.  Although the ultrasound didn't show any blood clots, to be safe they wanted to insert a mesh umbrella to catch any blood clots that may want to travel.  I was wheeled on a bed down to the procedure room.  It is a very odd feeling to be perfectly capable to walk on your own, but be wheeled around by strangers.  In the procedure room, the doctor told me the numbing would be the worst part and would feel like a bee sting.  He lied!  It felt like an entire nest of wasps converged on one spot!  He then made a cut into my jugular vein and ran the tube containing the filter down into my chest.  It is very disconcerting to feel tugging and pulling going on inside your body, but you don't feel any pain.

Hubby made it and we were taken into pre-op to wait our turn for a theatre.  There are two things you need to know about Hubby.  First, he loves to people watch.  Take him to a mall or an airport and he can be entertained for hours.  Second, he love technology.  Any machine is completely fascinating to him.  He was in his element.  I got to hear about every curtained off area.  He was investigating every machine.  He was simply entertaining.  Then, it was my turn.  Hugs and kisses and I was wheeled into the operating room.

The operating room was nothing like I expected.  There were easily 15 people in there.  It seems yet again my very rare cancer was a draw.  I fell asleep hearing excited whispers about how they would probably never again get an opportunity to see one of these tumors.  It's nice to be so interesting.

I woke up with a lovely device attached.  It seems this spa provided fantastical drugs like morphine.  I loved everyone and everything and felt absolutely no pain.  Hubby was there and life was good!  Again lots of surprise that I came out of anesthesia so well and I was quickly moved to my permanent room.

I was put into a critical care unit.  It's a really large room with four beds and a nurse permanently stationed in it.  Hubby got me situated, made sure my cable was turned on, I had magazines, lotion etc. and then it was time for him to leave.  It was a very hard good-bye.  I wouldn't be seeing him again until it was time for me to be discharged.   Even the morphine couldn't make that okay.

I had two neighbors Mary and Diane.  Mary had been fighting colon cancer for years and finally had a huge section of her colon removed.  Diane had pancreatic cancer and had to have a shunt put in to help fight a secondary infection.  They were both mother's with kids my age and we spent the next week getting to know one another quite well.  We were all from the burbs and it was difficult for our families to get in to see us.  The second day in, the came and took my morphine machine away.  Infidels! Percocet and I became good friend again.

I had a cheer leading team  in Mary and Diane.  Every time I got up to walk around the corridor, they were rooting me on and reminding me I was getting one step closer to going home.  The outfit was amazing.  The white tights, the blue and white dress and robe, the fancy blue IV pole.  It was all very color coordinated.  We talked about life, our cancers, being a Mom, celebrities, baking.  I remember a very poignant conversation with Diane about how the doctors said she wasn't going to make it, but she just didn't feel like it was her time to go yet.

I had a particular doctor that we all waited for every day.  He was English and quite easy on the eyes.  He wore tweed jackets, sweater vests and glasses.  But, he pulled it off well.  He was my real life Daniel Jackson topped with an English accent!  His mannerisms didn't quite match what you would expect with the accent and the clothes.  He would tell me all the medical things I needed to know, then he would open the curtain, lay across the foot of my bed and chat with us three ladies for awhile.  It was the highlight of our days.

It was that week I learned the power of touch.  A week of no hugs or kisses or hand holding.  No snuggling on the couch.  It was a week devoid of touch.  I talked to my family, Hubby and the Boy on a daily basis.  But, I felt so very, very alone.  It was the loneliest week of my life.

Slowly the IVs were removed and I was finally given the okay to go home.  I thought about getting Mary and Diane's contact info.  In the end, I decided I would prefer to make up my own happy endings for them.  I was so very excited to finally see Hubby again!  He made it in and we started the trek home.  Let me tell you, you feel each and every pot hole when you have an incision from your belly button to your pubic bone!  It was the most painful ride I have ever taken!  Poor Hubby was completely white knuckled the entire drive home.

Once Hubby got me settled at home, he went to pick up the Boy.  Although every hug hurt, I couldn't get enough.  I was finally home in more ways than one.

to be continued on "The" Post Part V - The Aftermath

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"The" Post Part III - Are you serious???

So, I don't think I'm ruining the surprise by saying I made it through the night.

The next couple of days are made up of moments for me.  People visiting in canary yellow robes, hats and face masks.  I did find it incredibly funny to see everyone dressed up like that.  Suddenly, my Mom was there so there was no more worrying about who was taking care of Hubby and the Boy, not that there was a ton of capacity for that anyway.

I remember the moment that I guess I was finally getting enough oxygen to my brain to realize that this was serious.  I wasn't supposed to go to the bathroom without assistance.  I may have a bit of a reputation of being independent and stubborn.  The oxygen hose was long enough for me to make it, so I went for it. I made it maybe three steps before I heard loud beeping, people running in and the world going black.  I woke up to a scolding from an older nurse that would make my Mother proud.  Needless to say, I let my pride go out the window and buzzed from that point forward for help.

We lived in a smaller town so we had the rare combination of our family doctor having privileges at our local hospital.  He arranged for what he called the most competent internist in the hospital to take over my case.  It was decided that they needed to run a scope to my lungs and see what else may be lurking in there.  In order to do that, I needed to be transferred to the big hospital in our region.  So, I got to go on a lovely ambulance ride.

When I was checked into the ICU at that hospital, it was like the Ritz.  Beautiful flat screen TV, nice curtains and the nurses were so incredibly nice ... and young.  There were quite a few conversations about my cancer.  Again, most of them had never heard of it.  I felt the need to constantly reassure the currently pregnant nurse that this was very, very, very rare.  I had my scope and they were pleased to say that nothing else was found.  The blood thinners I was on had drastically shrunk the blood clot and I was on the mend.  They only needed to get my blood at the proper thickness and I would be able to go home!  Woohooo!  Home sounded great.

Until my blood was properly thinned, I need to be transferred to a regular room.  This is when I first realized room mates and general care suck!  There weren't any beds available at the hospital in our town, so I was transferred downstairs.  It seems the ICU had recently been redone and the rest of the hospital had not.  There were holes in the walls, electrical wires hanging out of the wall.  It was dark and dingy.  I also had the parting words from the ICU nurses stuck in my head, "Be careful.  There is a terrible stomach virus circulating downstairs."  So that was nice.  My roommate didn't speak a word of English and constantly moaned.  Very relaxing.  It was that first night in that room that I ran my hand through my hair and my hair stayed in my hand.  It was finally happening.  I was losing my hair.

Luckily, I only stayed in that room for one and half days.  I was then transferred back to my home hospital.  Easy for Mike and my Mom to visit, bright and cheery.  I was soooo happy.

We had decided that it was better for the Boy to not know what was going on.  He was two and we certainly didn't want to scare him.  I would talk to him on the phone for as much as he was able.  Then, I would cry for a half hour or so.  I missed him so very much.  His never ending hugs and kisses are what had gotten me through so many tough days before.

I had a new roommate.  During the first day, I started hearing about how the doctors thought she had dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimer's.  They thought the doctors were completely wrong.  I kind of agreed.  Then the sun sat.  I spent the remainder of the night assuring her that Martha (I would find out later Martha was her long dead sister) was probably just running late for their tea date.  And yes, that was very unlike Martha, but I'm sure she is fine.  The next morning I had a tear filled conversation with her daughter that my Grandmother had Alzheimer's and that I was pretty sure the doctors were right.  I told her all about Martha and their tea date.  But, at least I had a reprieve from thinking of my own problems for awhile.

Later that day, there started a rumbly in my tumbly that continued to progress.  Soon I found myself on the ground of a hospital bathroom, wearing a lovely hospital gown, with four IVs and two IV poles keeping my company, pulling out chunks of hair as I was trying to hold it back while I was puking.  Lovely.  I looked up and issued a very heart felt plea to God.  It was quite simply, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!"  It seems God has much faith in what I can handle.  On top of everything else, I now had the dreaded stomach virus.

The good thing about the stomach virus is that I was immediately moved into my very own private room!  The next day was Valentine's Day and my Mom and Mike brought me cards and tried to make it somewhat special.  The following morning, I was finally released!  Eight days later and half bald, I finally got to go home.

Hubby made sure my homecoming was extra special.  We had been looking at new bedroom furniture for quite some time.  Somehow, between taking Travis back and forth to daycare, working, and visiting me in the hospital, he managed to get the bedroom set I wanted from Ikea and put it all together for my homecoming.  He had also gotten a TV for the bedroom.  He wanted to make sure I had a nice place to recuperate.  There are many days I wonder how I was so lucky to have found him.  This was certainly one of those days.

The first order of getting home was to finally do the big shave.  I couldn't handle these clumps of hair any more.  I was so glad my Mom was there to do the honors.  She oohed and awed about how I had the prettiest head as a baby and it was still just as pretty.  She cracks me up!

What did the Boy say now?

So, I was little nervous what the Boy would think about his newly bald Mommy.  So very tentatively, I asked him what he thought.  His response was: "You look pretty!"  I was very relieved.  Then he looked quite contemplative and added "You look like Daddy!"  It was just the comic relief I needed.  My Mom and I laughed for hours about it.  Hubby didn't find it quite as entertaining though.

It turned out to be such a godsend to have my Mother there.  Not only did she take over all the cooking and cleaning and making sure the Boy got his daily cuddles and kisses while I wasn't there, but she was there for the one thing no woman wants to do without a Mother or a Sister.  She went wig shopping with me.  We had a blast!  I tried on many different wigs and finally decided on a rather normal looking one.  Thank goodness for insurance!  Those things are mighty expensive.

My Mom and I did some other shopping and picked up the Boy from daycare.  I got home to a message from the Oncologist.  They wanted to talk about how to proceed.  I guess it was back to the reality of my life.  I was still a cancer patient.  A cancer patient who had had a toxic reaction to chemo.

(to be continued on Part IV - We all knew it was coming, but it didn't make it any easier to hear.)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Why did my Mother raise me to be so nice?

I am taking this break from my heavier posts to share with you the dangers of being nice.

For the past few years, I have become a bit paralyzed about what to do when you see strangers in need.  I may have watched The Hitcher too young, or too many times (thanks Sis!).  

I used to be very kind to strangers.  I once even picked up a nice old lady I saw pushing her groceries in her wheelchair.  You know, the one she was supposed to be sitting in!  I drove her to her house and helped her carry in her groceries refusing any payment she wanted to give me.  I have stopped and served as a witness for every accident I have ever seen.  I've even helped with first aid when needed.  But somewhere along the way, these strangers started scaring me.  What if I helped and it was all a ruse to take advantage of a naive stranger?

Well, today I told myself I was going to stop being afraid.  I am going to start setting the example for the Boy that we are all responsible for each other.  Statistically (and we all know how statistics love me)  the majority of people in the world are nice, honest people.  I saw this lady in the grocery three times before I told myself to buck up and be kind.  Kindness is what makes the world go 'round.  Right?

So, I walk up to this sweet looking lady who is obviously wearing a horribly old and matted wig.  I say, "I mean this in the nicest possible way, but are you wearing a wig?"  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and said, "Yes".  So I told her that I had a wig that I wore for only a little while and that if she wanted it, it was all hers.  As I said this, I made the biggest mistake in this encounter.  I handed her my card with my home phone number, my email address and my physical address.  Yes, that is right.  My physical address!  I hear you all judging now.  At the moment, it seemed like a good idea alright!

She then proceeds to tell me how she lost her hair because people aren't nice to her.  Her cat died and the lady at the vet wasn't nice.  The lady said her cat died because she didn't know how to budget.  Her neighbor turned her doctor against her (wait, what?).  At this point, I'm thinking what kind of doctor?  Is this your mental doctor?  She told me about how she grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive home.  At this point, the boy is getting a little freaked out and says "Mommy we have to go!"  NOW he decides to speak up!

So then she says she doesn't have a number, but she will give me her email address and hands me back my card.  Phew!  I may get out of this yet!  I dig through my purse to find a pen.  My kingdom for a pen!  There was no pen to be found.  But, I cleverly hold my card against my phone and type her email address into my phone.  Ha ha!  I tell her I will give her a shout and we can set up a time for me to meet her and give her my wig.  See there.  I was going to meet her in a public place where she can't break my legs and keep me hostage as her "friend".

So, I say "Have a great weekend!" and start to walk away.  I am going to get away.  I'm so excited!  At the last moment she says "But, I will keep this!" and pulls the card out of my hand.  I watch as my sanity and any sense of security go from my hand into her pocket.  I manage a weak smile and say "Bye".

So tonight, when I should be sleeping, I'm sure I will be looking up houses on MLS and looking at how to change my number and email address.  I'm sure glad I set that example for the Boy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"The" Post Part II - Sometimes the treatment is as scary as the disease

Now we had the diagnosis, it was time to figure out the next steps.

The following morning we dropped the boy off at daycare and headed into Toronto to meet with the specialist.  We were told that if you had to get cancer, this was the one to get.  It was 100% curable.  We had no reason to believe that we wouldn't be able to try to have children again a year after treatment was over as long as my HCG levels didn't spike again within that year.

This was such great news.  Our family wouldn't be what we were planning, but having kids further apart in years than we had planned seemed like a small thing compared to our last two weeks.  Our odds of having another molar pregnancy doubled.  So it would increase from .1% to .2%.  Remember, I love stats and those are stats that are good.

I had planned on continuing to work.  You know, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar kind of thing.  A very lovely nurse (who happens to share my first name) sat down and looked me straight in the eye.  She told me that I had a two year old at home that needed Mommy and that I needed to save the little energy I would have for him.  That is the exact moment it all became real.  Life as we knew it was going to change dramatically.

I would be able to have my treatments at the Credit Valley hospital which was much closer to our house.  The specialist was also on rounds there once a week and would oversee my treatment while I worked directly with an Oncologist there.  Great news to hear I wouldn't have to be going into Toronto every week.  I am most decidedly not a big city kind of gal.  However, based on my blood work that day they wanted to start treatment at the second level and start it right away.  Credit Valley wouldn't be able to get the chemo I needed in time so my first treatment would be at Princess Margaret on Saturday.

Friday I went into work and let my boss know I would be going out on short term disability.  She was amazingly understanding and had no issues at all.  My coworker was also very wonderful about it all and we sat down to come up with a plan of what he could cover for me and what would just have to wait until I could come back.  We went together to talk to the VP over the operations group we supported.

Now, if you worked with me, you will know exactly who I am talking about.  We called her "The Dragon Lady".  Not because she is horrible, but because she is tough.  She knows everything about the business and you sure as heck better know exactly what you are talking about when you talk to her.  She is a career lady.  No kids, no husband, and no interest in acquiring either one.  My complete undoing was when her eyes teared up and she held my hand and told me to do whatever I needed to do.  The business would figure it out.

We arranged for some friends to watch the Boy while we made the trek in and experienced my first chemo treatment.  I have to say, it wasn't all that bad.  The six hours flew by as we played card games and laughed.

Sounds kind of weird I know, but that is how Hubby and I have weathered through everything.  Hubby has such a unique perspective on everything.  He is that quiet guy who when he speaks, you want to listen because it will be hysterical!  The nurses even commented on how much they loved they way we brought laughter to the room.  It is a theme we heard often from various offices.

From that point on, I started going for weekly treatments at Credit Valley.  I was beginning to think that this whole chemo thing was like a paid vacation.  For the first couple of weeks I was high on steroids and feeling great.  Then it started.  I got these tiny sores all over my head and down my back.  The slightest touch to my skin was pure torture.  My child's hugs hurt tremendously.  I told my Oncologist about these symptoms, but she had never heard of these as side effects.  She left to research it and came back with her findings.  Let's say it all together now.  "These happen in less than 1% of patients".  I am so very, very special.

Around this time, I had gone kind of numb.  I was high on percocet all the time just so I could manage to just sit still.  As you can imagine, the house wasn't getting very clean and grocery shopping, let alone cooking, had become non-existent.  Hubby was already pulling all the weight taking the boy to daycare, working all day, picking up the boy from daycare, picking up something for dinner, feeding us all, bathing the boy, putting the boy to bed and then walking the dog.  He then would spend the rest of the night alternating between doing household chores and spending time with me so I wouldn't be so lonely.  I felt completely useless.  One night he eloquently said, "I can take care of everything else.  You just need to take care of you."

I knew we couldn't continue like this.  I found a lovely woman to clean our home.  She was an angel in so many ways.  Every week she not only cleaned our home, but gave me someone to talk to.  Things got a bit easier.  Then we learned a little about the kindness of strangers, and of friends.

We had good friends that insisted on bringing us over dinner every other week.  Amazing!  Suddenly we had vegetables again!  Shortly before this all happened, the boy's Kindermusik teacher introduced me to a new Mom forum called WonderMoms.  I had shared some of what was going on with me with them.  Well, his teacher took it upon herself to set up a schedule where someone from that board was bringing us dinner every  night.  Every night.  Imagine that.  I didn't know any of these women.  We had never met face to face and suddenly they were taking care of us when I couldn't.  Some neighbors we had  only met twice heard and she began making us dinner as well.   I really don't know if these women will ever know the impact, the joy and the comfort they brought not only to me, but to my whole family.

My Mom and Dad came for a visit over American Thanksgiving.  I was so proud of myself because I cooked a whole Thanksgiving meal, including homemade pumpkin pie, that was ready when they arrived.  It was the most I had done in months.  My Mom got to know these ladies as they continued to bring us food over their visit.  I think it brought her a lot of comfort that they were providing what she so dearly wanted to be able to do for us.  I think she went back home with a little more peace of mind.

We had hit a stride.  We were managing and the boy was thriving.  So of course, the chemo stopped working.  My HCG levels started rising again.  We switched to the first level recommended drug.  The third level was pretty scary and since the tumor had shrunk, they were hopeful the first level would do it and it did start to drop my levels again.

Then it was Christmas time.  We were supposed to go to Arizona for the holiday, but I couldn't travel.  I was really depressed about it, but determined to make it a nice one for the boy.  Honestly, Hubby and I weren't feeling it.  I did cook Christmas dinner for the family.  Again, pretty proud of myself there.  I was completely exhausted and spent days in bed after, but I did it and it was nice to know I could pull it off.

Midway through January, the first level chemo stopped working.  Not what I wanted to hear at all.  We were now left with a chemo cocktail.  I like cocktails, but I would prefer that they held the chemo.

It was an amazing invasive treatment. I would lose all of my hair, not just the oh-so-sexy 80 year old thinning that I had been carrying off until this point.  Honestly I didn't care all that much.  My hair has never been super fantastic.  But, it involved three days of chemo one week and two days the next.  They wanted me to do two days of the three day week inpatient.  I begged and pleaded to remain at home.  One of the oncology nurses volunteered to come in early one day so I could get my 10 hours of treatment that day and still go home to my son.

I want to take a quick break from my story.  I want to talk about Oncology nurses, my heroes.  These nurses are simply amazing.  Always greeting you with a warm and sincere smile.  Joking when you are down.  And let me tell you, they can do an IV like nobody's business. I don't know how they do it, but I am so appreciative that they do.

So we started the dreaded chemo cocktail and it was everything advertised.  I hurt.  I felt nauseous for the first time.  I got phlebitis in the back of one hand.  It was simply horrible.  I did one full two week treatment and was about to begin on my second round.

Hubby and I had mastered the art of the "kid is sleeping date" during this time.  We settled in to watch a movie, but I couldn't get warm.  As the night went on, my teeth started chattering and I couldn't stop shivering.  Hubby kept telling me I felt warm to him.  I was having a hard time breathing.  Hubby asked if I wanted to go to emergency.  I said no, let's just go to bed.  About one o'clock when I was shivering so hard I was shaking the bed, Hubby had had enough.  "If this was me we would have been at emergency hours ago.  We are going and we are going now.  Get ready."  Now if you know Hubby, you know he never shouts orders.  Never.  I didn't even try to argue.  He called his sister to come stay with the boy.

We went into emergency where I told them I was on chemo, I couldn't get warm and I was having a hard time breathing.  Well, if you ever want to skip the line in emerg, use this line.  I was immediately taken into a room.  Then these very obviously not oncology nurses proceeded to try and put an IV in me eight times.  Yes, that is right, eight times.  I do remember that part vividly.  Finally the anesthesiologist came in and put one in the back of my hand.  You know, the spot where I kept telling the nurses to try and they wouldn't.

About 15 minutes later they brought in a portable x-ray machine.  I didn't know, but they told Hubby the results.  I had a pulmonary embolism that was putting pressure on my heart.  It wasn't allowing me to breath properly nor my heart to work properly.  I had a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.  Hubby called my Mom.  It was time for her to come.

(to be continued on "The" Post Part III - Are you serious?)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"The" Post Part I - The Diagnosis

So, it's been awhile.  I was chugging merrily along and enjoying this whole blogging thing.  Then, I started on one of the main reasons I started this blog and it died.  When I say I was recommended to do this by a therapist, it's really not a joke no matter how much I wish it was.  So here it goes.

Like most couples, Hubby and I had discussed children before we married.  We had decided two children, two years apart and that we would start trying after our first wedding anniversary.  Three weeks after our wedding anniversary, we had a positive test!  We were shocked, completely and utterly shocked.  Most couples we know struggled with infertility.  And, most couples we knew were in far better health than we were.  We high fived each other and congratulated each other on our amazing reproductive skills.  We didn't understand, but we felt truly blessed.

The pregnancy went along nicely.  A few oddities here and there, but nothing outside the realm of a normal pregnancy.  Setting the tone for the rest of his life, the boy came on his own terms.  He was 10 days late.  The first year was figuring out what worked and what didn't work for our family.  We hit our stride right about the time I had to go back to work.  Things were good.

About six months later, the boy was 18 months and we were ready to try for number two. This time it didn't happen so easily.  After months of trying, we finally resorted to the dreaded charting.  Finally, in early March we got a positive test!  But, I can't say I felt very pregnant.  I just figured each pregnancy would be different and I was worrying too much.  In mid April, that little Angel decided that they weren't ready to leave Heaven just yet.  We lost the baby.  There was some worry that it had been a tubal pregnancy and I was advised to wait three months to try again.  My HCG levels were followed until they reached under 5.

It was a tough blow.  But all things considered, this was more what we had prepped ourselves for when we first started trying.  We were older.  We weren't in the best physical health.  We had no reason to believe that this was going to be easy. We took a couple of months off and the release from all the pressure was nice.  We were able to focus on our family that we already had and our marriage.  It was time that we desperately needed, but didn't know it.

July came around and we started trying again.  In late July, another positive test!  Boy did I feel pregnant.  I was more nauseous than I had ever been.  My tummy was getting hard and my clothes didn't fit quite right pretty quickly.  I had always heard that you showed faster with subsequent pregnancies, so I figured everything was going great!  We told family and some close friends.  We were happy.

Then it started happening again.  I was bleeding a lot.  I went to our family doctor.  He gave me a pregnancy test that came back positive within seconds.  He felt that I needed more attention quickly and called ahead to have me admitted to emergency due to the previous tubal pregnancy.  I went to the hospital and was given another blood test.  My HCG levels were quite high, but all other evidence pointed to me losing the pregnancy.  The ER OB was amazingly sweet.  She remembered me from my pregnancy with the boy as well as when I had miscarried earlier in the year.  It's funny how those things work.  When I was pregnant with the boy, she was one of the OBs in the practice where I went.  I remember saying that I didn't care who was on duty when I delivered as long as it wasn't her.  It turned out she wasn't the one, but now I could not have liked her more.  She did ask me to come back to emergency in three days to get another blood test to make sure my HCG levels were dropping.

I continued to bleed over the weekend and was quite sure my body was taking care of the pregnancy.  I went to get my blood test done the following week.  I was called at home within hours by the doctor.  She told me that she wanted me to get an ultrasound done the following morning.  My HCG levels had tripled over the weekend.  Being a member of the computer generation, this immediately sent me to Google.  I found article after article that talked about reasons your HCG would go up so high after seeming to miscarry.  They all headlined that the main reason would be if you were pregnant with fraternal twins and one wasn't viable but the other was. Could this be?  Could I still be pregnant?  I mean, my Aunt had fraternal twins.  It's not completely crazy.  I was kind of excited to go to the ultrasound after that.  Maybe this wasn't going to be another heart break after all.

I went the next morning to have the ultrasound.  The technician was really quiet through the whole thing.  She left a couple of times to get someone else to look at her pictures and make sure they were right.  It all seemed kind of weird to me.  I thought maybe she was new.  At the end of the session, she asked me to get cleaned up and wait in the room to talk to the Radiologist.  This was the time that my spidey senses really went off.  I had many ultrasounds with the boy.  I had a few with the previous miscarriage.  Not once did I talk to a Radiologist.  I waited for about 15 minutes feeling like I was going to throw up at any given moment.

The Radiologist finally came into the room and told me that I needed to talk to my OB today.  As soon as possible.  It needed to be today.  Did I understand?  Today.  If I wasn't mostly numb at this point, I probably would have been completely freaking out.  I called the OB office and made an appointment for one hour later.  I then called Hubby and told him that he needed to come.  He needed to come now.  I wasn't really in a place where I could listen and retain anything anyone was saying to me.

We met with the OB and she had grim news for us.  It turned out what I had was a molar pregnancy.  It seems the egg should never have been fertilized.  It was completely lacking any chromosomes.  In the absence of these chromosomes, the fertilized egg duplicated the paternal chromosomes creating an abnormal "grape like" growth that grows very fast.  It was never a embryo, it was always a growth.  These pregnancies happen to less than 1 in 1000 women who ever get pregnant.  Very rare.  But you know, life persists.  Well, honestly, I think these are all the things she said.  These are the things I know now like the back of my hand.  I was in a complete state of numbness at the time.  Hubby says that these are the things we were told.  I do remember her saying that a D&C clears up 99% of the cases and I needed to have one as soon as possible.  As in tomorrow, the day Hubby was flying out for his boys trip to Vegas.

Hubby wanted to cancel his trip.  I insisted that he go.  We had a very stressful year and he needed this.  It was a simple out patient surgery that hundreds if not thousands of women had done every day.  The next morning, with mixed emotions, Hubby headed out to Vegas.  I took the boy to daycare.  I had planned on driving myself to the hospital.  But a very wonderful Angel of a friend whose husband was also on the boys trip insisted there was no way that was going to happen.  She arranged for her sister to watch her boys so she could take me.  The surgery went off without a hitch.  My girlfriend could not believe how quickly I shook off the anesthesia and she took me where any respectable girlfriend would take you, Baskin Robbins.  I picked up the boy from Daycare and went over to her house to have dinner so I could relax and the boys could play together.

Hubby and I talked that night and he was very relieved to hear I was fine and that everything went well.   To this day, I'm not sure how much fun he had on that trip.  I hope he had a blast because our lives were about to change forever.  I don't think either of us have been the happy-go-lucky people we were before this happened ever again.  There are days I really miss those people.

I'm a stats person.  I love stats.  It seems stats hate me.   This will be prevalent theme throughout these posts.  So, you look at less than 1 in 1000 women who ever get pregnant has a molar pregnancy.  Of those, 99% have a D&C, wait six months and then get to start trying again.  In this case, I am truly the 1%.

I went for a blood test a week after my D&C.  My HCG levels had dropped to 45,000 the day after the surgery.  A week later, they were 198,000.  It seems my particular "pregnancy" had taken root in my uterus.  A meeting with my now very favorite doctor was called.  Hubby and I went not knowing what to expect.  Google was no longer my friend.  Google had told me I was pregnant with twins and that was a big, fat lie!  I hadn't Googled very much on molar pregnancies and what I had went along with the D&C will cure it.  So yeah Google, you and I have some serious issues with your continual lying.

Hubby and I started learning a whole new vocabulary in that meeting.  I no longer had a molar pregnancy.  I now had gestational trophoblastic neoplasia.  All the hip kids just call it GTN.  She had already consulted with the foremost Canadian specialist on this who happened to work at Princess Margaret in Toronto (one of the very best cancer hospitals in all of North America) and I had an appointment with him the next day.  I can't say Hubby or I have very clear memories of what was said in that meeting.  I remember words like "chemo" and "cancer but not like normal cancer".  I'm still not sure what that exactly means.  Is cancer ever normal?

The call to my parents took every bit of courage I had.  Hubby offered to do it for me, but it was something I needed to do.  I'm a parent now.  I get it.  I can't imagine getting the call that my child 2000 miles away was going to talk to a specialist to begin chemo treatments.  Mom, of course, wanted to get on the next plane.  I asked her to wait.  That we didn't know where this was going to take us and I would rather wait until we really needed her.  Best. Decision. EVER!  She reluctantly agreed.  I'm sure my family and Google spent a lot of time together over the next couple of months.

With that behind me, I did what any good stats person would do.  I sat down at a computer and started researching this 1% club of which I was now a member.  I needed to be prepared.  And, quite honestly, it was much easier to do this than try to identify anything I was feeling.  One thing I knew for sure at the end of the night, my life and my family were about to be completely turned upside down.  I just had no concept of what that term meant at that time.

(to be continued on "The" Post Part II - Sometimes the treatment is as scary as the disease)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Paper Mache Mayhem

What did the Boy say now?

The Boy:  Mom, this is my Lego guy Bleeker (sp?), he can run really fast and has a grappling hook.
Me: Wow.  He looks pretty cool!
three minutes later
The Boy:  Mom, this is my Lego guy Blaster, he can jump really high and has a a flame thrower.
Me:  Oh.  I thought his name was Bleeker?
The Boy:  (with total disgust)  Mom!  I put a hat on him!
Me:  How silly of me to have missed that.

Paper Mache Mayhem!

Yesterday, Hubby helped a friend move into his new place.  That left me and the Boy with the day to fill.  I don't know exactly what came over me, but I decided to be Crafty Mom!  I heard theme music in the background, a wind blew my craft paper cape making it ripple behind my back.  Hands were firmly on hips.  I was simply amazing!  I looked online and decided on a paper mache volcano.  But not just a volcano, it needed to be a volcano we could eventually make erupt!

Here are the problems, we don't have tape like the instructions require.  We also don't have any paint.  But I am Crafty Mom right now and that won't stop me!  We have food coloring to put in the paste and we can use the paste to hold the frame on to the water bottle.  Easy, peasy.  In my head, we stand side by side making flour paste on the stove, the Boy in awe of my know how.  We then construct the frame together, rip up some newspaper and paper mache the heck out of that thing.

We measure out the ingredients, put in the pan and began whisking away.  Wait, where is the Boy?  Wasn't he just here with me enjoying this bonding experience?  Oh, he's downstairs playing with Lego.  That's okay.  Once we hit the building part he will love that!  He loves Lego, why wouldn't he love that?

So with the paste made and the table all protected I called the Boy back up.  I tell him how we have to build the frame.  He says "Oh, I'll be right back.  Go ahead and start though."  I think that my little building genius has some great idea that would make this project even better!  I'm such a lucky Mom to have such an industrious little guy.  I have the frame half built now.  Where is he?  I call again to the basement again.  He tells me just a minute, he can't find it.  So I just about get this thing built and up he comes with safety goggles on looking very proud.  Are you kidding me?  I just built the thing by myself because he needed safety goggles.  Grrr.  Oh well, I'm not going to let this ruin our special bonding time.  And well, safety first!

It is time to begin the real magic.  I just know we are going to have the time our lives now!  What kid doesn't want to play in goo and build a volcano?  I really am a great Mom.  But wait, I almost forgot.  I have the only kid in the world who doesn't like to get his hands dirty.  He finds the glue completely gross.  His third piece in, he starts gagging because the glue is "soooooooooooo gross".  But, don't you worry.  He managed to drip some glue on my cloth covered dining room chair making those three pieces.  You know, the glue that has the blue food dye in it.  Perhaps that is why all those craft websites never suggested food dye in the glue.  I'm beginning to doubt my Crafty Mom status.

I get the glue off as best I can and get his hands washed.  But, I am determined to do this together.  I tell him why don't you let Mommy do the gooey part and you can tell me where to put them.  Two strips later, "This is boring" and off he goes to play Lego again.  I'm too far into this thing now to quit.  So, I completed our my volcano by myself.  After cleaning up all the mess, I made mac and cheese for dinner and had a large glass of wine followed by a half hour shower .... to get all the glue out of my hair.

The Boy and I snuggled up in the "big bed", our bed, and he drifted off to sleep.  I sneaked out and took another look at my volcano.  Hmmmm.  It doesn't quite look like the pictures we saw.  It's skinnier and maybe a little ( a lot ) skinnier on some sides as others.  It must just need to dry.  I'm sure that is it.  Maybe I should reconsider Crafty Mom status; at the very least I should switch it to crafty mom.  I'm not sure I deserve the capitals at this point.  Everything always looks better in the morning though.  I will hang on to that for tonight.

So this morning things are bright and cheery!  The volcano doesn't look any better by daylight, but the explosion is going to be fantastic! We anxiously await for Hubby to wake up.  9:00 is all we can stand.  We all get up and set up in the garage for the greatest explosion of the decade!

Have you ever played golf?  If you play like me, you play 17.5 holes of completely crappy golf.  But, there is this one shot that is amazing!  You connect perfectly, you hit with the perfect amount of force and the ball does exactly what you want.  It's the sweet shot.  It's the one that makes you think the next time someone wants to go golfing that you really love that game.  Well, that face at the end, that was my sweet shot of the whole project.

What's that Crafty Mom?  Wait, don't tell me.  I certainly don't want to go through all that again.  Oh.  You are right Crafty Mom.  That eruption would be better if we used Diet Coke and Menthos.  But don't tell Hubby we are talking again.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How is he still surprised?

What did the boy say now?

This morning Hubby challenged the Dog to yet another wrestling match.  I don't why he continues to do this.    The score is something like the Dog 1,254, Hubby 0.  This morning the match was quite quick as the Dog hit Hubby in the face with his head.  Boxers (both human and canine) everywhere were envious of the beautiful hit.  Hubby ended up with a bloody, swollen lip.

The Boy:  Oh Daddy!  I'm so sorry you got hurt!  I'm going to do anything you want to make you feel better today.
Hubby:  Well, you could rub my feet.  That always makes me feel better.
The Boy:  Mommy is really good at rubbing feet.

Thanks kid, thanks a lot.

How is he still surprised?

I love holidays.  I was blessed to have parents who made each and every holiday special.  I think it was mainly my Mom doing the work, but my Dad never had any problem with her doing things a little different.  Take Valentine's Day.  The very mention of the holiday causes groans from single and partnered people alike.  To me and my sister, it was a day of excitement!   Mom made it a day just to celebrate the people you love.  It makes sense.  You have days to celebrate your individual relationship already.  Why not have a day just to celebrate everyone you love?

My Mom usually put out a few decorations ahead of time to start getting us in the spirit. The night before, we got some new pajamas.  The morning of Valentine's Day, we would have presents waiting for us on the hearth of the fireplace.  It was usually lip gloss, lotions, nail polish, hair stuff ... you know, all the stuff girls love!  Dad often got all of us flowers.  Maybe a new sweater or something else we had been talking about, but nothing too expensive or crazy.  Then that night, with Mom as the head chef and my sister and I assisting, we would put together some of the most amazing meals.  We would all eat by candlelight and just bask in the glow of the love of our family.  Mom and Dad would exchange gifts if the budget allowed for it that year and showed us just exactly what a marriage and family should be.

So, I know what you're thinking.  Those poor men that we would someday date and marry!  In some ways, you are right.  I always felt a little bad when I had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day and he would spend his hard earned money on taking me out.  We would wait for hours to get a table.  The food would be okay.  The flowers nice, but not necessarily my favorite like my Dad would know to get.  All the while, I'm thinking about what I am missing at home.  But, I really appreciated the effort they put into trying to make the night perfect.  They just had a really hard act to follow.  I think that was the best gift my parents gave us.  To not only know what we should expect, but to appreciate the effort behind it not the money.

So, I think what all this is leading to is to make you understand how even an almost non-holiday like Valentine's Day to have such special memories, holidays were amazing to me.  And, they still are.

Our new house has a great storage area in the basement.  It is huge!  I immediately thought what every woman would think .... We need more decorations!  So, in order to make that space feel more homey, the Boy and I went out to the local dollar store and stocked up for Valentine's Day.  We decorated today and it looks fantastic!  You may be thinking it is a little early for Valentine's Day decorating and you're probably right.  The combination of being depressed with all the Christmas and New Years decorations down and not being able to paint the walls yet made me decorate a little early this year.

The boy and I have been putting up window clings.  His aren't exactly what I would have done, but I love the imperfections and mostly the pride in his face when he sees what he has done.  He helped me decide how to do the garland over the windows and where to put up all the hanging cupids and hearts.  We had also previously picked up some heart pillows and made some Valentine stuffed animals at Build a Bear.

But, here is the thing.  Hubby seemed honestly surprised that I would do this.  How can that be?  Has he been absent for every other holiday?  Pregnant, sicker than a dog, it didn't matter I still decorated and celebrated every holiday since we have been together.  It's been almost nine years we have been living in the same house!  Honestly, I love that I can still make him drop his jaw and give me that unique mixed look of "you amaze me" and "do we need to get you medication".  I think it keeps a relationship fresh!

I love the way the house looks now.  I'm waiting to put out the outdoor decorations until February 1st.  While I love that look from Hubby, not sure I want to get it from the neighbors!  I can just sit on the couch reading a book, sipping coffee and surrounded by everything to do with love!  The icing on the cake was when the Boy looked around and said with a quiet voice "Mommy, our house looks magical".  Maybe, just maybe, we might be doing as well as my parents making life a little more magical and filled with love.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meet the Family!

What did the Boy say now?

This is a little old, but a great one.  We had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new little nephew.  Finally, he deemed us worthy of his presence three days past his due date.  I was very excited to get to finally meet him and had the Boy all ready to go when Hubby got home from work.  We decided to stop by the McDonalds drive through at the service center between our two towns for dinner to save some time.

Me:  Are you super excited to meet your new baby cousin?
The Boy:  I sure am!  (several seconds of silence)  My heart is warm.
Me:  Ooooohhhhhhhhh!  Your love for your cousin is making your heart warm?
The Boy:  No, the chicken nuggets are hot and making my heart warm.
Me:  Oh.  Sigh.
Hubby:  Bwhahahahahahha

Meet the Family!

I realized I am going to inevitably be talking about these people a lot, and you may not know who they are.  So, here is a brief introduction.

Hubby - I first met hubby when we were working together, in different countries over 10 years ago.  You really get to know someone as you see them handle irate (and often irrational) VPs and at the same time they are also trying to solve the issue.  Hubby was the only one I ever saw that could actually get them to calm down and laugh.  The more I got know him, the funnier, smarter and more reliable I found him to be.  Those are all very attractive traits!  He continues to be the funniest person I know and handles this irate gal very well.  And yes, I usually end up laughing.  I'm still not entirely sure how he does it, but he is most certainly my compliment in every way. He is a telecommunications analyst for a major cell phone corporation.  We live in Kitchener, you figure it out!

The Boy - The boy is five, almost six, and absolutely the best thing I have ever done.  When I was pregnant, the only hope I had was that he would have my husbands laid back personality.  No such luck!  Hubby often says we have stubborn offs.  He is a great combination of us though, I think.  He is very funny and got his comedic timing early.  I don't know many 14 month olds that get that a prat fall is funny.  He is smart, too smart sometimes.  We are afraid of the teenage years as we are just barely keeping ahead of him now.  These are the wonderful traits he got from my husband.  He also has no fear, even when he probably should.  He is stubborn, but that can be good too.  The quickest way to get him to do something is to tell him he can't.  He is compassionate and becoming more aware of the world everyday.  I like to think he got those things from me.  I know we are his parents and biased, but we get lots of unsolicited comments from strangers that say the same thing so we feel justified in thinking our son is made of pure awesome sauce!

The Dog - My 30th birthday was rolling around and I was a little glum.  I didn't mind the age thing, I just always had pictured my life different when I hit that age.  I was living in what was really Hubby's house.  I was in a relationship, a great relationship, but not married.  No pitter patter of little feet running through the house.  Hubby had planned a really romantic trip to Montreal for my birthday.  We had also been in loose talks about getting a dog.  I realized I could solve the pitter patter problem!  I asked Hubby if we could get a puppy instead of the trip.  He said yes!  Now, I know how to pick out dogs.  I know to check carefully for hip and eye checks of both the parents and to ask things about the temperament.  We were going to dutifully check out many different breeders until we found one we were comfortable with.  All that went out the window when we went to the first breeder and saw our baby!  He was wrestling all the other puppies who seemed to be rather sleepy.  The breeder said not to worry about his tummy being so big, he had somehow broken into the room with the food and they found him eating merrily in the bag of food.  Well, that just proved his was meant to be ours!  (Hubby and I might both have rounder tummies as well!)  Luckily, the breeder was great and showed us all the documentation we should have asked for in the first place.  All those things that we found so adorable ended up being our curse for the first two years.  He needed to be walked for hours just to calm him down.  And, to be honest, the food thing is still a bit of an issue.  He is now almost eight and still has such a special place in my heart.  He is my buddy and has been my shoulder to cry on through the rough patches.  He is such a goof, which makes him a perfect part of our family.

So there are the main players in my life.  My three leading men.  I have been so blessed by them all.  They make me better and make my life make sense. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hello Webisphere!

I've thought about this for a long time, and was suggested it by a very nice therapist, but I have finally decided to take the plunge.  Here is my blog, journal, musings, or whatever you want to call it.

First things first, about the title of my blog.  When people used to ask me "A penny for your thoughts", a standard response from me was "I would owe you some change!"  Not much is going to change here.  I have all these thoughts and musings in my head, and since the birth of my son I have no memory.  This will give me a chance to remember those thoughts for more than a day or two.

I am a mother of a five year old human boy and an eight year old boy chocolate lab.  I have been married for seven years and all of them have been happy, some happier than others.  In other words, I am blessed.  I work for a big corporation (blah!) doing data mining.  Yes, it is as boring as it sounds.  But, I have a great set up where I work from home four days a week.  I actually have a very healthy work/life balance and I am grateful I have a job that is somewhat stable.  We moved to Kitchener, Ontario in June of last year and we have completely fallen in love with the city!  So, I guess that is me in a nutshell.   How did I get in this nutshell?  Where did you find such a large nutshell?  Oh, Austin Powers!  You never get old!

Something to look forward to more than my musings, I will be adding a "what did the boy say now" section to my posts.  He is that funny!

Welcome aboard my very own crazy train!