Friday, May 1, 2015

Eight days later

And (finally) my geography has changed. This is my current view. (Don't mind the clutter on my table, okay?)

For the first time since Thursday of last week, I was out of bed and in the living room first thing this morning. (Keep in mind that I sleep until around 9:00, so "first thing" isn't something that happens as the sun comes up.)

Today, I am grateful that I can sit in my recliner. (I flipping love this chair.) And I'm super grateful for the friends that I have, for the friends that I have always had, in my life.

Jo popped in around 10:00 this morning and stayed until she had to go get her girls from school. Shortly after she left, I received a fb email from one of my friends from ye olden days in Provo. (Ben Matthews, for those BYU 3rd warders who would recognize the name.) A few minutes ago, I was scrolling through fb and read a quote that my seminary teacher, Evan Bingham, had written in response to some comments mutual friends had made on a post he did today.

"Truly Elder Maxwell hit it right when he said, 'Recall the new star that announced the birth at Bethlehem? It was in its precise orbit long before it so shone. We are likewise placed in human orbits to illuminate. Divine correlation functions not only in the cosmos, but on this planet, too.' Elder Neal A. Maxwell, October 2002"

My mind immediately flew back in time twenty years to a conversation I had with my friend Olettie Colettie (aka: Noodlehead, aka: Colette Bird, nee Bright), in which she shared a thought from a BYU devotional she'd attended that week (paraphrased, because I don't know the source), that those people who have eternal influence on our lives are the same people who always have and who always will have eternal influence on our spirits.

I'm so grateful for all of the amazing people I've known in my life. I have more good and happy memories than, I am sure, is my fair share. The Lord has been very, very good to me, in that He has placed wonderful, supportive, funny, artistic, thoughtful, brave and kind people in my path. I wouldn't be who I am without all the friends I've had - so many of whom I still have - in my life.

I am, pretty much, the luckiest girl in the world.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wig Update #4

You guys! Remember when I did the last wig update and I included the picture of the reddish colored wig and said I knew it probably wasnt mine, but I was fantasizing that it was and that Merria had tagged mskillerdiller in error when she meant to tag ms_muffett on Instagram?

Well, guess what... She didn't tag mskillerdiller in error. She tagged mskillerdiller because mskillerdiller's the person who's been doing the back of my head! 

Also, THE REDDISH HAIR APPEARS TO BE MINE! (Funny what happens when you mix several people's hair together.)

What a lovely surprise it was to get a wig update this afternoon.

It's been a hard day, but the wig always puts a smile on my face. (Also, I am pleased to report that I'm feeling a little better this afternoon than I was this morning. For example, I was able to stand at the kitchen counter and drink my entire lunch - chocolate Ensure and a raspberry yogurt blended into a shake - without having to take a break to lie down. I know it doesn't sound like much - either the standing or the "shake" - but I'm telling you, after this morning, I'll count standing for 5 minutes to down something that even remotely approaches a meal made of chocolate as a win.)

Six days

Remember how, last Thursday, I wrote a blog post from my bed? ... Yup. I'm still here.

I was out of bed (and dressed in actual clothes instead of pajamas) for about two hours yesterday, so I could head over to MD and have my blood tested.

It turns out that I'm anemic, my white cell and platelet count have tanked, and my iron and phosphorus and potassium levels are also low.

Yeah, so... my blood is bad. No wonder I'm so tired.

Because the levels are right where they should be able to be corrected through diet, I'm not going in for an infusion this week. This is both comforting (nothing grosses me out like seeing a bag of blood hanging on an IV pole does) and incredibly frustrating (I literally cannot eat more than I'm eating, and I am really conscious of what I DO eat - spinach every day, and a meal of black beans on a wheat tortilla has become a staple around here, Judy looks at iron counts as much as fiber counts on everything she buys at the store). I'm trying really hard not to put anything into my body that won't help it get stronger and feel better, but I'm fighting this insidious drug that's determined to tear not just my body, but also my blood, to shreds.

It's exhausting. And I'm not just saying that because I am anemic and EVERYTHING is exhausting.

There are food groups that are high in iron (steak... pork chops... even chicken) that I would love to be able to eat and spike that iron count... but I'd have to be able to digest it. And my digestive system currently struggles with toast.

And don't get me started on the week of mouth sores, and how that impacts both my options and ability to eat actual food.

(I read last night that having low iron can make a person more irritable. Ya think? ... This post is something special.)

I'm just a little tired of feeling like I'm gonna fall down every time I try to get up.

This morning, I ate scrambled eggs in bed, lying on my side. Judy had to get the last two fork fulls for me because I couldn't navigate the fork against the food any more. I don't know how she's taking care of me without bursting into tears. It appears that she is not only a saint, but also a rock.

This thing (cancer, chemo, low blood counts, digestive issues, constipation and/or the exact opposite of said constipation, you name it... any of it, all of it) is not for the feint of heart.

I'm so grateful that I have my mom here with me. It's hard enough when I have someone else to do my laundry and wash my dishes - oh, and feed me the last two bites of scrambled eggs because I can't lift the fork. I have no idea how I'd be able to do this without her. (That said, I have absolutely no clue how anyone does this when there are other people they have to take care of. My hat is off to all the men and women out there who are both parents and cancer patients.) 

Chemo is hard. Really hard. And I hate it. ... But I live in hope that it's not just killing this tumor, but also changing my body, so the cancer will never come back.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wig Update #3

This morning, I woke up to an alert from Instagram that Merria Dearman had tagged me in a comment.

It's about a week out from being finished. Woot!

She also posted this picture. I'm not tagged in it, but I'm posting it anyway because a) I think it's interesting to see a wig from a different view, the prosthetic neck is fascinating to me, and also b) because I'm totally fantasizing that this, too, is my wig and that mskillerdiller person she tagged was meant to be me. (Listen, I've always wanted red hair. Don't judge.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some days...

...are harder than others. Some days, I feel sicker and weaker and the pain is so bad that I can hardly stand over the kitchen counter as I shovel in just the noodles and carrots from my beloved Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup.

These are usually the same days that I get the hiccups because my body is too tired to deal with reality.

These are the days that I spend in bed.

But my bed is pretty sweet, and I have the most excellent views... so, outside of whining for a minute about how much the hiccups hurt when a girl has sores in her throat, I don't have too much to complain about.

I have sunshine, and a water view.

I have more books than I can read, more shoes than I can wear, and multiple bags for every season/outfit.

I have Blue Bloods to keep me company.

And more scarves than your average department store.

I have this sweet view into my kitchen. What you may not be able to make out, but what I know is there: a "Friendship is Priceless" plaque that my First American coworkers gave me when I moved to Mesa nine years ago (their signatures are all over the back of it), the green and white dishes that were my Grammy's first set of dishes when she went to college in the late 1930's, the two small square paintings that hang over my kitchen sink that were in my Grandma's mint green kitchen my entire childhood, and the Bacon sign my faux cousin sent me for my 40th birthday. (Oh, and a lot of meds, more than one set of salt & pepper shakers and some nail polish.)

A print of Mary and the baby Jesus that I always intended to hang in a nursery. But since the nursery dream hasn't happened, they watch over me. A clock that Julie and Everett got for free from RC Willey, but Everett didn't  like, so I inherited it. (I love it. It has a solid tick tock, and I am a woman who loves the sound of a ticking clock. So much so that I have a ticking clock in every room of my tiny little home. I find the tick tock grounding. It soothes my occasionally troubled soul.) And a walk-in closet full of more clothes than I'll probably ever wear.

So, it's a day that I am immobile and bedfast. But I am in a room that I love, surrounded by things that are near and dear to my heart. On days like this, I am grateful that I CAN just lie in bed, that I don't have to leave the house to go to work, that I have been blessed to be able to stay in my own tiny little home as I do this - the hardest thing my body has ever done. I am tired, and my body hurts, and I want/need this day to end in a solid night's sleep, but I am alright. Because I am here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The last 24 (ish) hours

I'm home now.

It's awesome to be back here. I mean, I can't even tell you how great it is to come home after being tied to an IV pole for four+ days. (Just typing that, I gagged. It seems that my body has some IV-pole-related PTSD. Oh, and I'm due for nausea meds. It's a winning combination.)

We got home yesterday morning around 11. I was able to make it up the stairs and into my recliner. ... I woke up around 3:00, thirsty and (of course) having to pee.

I swear, peeing is my life during (and the 48 hours following) chemo. ... So much pee. It's insane. Today, I had to go back to the hospital for my Neulasta shot. Of course, they weighed me before sticking my arm. And I'd lost 9 lbs since my last vitals/weigh in yesterday. NINE POUNDS in just over 24 hours, kids. That's some serious water weight. (Also, I'm now officially under my driver's license weight. I'd been flirting with that number for 2-3 weeks. Turns out all it took to push me under - HARD - was this last round of chemo.)

So, as I was saying... lots of potty breaks going on over here. Even now. I wonder on a fairly regular basis how it is that I'm able to dig myself out of a hospital bed, cross the room to unplug the IV pole, and then pull the pole with me into the bathroom when I'm in the hospital... when I can barely make it the 20 straight feet from my recliner to the toilet in my own home. (I know you all love it when I over share. But seriously, I do wonder how I do it when I'm in the hospital. "Tender mercies" comes to mind...)

And speaking of tender mercies... can I just tell you that I'm SO grateful that I've never fallen when I'm in the hospital? I fell twice last night. The first time, I think I may have passed out (the amount of pain I was in was straight up INSANE), and I caught myself on the way down. (My left arm's gonna have one heck of a bruise in a couple days. I don't even care. I'm just so glad that the towel rod caught me before I went all the way down.) The second time, my feet just slipped right out from under me. Luckily, I was close enough to the toilet that I was able to maneuver myself and I fell right onto the seat. My body hurts from the falling/catching/landing in weird places, but I just can't get over how grateful I am that I fell HERE, and not in the hospital, where my port and/or chemo bags could have so easily been impacted.

Another fun fact from the Neulasta shot episode... I had to go to the hospital instead of MD Anderson (because it's Sunday), which meant more of a hike to register and get to the floor where they'd do the shot. Luckily, I realized about three minutes into standing for registration that I was too tired to stand (my falls from last night have me a little spooked), so I sent Judy for a wheelchair. We had a wheelchair race with a man (about my age) pushing his dad (about Judy's age) on our way out of the nurse's station. I'm pretty sure they let us win, but it was still fun.

It's been a day. I slept most of yesterday and officially went to bed around 8:00. Judy woke me up at 10:00 to go get my shot, and I've been finding stuff to keep me busy since we got home, to ensure that I'll be able to sleep through the night tonight.

Chemo is a funny thing, how it both speeds up and slows down time. It's hard to believe it was one week ago RIGHT NOW that I was with friends at the Mesa temple, because it feels like it's been a year. That said, what I know is that the days move pretty fast when I'm on the other side of the mouth sores, which gives me comfort that I won't always be this tired (or have to pee this often).

Friday, April 17, 2015

The 5th Day

By now, we all know the drill... Laurie has four day chemo rounds. In on Tuesday means out on Friday.



It's a combination of a few things this time around: excess saline in the chemo bags led to a higher drip, later check in = later check out... But the largest culprit seems to be my body at large. I'm not making enough red blood cells (like, even when I'm in the hospital and on constant watch), so... they came in around 6:00 tonight and told me the doc wants to keep me overnight. He wants to do a hemoglobin infusion tonight, and then check my blood in the morning before he lets me go.

I won't lie. While I totally understand - and appreciate - his point of view, I just want to go home. So, I told the sweet emmissary nurses that I totally iunderstood, and then I rolled to my side and wept bitter tears that I don't even get to go home when I want to anymore.

And as I lay there, grieving my loss of a Friday night spent home in the comfort of my own bed (I know, how melodramatic am I?), I felt the sun fall onto my bed, and almost heard someone tell me to open my eyes.

And that's when I realized... there are some things that can't be seen from the comfort of my own bed, but sure as heck CAN be seen from the fifth floor of the hospital, in a picture window, no less.

I didn't get what I wanted tonight, but I did get something that I needed. (And I'm not talking about the kitchen-hours-aren't-open-so-I-have-a-dinner-of-Ensure or that extra pint of blood.)

I love sunsets. They're such a grand reminder that, while one day is ending, another is just about to begin. ... And THAT is what I needed today.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Round IV

Here we go again...

 Here I am, with Tweetybird and my security blanket in tow. Ready (okay, maybe ready isn't the best word, but I'm doing it anyway) to start round four.

My body is tired and it is sore. *But that weekend was worth it.

My back and my legs and my abdomen and my feet (oh, my poor feet...) are killing me from having been out and about and mobile for three days straight, but now that I'm bed-bound again, the bod will have plenty of time to rest up.

The nurse was just here to access my port and take my blood. My pre-meds should start in about an hour, and the chemo will hit my bloodstream a couple hours after that. I anticipate that I'll be asleep by 4:00... and that I'll wake up around the 20th.

Here goes nothing.

*Best part of my initial round of vitals? The weigh in. Guess who gained two pounds between Friday and Tuesday? ... This girl! Woooooot! (Pizza AND a calzone from Spinato's, both Target and theater popcorn, Taco Bell, CPK and ice cream every day. All solid choices. And the scale just totally backed me up on that.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Wizard of Oz was on to something, I think...

I went to church today, for the first time in ten weeks.

It's funny, how not being able to do something makes you really want to do it. (Insert ironic eye roll here, because going to church has never been something that I want to do on a weekly basis. ...  I mean, I don't hate it. But I also don't wake up on Sundays thinking "Hooray! Today, I get to go to church!" ... Except, today I did.)

It was so good to be back in my familiar seat. (Second row from the back, left side of the chapel, aisle seat, purse blocking the seat next to me to ensure my solitude.) It was great to sing songs that are part of who I am, and it was awesome to see people I love, and who I know love me. 

I was stopped by a couple sweet sisters on my way out of the building this afternoon, women who wanted to tell me they love me and pray for me every day, and I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies.

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day struggles of my life, most of which I have to face myself, due to the very nature of the battle that I am fighting. I always know that I am loved. I never feel like I am in this alone. Whether it's in the forefront or at the back of my mind, I always know that I have the most incredible support system and cheering squad in, like, the world.

But today... Today I got to feel love in a way that I don't always feel it.

And that was truly a gift.

From the familiar nods and smiles at church, to the way my sweet friend Beth just grabbed me and hugged me and then apologized, saying she didn't know if that was "allowed" (it typically isn't, but I'll make all kinds of exceptions for that girl), to an unplanned field trip to the Mesa temple visitors' center where, again, a sweet little Chilean sister missionary grabbed me by the waist (I mean that quite literally, she didn't even come up to my armpit) and hugged me, telling me that she was glad I had come to the temple, to my niece and nephews running to the door to hug me hello when I got to my brother's house for dinner tonight...

Today, I have felt love.

I mean, love has had an overwhelming presence in my life today. 

I am always aware that I have been blessed to know some of the very best people. I'll be the first to tell anyone that I have more love in my life than I can begin to understand. But today, I have felt such an incredible amount of love flowing in and out of me... all day long that it's just been... well... amazing. 

Part of me wishes all the days could be like today, but most of me knows that I couldn't handle it if they were. (Let's be real, there aren't enough tissues in the world to soak up all the happy tears. It would be exhausting... and messy.) But that doesn't mean that I'm not grateful for a day like this, totally awash in warm and fuzzies that go to my core. Because I am. So (so!) grateful.

Saturday was a special day

As I lie here in my bed, barely able to move, because I soooooo overdid it yesterday, I am grateful.

I am grateful for the pain in my abdomen, because it means I stood up too long and really used my nonexistent stomach muscles for WAY too long yesterday.

I am grateful for the pain in my upper back, because it means I was mobile in a way that I hadn't been in months.

I am grateful for my throbbing, swollen, feet. I'm even grateful that my heels and the balls of my feet look like I've been walking barefoot in a briar patch, because I earned all that rough and torn up skin by walking into and around no less than five stores yesterday.

Yesterday was a fabulous day. Today, I may be popping pain pills as soon as I leave my bed, and I may be smothering my shattered feet with Eucurin and then pulling socks over the mess in hopes that some high quality moisterizer will repair the damage I did yesterday... but I don't regret one single thing I did yesterday. It was like a Saturday in the old days. I was busy - and out of my house - for almost the whole day, and it was completely awesome.

I woke up at 7:00 and rolled out of bed, so I could get to Safeway before the bagels in the bakery had time to cool off and get hard. Mission accomplished.

I ran to Walmart, in search of the proboitic gummies that my sweet nurse, Michelle, had recommended I try to help my broken stomach along. (Listen, I'll try just about anything as a digestive aid. Oh, and I love gummy vitamins/supplements with a love that is fierce.)

Then I had to come home and put the yogurt and cream cheese in the fridge. (Oh, and sit down. Because I was exhausted from having to carry all my groceries around the store in my arms. ... It turns out that my OCD tendencies have crept right up. I was fine being IN a store, but I couldn't bring myself to touch a cart. Weird, I know. But I only fight the battles I know I can win, and I know my OCD brain better than to think it's worth it to push a cart around when I'm only buying bagels and carrots and cream cheese and yogurt. Oh, and half-priced Easter candy, for when I can eat sugar again. A girl can't have too many solid milk chocolate Cadbury mini-eggs in her cupboards, is what I'm saying.)

Then I went over to Tempe Marketplace and shopped until I was literally about to drop. (Trying clothes on was exhausting before I had the port, but now it's worse. That little bugger complicates my life in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is the tug I feel in my left breast whenever I pull a shirt onto or off of my body.  A thing which I did repeatedly yesterday, as I was in search of lightweight winter clothes because it seems that I am no longer able to regulate my own temperature. ... Good news! I found said lightweight winter clothes on clearance, just as I had hoped I would, and paid $6 a top. I love it!) Anyway, as I was checking out at Old Navy, I realized I was about to fall down and would be lucky to make it to my car. ... But I did make it to my car, and then thought to myself that going to a movie would, most likely, be every bit as therapeautic as coming home and sitting on my couch would be, so I drove over to Harkins.

I saw Woman in Gold. It was very good. Maybe a little slow in some parts, but overall, very good. And at the end of the movie, when the house lights slowly started to come up, I just sat there, looking around at the theater full of strangers, so grateful that I could be at the movies again that I couldn't help but cry. (Dang chemo and its nutty hormonal effects. I mean, I was a crier before. But now, it's on another level.)

Then I hit Target, so I could blow a gift card on some more clothes that would fit my rapidly shrinking body. ... Mission accomplished. With a side of Target popcorn, thank you very much. (That I only ate a few handfuls of and then threw the rest away, but still. THAT was awesome!)

After stopping home to drop off my wares, eat something for dinner, and lie down for a minute, lest I broke my back, I was off again.

Next stop - Baskin Robbins for a single scoop (I really do prefer a triple scoop, but the mouth sores can't handle that much sugar), and then I sat outside and read my book until it was time to meet Charity at the movies.

We saw The Imitation Game in a super packed dollar theater, and it was awesome. One of the best movies I've seen in a long time, with one of my favorite people. After the movie, we stood in the parking lot and talked about the movie - and life - until I literally could not stand for one more minute.

I hobbled to my car, drove home and somehow drug myself up the stairs and put me to bed.

Yesterday was a long day. (Sort of like this post.) But it was awesome. (Sort of like this post? ... I kid.)

I am tired, and I am sore. My body feels more broken than it has in months, and my mouth sores are monumentally worse than they were at this time yesterday. But it was worth it. Totally and completely worth it. And if I had the energy, I'd do it all over again today!