Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21

I have a Wonderful Life!

I mean, I really (REALLY) do.

I've talked before about The George Bailey Effect, about how cancer has been a blessing, in that it has given me the opportunity to get a glimpse of how many lives have been affected by mine.

One of the (very few and far between) gifts of cancer is that it  has shown me who and what is of most importance in my life. I have always believed that people matter. I have always made an effort to make and maintain friendships and relationships. My life has always been blessed with good people, who love me. My people have defined me; they have made  me who I am.

And much like the town of Bedford Falls saved George, my people have saved me.

From the opening lines of the movie, when the town is praying that George will be safe and get the help that he needs...

"Help him, dear father. ... Help my son George tonight. ... George is a good guy, give him a break, God."

To the closing scene, when the town rushes in with the love and support that saves him from a certain fate, I can relate to George. People have literally and virtually "scattered all over town" in an effort to find and provide me the help that I have needed.

My life in the last week has been a mirror to It's a Wonderful Life. (Less the suidical thoughts and intervention of Clarence, anyway.)

As Harry toasts George, I feel compelled to toast you. To my family, to my friends - and the friends of my friends - who have found me and prayed for me and helped me in whatsoever way that you can: Thank you. You have inspired me with your faith, with your emotional and spiritual support and with your financial generosity. You have made me the richest girl in town. (Metaphorically speaking.)

I love you. I will always be grateful, and I will never forget... People are good. God is real. He acts through each of us.

Thank you. For everything.

June 21

A Comparison/Contrast Photo Essay

The Tumor Tummy of 2012

June 20, 2012

The Tumor Tummy of 2010

June 21, 2010 

I may be "delivering" twins today, but I'm nowhere as big and pregnant as I was with the 22.5 lb of yesteryear.

Crazy tumors.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20

My family is here.

All of them.

L to R: Spencer, Brett, Katie, Me (duh), Kirk and Tyler

These are my siblings. I was able to spend the evening with my family tonight. We had a bbq at Spencer and Brea's and EVERYONE was there. It was awesome! I wasn't sure if Ty was going to make it, because he had a final, and Brett lives in Flagstaff and I didn't think he was going to be able to come down. But they came, and it tonight was exactly what I wanted/needed it to be.

For my Last Supper (pardon my irreverent humor.. you know that I can't help myself), Spencer grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. We had watermelon and Cheetos (my favorite things), followed by Texas Sheet Cake and ... oh ... a good 3 cartons of Blue Bell ice cream. (We are what we are. Ice cream fiends. It's in the Evans blood.)

We talked, we ate, we laughed, we cried, we ate chocolate, I got to open a present (socks and hair bows... my two favorite hospital accessories, bar none!), and then we ate and cried and talked some more.

I love my sibs, every single one of them. We're kind of a funny bunch, in that we all have incredibly different personalities, interests, lifestyles and ... well ... beliefs. But I love them. Fiercely. And I know they love me.

I'm so grateful for family, for relationships, for my life.

There were a TON of pictures taken tonight, and I'm sure I'll post a smattering of them a few days (who's kidding who? at least a week) down the road, but for now... I must show you my darling nieces.

Hazel, Me and Hillary

My goodness, I love these girlies!

These girls make me happy,  because they're adorable and funny and sweet. They make me happy, because they are cousins - and I know what that word means to me. They make me happy, because they're another link in an extended family that has taught me so much. My (favorite) aunts have taught me some of the most important lessons in my life, from the importance of balancing cashews against M&M's in my diet, to the you-should-only-eat-4-peaches-a-day rule, to ... well ... how to live in a body that's riddled with cancer.

I love my aunts. I love my nieces. ... I hope that, someday, I'll have the same relationship with these little girls as I do with the incredible women who are my mother's sisters, because they have shaped my life.

I have to say it again, because I just can't say it enough... My family. I love them!

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18

My goodness... What a weekend!

What an incredible, glorious, ride of a weekend.

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazed, and humbled, and grateful I have been to see the June 16th post here at Cancer Girl Central (aka: Razzzberries) circulating across the www. And I mean that in the literal, global sense. I've had hits coming in from all across the world. It has been mind blowing to watch the view count on that post jump... and then double... and then triple.

To give you an idea of what I'm seeing, I typically get between 20 and 40 hits to any given post that I write. (The 13 regular readers that  I have like to come back and re-read, is what I am saying. My writing style is riveting. The original 13 can't get enough.)

Saturday morning, I posted that entry to my blog and to Facebook and then went to a breakfast date. I came back, two hours later, thinking that I needed to make some adjustments. ... Edits, if you will. (I love it when I go out to eat and all I can think is "I should have structured that sentence differently", and I waste the opportunity to order extra bacon. Bother!) I signed in to do a quick re-write of the intro to that post, and I'd had 21 views. Twenty-one views, in only two hours. I was surprised, as that's my average readership, en total. Five minutes later, my edits were complete and I signed back out of that post, only to see that the view count had jumped to 39 while I was re-writing a couple sentences. Just under 20 views in less than five minutes. And that was only a precursor of what was to come.

Sunday morning, I was at 431. Sunday night, I was at 997. ... Just now? 1,536.

I think this is what we call "going viral", people.

I cannot thank you enough. For caring. For sharing a link. For taking a moment in your life to exercise your faith on my behalf. For taking the time to drive to the bank, to mail a check. For the emails, the texts, the phone calls, the friend requests. For the support. ... For everything.

The outpouring of love and support that I've received has been, well... awesome.

World English Dictionary

awesome (ˈɔːsəm)

- adj

1. inspiring or displaying awe

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

c.1600, "profoundly reverential," from awe + -some. Meaning "inspiring awe" is from 1670s; weakened colloquial sense of "impressive, very good" is recorded by 1961 and was in vogue from after c.1980.
Profoundly reverential, displaying awe: That is how I feel after having seen (and more importantly, felt) such an incredible outpouring of love and support.
Inspiring: That is what all of you people have been. I have been inspired by how my story has spread like wildfire, from person to person, across the world-wide web. Thank you. Thank you for taking an interest in me, in my situation, in my story. In my life.
Cancer is a big, strong (and sometimes scary) word, but Love will trump it every time. It has to. It can't not beat it. I believe this with all of my heart and soul. ... Thank you for believing it with me, and for reminding - in spades - one (sometimes scared) little cancer patient in Mesa, Arizona that she is not alone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17

I talked to my mom this morning. (Yeah, on Father's Day, I called home and talked to my mom. ... In my (our) defense, it was before 7:00 AM, and I'm sure Dad was nowhere near able and/or wanting to acknowledge a ringing phone.) Here is an actual snippet from our early morning convo:

Mom: Good morning! How are you?

Me: Oh, I'm fine. Except... you know, I'm tired. Because I have cancer. And I have surgery this week. So, I'm not sleeping well. How are you?

Mom: Oh, I'm fine. Except... you know, I'm tired. Because my daughter has cancer. And she has surgery this week. So, I'm not sleeping well.

- Insert raucous laughter here, because we think we're hilarious when we mock the cancer and/or impending surgery.

Also, we both know good and well that laughter will be off the table, come Thursday, for a good 3-4 weeks. Not that I'll be miserable and lose my sense of humor. (Oh, no, the sense of humor stays.) But without any ab muscles, my true laugh has to go into hiding and I affect what I refer to as "The Katharine Hepburn laugh".

It's not quite as fun as my own natural laugh, but you must admit that the Katharine Hepburn trill has a certain charm to it.  I'll be doing live demos by July 1st. (I hope.)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16

Those of you who know me well, know that I've been fighting cancer off and on for the last two years.

In the last week, I've learned that Cancer has found a new low and decided to truly fight dirty.  ... Little does that punk know how stubborn I am and that I will not let him take me down. So, in an effort to garner even more prayers and support, I'm going public. (I mean, beyond this little corner of the www.) That's right. Facebook. ... I put it on Facebook, people.

*Deep breath.*

What follows is a brief (well, as brief as I could make it...) summary of the last two years of my life, health wise, that was written for the benefit of those who are not one of the original 13 readers of this blog; but rather, someone who was sent here by a link or by a friend. If, after reading this post, you would like more information on me and my not-so-recent fight with the C word (and/or my love affair with all-things bacon), you're in luck. There are all kinds of long, newsy and semi-informative posts here for your reading enjoyment. ... Just scroll on down to the archive and you can go month by month, or you can do various searches by clicking on labels to the right.)

At the end of the summary, there are details of how you can help me. Right now. Today. ... If you're in a position to do so, and if you so choose.


In June of 2010, I had my first tumor removed. My 22.5 lb tumor made a medical journal and a cancer conference here in the Phoenix area. (It was my first brush with celebrity. I was both horrified and proud at what my body had accomplished.) At the time, I was told that Liposarcoma was a rare type of cancer that typically occurred in men between 45 and 65. I followed my doctors' advice and went through 6 weeks of radiation (complete and utter hell, nausea and abdominal pain the likes of which I still can't think about without tears coming to my eyes) in an effort to decrease the likelihood of recurrence from 85% to 60%. As I was a 35 year old woman, and not a 45-65 year old man, it seemed that it was most likely a one-time fluke and I'd be fine. I mean, I'd had the horrific surgery. I'd suffered through radiation. I'd lived through the cancer (and had the little "I'm a Survivor" pin to prove it).  Between surgery and radiation, I lost four months of my life to cancer in 2010. I thought I was done, that that was that.

My doctors had decided on a really aggressive treatment plan. They wanted to do scans (MRI's and/or CT's) every 90 days to monitor me for re-growth. I thought they were crazy. I wondered how I'd be able to afford even my 10% of the cost of the scans. But, they were my doctors. And I believe in following doctor's orders, so I went along with them.

I had one clean scan.

In January of 2011, my second-ever quarterly scan showed new growth in my retroperitoneal tissue. They weren't sure if it was the same thing (how could it be, less than 6 months after radiation ended?), and thought maybe it was scar tissue. Maybe it was just an abnormal growth near my kidney. At the end of the day, my surgeon didn't want to cut me open unless he knew that it was cancer. I went in for a biopsy. (Some fool nurse started talking about my stringy tumor tissue during said biopsy. I almost threw up right on the table.) Results of the biopsy: Malignant Liposarcoma.

Surgery was scheduled for March 22. The tumor that measured just larger than a dime at the end of January was the size of a softball by the time it came out, seven weeks later. There was a lot controversy at the time over what my oncologist would do with me now. It was decided not to run me through chemo or other treatment, as new research had shown that Liposarcoma doesn't have a predictable response to traditional chemotherapy treatments. When I asked what the likelihood was for another recurrence, I was told that there wasn't a lot of data on Liposarcoma, so they couldn't really forecast the future for me, but felt comfortable in telling me that, with my post-radiation 60% chance of recurrence rate, and the fact that it had already recurred, I should be safe.

In June of 2011, I had surgery to correct/remove some cysts that had formed on my tailbone, due to forced inactivity during the recuperation time of both abdominal surgeries. (When they take my tumors, it's a major surgery.We're talking a 13 inch incision from my sternum to my pelvis. - I was lucky in my second surgery and they just cut from my sternum to what's left of my belly button.) During recovery, my only option is to lie, flat on my back, for weeks. I can offset that by sitting very carefully in my recliner, but since I can't lean to a side or sit forward at all, because I have no abdominal muscles, all my weight is on my bum. ... And thus, some serious tailbone issues were born.

Between the tumor and the pilonidal cyst surgeries, I was out on medical leave from March-September 2011. Not all of that was full-time leave, because I did go back on a part-time basis between and after my second surgery before I was cleared for full duty again. But still. I missed a lot of work last year.

I had two clean scans in 2011.

In January of 2012, I had an MRI reveal another, new, tumor. Again, in my retropertitoneal tissue. At this point, my existing oncologist knew that he needed to get me into the hands of a Liposarcoma specialist. While Dr. W was a great doctor, and I loved his bedside manner, I understood that I was turning out to be one of those patients that the man just didn't know what to do with. He searched far and wide for a doctor who'd seen what I have, and luckily, for me, he found one. He referred me to Dr. H at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and I've been there ever since. (And loving it a little, because Dr. H is single. And dreamy. And age-appropriate. ... Listen, if a girl has to have the cancer, she might as well also have an oncologist that she can crush on.)

I met my new doctors, Dr. H (oncologist) and Dr. G (surgeon) at MD Anderson in February. They explained that they'd reviewed my case history, and based on the last year of my life (and also, the size of the tumor), they wanted to hold off on surgery until the risk of surgery didn't outweigh the possible benefit. When the tumor was found in January, it was roughly the size of a dime. (Sound familiar? Think back to the tumor of 2011. It was also dime-shaped in the beginning.) Based on my growth patterns, they wanted to wait a few weeks and scan me again. My March MRI's showed a .2 centimeter (read: pretty much none at all) change in the size of the tumor. My next round of scans were scheduled 12 weeks out, for the first week in June.

Last Thursday, I went in for my quarterly scans. Friday, I got the results. The tumor from January is still pretty much unchanged. But the CT showed an entirely new tumor, on top of my left kidney - pushing up against my spleen and possibly touching my colon as well. Surgery is imminent. ... The surgeon had already set up a time and a date before I even got to my appointment on Friday. The threat to my kidney is real, and if this new little friend has gone from zero-to-grapefruit in three months, I really can't put this off, because who knows how many other organs this could impact? (My first tumor adhered to five organs before it was removed. Let's not repeat that, please and thank you.)

So, surgery is scheduled for the 21st. That's next Thursday. They'll take both tumors, my left kidney, my spleen and, very likely, a section of my colon. The incision will be the full 13 inches again. I'll be in the hospital for about a week, with all kinds of IV's and monitors checking not only the usual blood flow and surgical recovery rate, but also my kidney and colon functions. I'll leave the hospital in a wheelchair and come home to use a walker for at least 4 weeks, at which point I'll start learning how to walk on my own again. (I know, if you're over 18 months old - and I would assume everyone who's reading this is - it doesn't seem like walking's all that hard. But it's brutal without ANY ab control. Trust me, I know. I've done this before.)

My work has very graciously given me an 8 week medical leave, for which I am incredibly grateful. I haven't been with the company for a full year, but they found a way to help me keep both my job and my insurance benefits while I'm out. (I love these people!)

The hitch: it's an unpaid medical leave. As I haven't been covered under our group STD (Short Term Disability Insurance) policy for 12 months, I can't file a claim and receive any type of insurance payout. (My advice to you: don't ever get the cancer. It is the mother of all pre-existing conditions. Also, it's no fun. And it's expensive.)

I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to go through the last two years and come out of three surgeries, 6 weeks of radiation and roughly 8 months of time unworked, without having incurred any new debt. I have been blessed beyond measure, and I can't even make sense of how this hasn't financially buried me up to this point.

(Other than the obvious: I grew up poor (we thought dirt was a toy), so my entertainment expectations and living expenses are relatively low.)

But I'm headed into uncharted territory, folks. This surgery will take more out of me than any of the others that have gone before. (Literally. Because this time, I'm losing organs.) So, I can't be certain of the recovery process or time. There's a best-case-scenario estimate of 8 weeks recovery time until I can return, part-time, to work. I'm hopeful that will hold true, but, again... uncharted territory. (And I can't bring myself to think about, let alone talk about, worst-case scenario.) Let's just say that, for now, I'm looking at a minimum of two months without any income, and then two more part-time months, before I'll be back to my "normal" 9-5 life. There's a possiblity it could stretch into more than that, and beyond that, I'm looking ahead at routine medical maintenance that will continue to cost me thousands of dollars every year. For the rest of my life.

And I have nothing.

Wait... That's not true. I have all kinds of great stuff. Stacks of books to read and re-read. Scads of movies to watch and a Netflix streaming membership that I have just begun to explore. I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and faith in Him who will redeem me, and ultimately heal me (however He so chooses). I have a deep and abiding sense of gratitude for all that I have been given. I have people in my life who love me, and I'm amazed at the strength and breadth of my support system. .... I have so very, very much.

But financially, I have nothing.

I have spent everything I have ever saved. Ever. Every extra dollar I've made in the last two years has gone towards paying medical bills. And I have been very (VERY!) fortunate to have been in a position where I was able to pay them. ... Until now.

Enter, the point of this post:

Friends and family have been asking for weeks/months/years how they can help me get through this. My answer has always been the same: "Pray. Oh, and if you could find a cure for cancer, that would be great, too." It is the nature of the beast that most of what I have to go through, I have to go through alone. I can't share the physical discomfort of carrying a tumor heavier than newborn triplets. I can't disperse the pain of surgery so other people can help me carry the burden of having to heal from the inside out. I have to learn to walk again on my own. So much of what I have to do, I have to do.

But there is something that you can help with, if you're able, and so inclined.

A benefit account has been opened at Wells Fargo in my name. What this means is, anyone can walk into a Wells Fargo (nationwide) and make a deposit into the account. All you have to know is my first and last name (Laurie Evans) and the city I live in (Mesa, AZ). -- I would advise that you be specific to the spelling of my name when you go to the bank. I have confirmed with Wells Fargo that I am the only L-A-U-R-I-E Evans in Mesa, Az with an account; however, there are other accounts owned by women with similar names who live in my city.

All cash donations made through Wells Fargo will be anonymous. I'll never know dollar amounts or names, unless you choose to share that information with me yourself. (And if you do, I can promise you a big fat, thank you in at least seven different languages. Oh, and some tears of gratitude, too, if I know me and my crying ways.)

Or, if you'd prefer to donate from the comfort of your couch, rather than find your way to a Wells Fargo branch, there is also the handy-dandy "Cancer Girl Donation Center" PayPal button in the top right corner of the home page.

In advance, I want to thank my loyal readers (and anyone new, who may have found their way here from the Land of Facebook today). Thank you for having given me your time, your thoughts, your energy and a measure of your faith and compassion.

Please feel free to share this link, or the blog as a whole, with anyone you feel would be interested in the information that is here. The time for me to try to retain any sort of privacy has passed. Right now, I need the kind of help that only other people can give me, so I'm reaching out to my public (all 13 of the regulars who read this blog) and beyond, with faith in human kindness, trusting that people who know me (and maybe even people who don't) will be able to open their hearts and their pocketbooks and give a little (or, heck ... a lot!) to a single gal who's putting up one heck of a fight against cancer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15

Today is tumor picture day here at Cancer Girl Central. Why? Because it's Friday. Also, because I think I finally got these puppies in a format that will let me upload them.

Please bear in mind that I took these pictures of a moving CT with my cell phone, while Dr. G was pointing and describing. I've circled what I understand to be my tumors, but I am fully aware that any of my medically trained family and friends who see the way I've labeled this pictures may want to LAUGH OUT LOUD at me for having circled a viable organ and not a cancerous growth. (What I'm saying is, there's a reason I have a disclaimer at the bottom of this page. Not only am I not a medical professional, I know nothing about reading CT's.)

Okay, this is my new tumor, circled in pink. It's the little blob to the right and above my kidney.

This is both the old and the new. The new friend, again, is circled in pink. And the older guy is below the kidney (labeled "KIDNEY" for easy reference) with a blue circle.

Now, how much of that matter under my kidney is actually tumor and how much of it is just tissue, I don't know... But I figure they'll be taking anything that's even remotely attached to either tumor. (Be looking forward to pics of my first CT sans the guts on the left side of my body. That'll be a fun little comparison/contrast post, for sure.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14 - Late

People, I must report that this week has been... well... SO MUCH EASIER than I thought it would be.

I mean, don't get me wrong... I've still had my moments of collapsing against  my kitchen counter or the door frame in my bathroom and sobbing my heart out. Don't even get me started on the mascara stains on my sheets. I'm still trying to forget about the high-speed-come-apart that I had in the Primary room during Sunday School last week. (My Lizzie was there to witness the snot-a-thon that was me, hysterical, for a good 20 minutes, in a room with no kleenex. And she still loves me. It's a miracle.) Not to mention the nights/mornings that I've woken up between 2:00 and 3:00, unable to breathe, obsessing about everything I have to get done before next Thursday.

This week has been challenging, I won't lie. ... I've had a lot to get done, on very little sleep. (Thank you, Coca Cola Company and People of Nothing Bundt, for making sugary drinks and baking cakes that give me the illusion of energy. I heart sugar and caffeine. Big time.)

But, seriously, this week has been a good one. I'm very, very tired (exhausted is probably a more apt term), but I'm happy.

I woke up this morning feeling at peace, and hopeful. This was the first morning in over two weeks that I haven't woken up either worried about what they would find in my scan, or worried about what they did find in my scan.

This peace that I'm feeling is due to a lot of blessings that I've received and am incredibly (and unspeakably) grateful for. In the last four days:

* My medical leave was approved

* People are coming out of the woodwork, asking how - and then creating ways - they can help me

* I had a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's yesterday that was the best I've EVER had

* Chocolate, chocolate chip bundt cake with cream cheese icing... Need I say more?

* I had a 3+ hour long dinner at Spinato's with Kimmie

* That stupid wisdom tooth that was killing me decided to stop hurting (hallelujah!)

* I slept a 7 hour stretch on Tuesday (most sleep I've had in one night for weeks, I feel like!)

* My real cousins - and adopted cousins - have emailed, texted, and snail mailed me prizes

* I've had some sort of contact/conversation with every single one of my siblings

* My favorite manager at my favorite restaurant has offered to have her kitchen make my favorite dinner of all time on Saturday (special, just for me), so I can have Charleston's Pineapple Teriyaki Steak before I go in for surgery

This week has been chock full of tender mercies, I tell you. Chock. Full.

So what if my stomach's grown another inch? (Yeah, I measure it. Weekly. Because I'm sick like that. ... This is three inches in less than a month, for anyone who's counting.) In seven days, the tumor that is making my stomach grow will come out. Next Thursday *knock on wood*, I'll be officially cancer-free again, with all evidence of malignancy safely on its way to a pathologist's lab.

For a girl who has to live with the reality of an incredibly difficult surgery on the horizon, I lead an otherwise charmed life. (Seriously. I really do. You have no idea how good that spicy chicken sandwich was. It was a culinary blessing sent straight from Heaven, I'm pretty sure. ... And, yes, I just said that Wendy's is a culinary experience. Don't judge.)

I love my life, even (and sometimes, especially) when it is hard.


June 14

One week...

One week from today, I go under the knife. Again. This will be my third cancer-related surgery in just under two years.

One girl. Two years. Three major, open, surgeries. Four tumors.

...One week.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13

Today, as is any day when a girl gets a Nothing Bundt delivery at work, was a good day.

No, but really... Today was the first day in a long time that I've honestly felt like things are (or will be) okay.

* My medical leave came through.
* My cousin Bethy sent me something from England that made me so happy that I cried. (Grammy would have been proud.)
* I came home tonight to a freshly vacuumed apartment (thanks, Jo & Roomie!).
* I've been reminded that, at their core, most people really are good.

Today, I have hope. And peace. And gratitude. (And a chocolate cake.) In spades.

June 13 - Early Morning

Here, I sit at 3:00 in the AM, typing on my computer... because my stupid arms hurt too bad for me to sleep on my sides.

True (ridiculous and pathetic, but true) story.

I got my vaccinations today. You know: parvo, distemper and rabies.

Oh, wait. Those are the dog shots, and I'm making an effort to remember I am more like a baby, getting people shots. Let me rephrase.

I got my vaccinations today: Meningococcal Conjugate, Haemophilus B Conjugate and Pneumococcal 23-Valent.

The nurse who gave me the shots told me that two of these immunizations are recommended for children age 2 and above. The third can be administered to anyone between the ages of 6 months and 85 years. I'm pretty sure I fit in the age ranges for all three.

Side effects: headache, fatigue. Oh, and all they've been known to make children and infants cry more often than usual and experience increased irritability.

As I'm typing this, wide awake in the middle of the night because my stupid shots made my stupid arms hurt so bad that I can't fall/stay asleep, I can almost guarantee that I'll be experiencing each and every one of those side effects tomorrow. Goody.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12 - An Update

I have an update in the way of a medical leave, folks.

One of my major concerns has been how/if work would be able to give me a medical leave for surgery and recovery. Having started a new job last September, I, obviously, haven't been a full-time employee for the 12 months that policy outlines as a requirement to qualify for a leave.


Let me give you a little back story, in order to provide context that will help define the company I work for. I work for (and with) a group of incredible people, many of whom I know from a prior work life. The bulk of  our senior management and a good half dozen  or so other employees worked together at my last bank, from 2006-2008. It's a great mix of people, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the familiar faces from my past as well as getting to know (and love) the other employees who I don't have that years-old history with.

This job fell into my lap last year. Greg had contacted me in August of 2011 and told me that they were looking to expand the loan department and asked if I would be interested in a position they were creating. It took a while for them to iron out the details and define the position, but once the position was created - and offered - I accepted, and joined a team of former (and new) co-workers and friends at the end of September.

Because of the way this position literally landed in my lap, because I had been praying for my life to change, because I had been wanting to get back in to a corporate work environment, but hadn't known how to make that transition in this economy... Because my health had been poor and it seemed that nothing had gone the way that I thought it would (or wanted it to) for quite some time, I felt like this job was a direct blessing from Heaven.

I know that sounds cheesy. I also know how I felt in September of 2011 when I accepted this job. ... And I know how I feel today, right now, as I have been made aware, for the I-don't-even-know-how-many-th time today that the Lord knows what I want, and what I need... and that He directs me to where I need to be.

Not everything has been sunshine and roses at the bank. It hasn't been easy. We're busy. Really busy. I started in September. We were short-staffed for much of the fall and winter, so I worked a lot of hours. More hours than I had thought I would be working, and sometimes more hours than my poor, sad little body could comfortably withstand. But my friend Christian was right there alongside me, cracking jokes and making Coke (and/or cake) runs to keep our blood sugar up in an effort to trick our bodies into thinking we had enough energy to work another 12 hour day.

The last six months of my life have brought with them their own unique set of  challenges, not the least of which was discovering in January that I had a new tumor. I had been certain that this opportunity to be back in the banking world had meant that I was moving on to a new phase of life, a phase in which I could wear heels with pants to work if I wanted to. A phase in which cancer would be a memory, and not a current threat.

There have been changes that have been hard to roll with (ie: the insurance change that took effect May 1). There have been days that I have wondered what in the world I was thinking when I left a much larger company where I had both the seniority and the disability benefits that would have given me job security in the face of impending health issues.

Those were the days that I'd remind myself that I had prayed before I made the decision to jump companies and careers. I had prayed good and long and hard, and the answer that I had received was that I could do what I wanted to do (go work with Christian, and for Greg) and everything would be okay. And on those days, I'd tell myself to breathe. And to hold on. And to wait. Because, somehow, someway, things would be okay.

And on the days when it was almost impossible to remember the promise that everything would be okay, because everything in my world was so clearly NOT okay, I would remember a quote that I recently read:

"Everything will be okay in the end. If everything is not okay, then it is not yet the end!"

And then I'd laugh (at myself, at life, and at the cancer). I'm tell myself that, clearly, it wasn't the end yet, and I'd decide to pick myself up, and trudge on and trust and wait and watch to see exactly how it all was going to play out.

Meanwhile, as I have been waiting to see exactly what "okay" would look like, my boss has been great. I've been able to rearrange my schedule and comp all of my hours, so I haven't had to use one minute of PTO in the last six months. (And that's saying something, considering there have been multiple months that I've had to miss half days at work once or twice a week for appointments.)

Greg has told me, time and again not to worry about work, that the bank will always be there, that I am more important than my job. (Not that I don't know this, but it sure helps me to be able to let go of worrying about work when I have him telling me that that's what I need to do.) This is the man who couldn't wait until Monday to hear the results of my appointment last Friday. Multiple calls were made from (and to) him over the weekend, until we could finally connect on Sunday so that I could give him the full low-down. He asked if he could tell the rest of senior management. He reminded me, again, that life is more important than work. He told me that I'm too young to not fight this (and gave me a lecture on how it  would be okay if I did have to have a colostomy bag if it meant that I was still alive, if it came to that ... but it won't, Dr. G said so). He told me that he'd been praying for me all weekend, and with tears in his voice, assured me that it would all work out.


Monday morning, I went in to work and met with senior management, who advised me that they were doing everything they could to ensure that I would be given the time off that I would need to recuperate. Because we are a small company (less than 50 employees), this wouldn't be a traditional FMLA medical release, but that they were looking for a way to work around the 12 month employment clause so they could give me a work release that would allow me to retain my insurance benefits while I was out.

It took about 24 hours for them to make contact with all the right people and fill out the forms, but this afternoon, I signed paperwork that will allow me 8 weeks of full-time release to recover from surgery. (And when those 8 weeks are up, we'll fill out new paperwork for the several weeks of part-time work release that will follow.)

I'd considered it from every angle, and knew that somehow, it would work out. (Worst case scenario would be that they'd have to terminate employment, as I haven't been there for the 12 months, but that I could carry COBRA for the time that I was out and then reapply for employment once I was well enough to go back to work. This, my friends, is so not worst case scenario.)

I have a medical release approved. I'll have health insurance as I go through surgery and 8 weeks of recovery. I cannot tell you the peace of mind that this brings. There aren't even words.

I'm so grateful. For a good job in a time that a lot of people struggle to find work. For a company that I feel will take care of me as best they can, because they see me as a person and not just an employee. For quality people and friends in the workplace who've taken an active interest in my life and well-being. For 8 solid weeks of recovery time, every minute of which I think I'll need.

When I found out in January that I had a new tumor, I vowed that I would work every minute of every day (well, the Monday-Friday days, anyway) that I could -- until I couldn't do it anymore. And now, thanks to my new little friend, I'm not going to be able to do it anymore. I made a deal with the Lord and with myself that if I did all that I could do, that I would be able to trust that, somehow, it would all work out. This, my friends, is a huge piece of that "things will work out" puzzle. It isn't all of it (I like to think that there's a whole section of this puzzle that just hasn't come together yet that's all about remission and being cancer free for the rest of my days), but being granted a leave that will keep me insured and give me the time I need to heal from this surgery, is a tender mercy. A tender mercy of the highest order, for which I am so very grateful.

June 12

I've been thinking that I should do a series of belly shots by the week. You know, like the pregnant-with-an-actual-child women do...

Behold: June 2

I'd been happily typing away on my keyboard when I happened to look down and see what looked like a VERY pregnant belly in front of me. (I was sorely tempted to post it on the blog that night, but just in case that was all cake and no tumor, I didn't want to show the world how big and round my tummy was getting.)

But now, the results are in. That's a tumor, kids. Well, it's two tumors, actually. And a hernia. ... And not a small amount of cake. (But I'm blaming the round and firmness of my belly on the tumors and the hernia. Fo sho!)

A week later, I was at Spencer's house and Brea asked if she could take a picture of my belly.

Behold: June 10

Too bad the lighting's not great, because my face looks a little Gremlin-y (for those readers who only know me virtually and haven't ever seen me in actuality, I promise that my eyebrows don't usually look so weird and pointy).

This is what I'm saying people, I AM A TUMOR GROWING MACHINE. Honestly, no wonder I'd been feeling like my belly was getting bigger every week. It was! (It is!)

Stay tuned for an update on the belly this coming weekend. ... I know, this is exactly the kind of scintillating reading/viewing that keeps you coming back for more. (Listen, at least I'm not showing you my scar. Though I'm half tempted to document it, knowing as I do that Dr. G's gonna cut the whole thing out and I'll be growing a new scar from scratch. Only time'll tell on that one. I figure I have eight more days to decide if I want to document that lovely piece of my anatomy, before I lose it forevermore.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11

It's just after 2:00 in the morning, and here I am... blogging, while I wait for the Ativan to kick in so I can fall back to sleep.

I went to bed at a decent time last night, and I slept solid for about five hours (this is a pretty good stretch for me, at this point). I woke up with a start just after 1:00 and couldn't get fall to sleep. I did lie in bed for quite some time, curled up and on my side (because I won't be able to do that comfortably for a few months), thinking... Thinking about my silly nephews (I spent the afternoon at Spencer's yesterday), thinking about who I needed to email and/or text back (I just can't keep up with all the love!), thinking about how I need to organize my desk tomorrow (today) and start getting ready to abandon ship for the next couple months, thinking about the brownies that Linsey brought over yesterday, thinking about what's clean (and what still fits), so I know what I can wear to work tomorrow, thinking about how I Redboxed a movie on Saturday morning and then totally forgot to watch it all weekend long (it's still in my purse - awesome), thinking about how I really need to clean the blades on my ceiling fans and take the garbage out. Thinking. About anything and everything under the sun, in an effort to avoid thinking about: surgery, pain, fear, cancer.

And that's when I decided that it was time to get up and take an Ativan. (And maybe over-share a little, online. Because that's always fun. For everyone.)

I don't know what in the world I'd do without that stuff. ... I mean, I do. I'd lie there, and I'd think too much, and eventually I'd start crying - a lot - and eventually, I'd (hopefully) wear myself out and fall back to sleep. But this, this drug-infused ability to let go of the things that I am thinking about, and distance myself a little from the things that I'm trying really hard NOT to think about, this is such a blessing.

My goodness, I'm grateful to live in a day and age where not only can my doctors surgically remove tumors from my body, but they can also prescribe medication that helps me stop the runaway train that I call my brain.

Ativan: Just one more reason I am grateful to have been born in this dispensation. And not in Massachusetts in the 1600's, when I surely would have been questioned - and then probably thrown in prison - when my tumors made me look pregnant. At the very least, I'd have been forced to wear a scarlet letter. In all likelihood, I'd have been hanged as a witch for carrying the devil's child. (Assuming my tumor didn't choke the life out of me before the Puritans could.)

And, on that note, I think I'm going to head back to bed. Here's to hoping that my Massachusetts references don't follow me into sleep...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 9

I've had a lot of great conversations in the last 24 hours with people whom I love.

I tell you, this is what I love about the cancer... the people who come right out of the woodwork when they know there's something new and/or major on my cancer-fighting horizon. (Keep in mind that there is very, very little that I love about cancer. But this? This outpouring of love and support? ... This, I love.)

In my many conversations, there have been certain themes... Common questions have been asked, if you will, and I want to take a moment and address those. You know, for the two or three of you who read this blog, but may not have had time to call/text/email or FB me today.

Q: Will I really never be able to drink Coke again?
A: It's very possible. ... This is why: while Coke is a refreshing and delicious and is seen by many (myself included) as a viable beverage option, it really has no nutritional value. In fact, it sort of has the opposite of nutritional value. (Some of you will be shocked to learn that I was aware of this, I know.) While it is certainly delicious to the taste, and I can suck down 32 oz in no time at all, it doesn't actually hydrate a person. And when I morph from the Cancersaurus that you see before you today into The One Kidneyed Wonder that I shall become in approximately two weeks' time, I'm going to have to focus on the hydration. Dr. Dreamy tells me that I'm going to have to commit to eight 8 oz glasses of water a day. For life. Or else. (We didn't really discuss the "or else" part of the equation, but my best friend is a dialysis nurse and I know enough about what she does to scare the the bejeezus out of me.) I can give up Coke if it means that it will decrease my chance at ever having to have my blood cleaned by a machine. Not a problem. ... And I really, truly do love water. So, it won't be that bad.

Here's a fun fact: Aleve and Advil are no longer medication options that are open to me. It has something to do with only having one kidney. ... I didn't really get why I'm not allowed to have either of them, but it was drilled into me good and hard that I am not to take anything other than Tylenol for a solid week prior to surgery, and I need to steer clear of them in the One Kidneyed future, too.

Q: Are they really taking your spleen out?
A: Yes. Yes, they are.

Q: What do spleens do, anyway?
A: The spleen produces, monitors, destroys and stores red blood cells. It also helps your body fight off infectious diseases. (You can read all about it here:

Which brings me to one of the weirdie moments of my dr visit yesterday. Apparently, since I'll be spleen-less, I need to be vaccinated prior to surgery. Yeah, vaccinated. Like a dog. At the pound.

(I used this dog/pound analogy when I was talking with my friend Kimmie this afternoon. Her response? "Or... like my babies!" ... Oh, yeah. Babies get vaccinated, too. I forgot. ... This would be one of those moments where it becomes all too clear that, while I have adopted pets from the Humane Society, I've never had children, so my vaccination frame of reference can get a little skewed. At any rate, I'm glad that Kimmie reminded me that people get vaccinated all the time. I'll try to stop feeling less like a stray dog and more like someone's precious little bundle of joy. Stat.)

Q: Am I really considering an epidural?
A: Hi, have you met me?! ... I'll consider any and all methods of anesthesia. I. Hate. Pain.

Q: Have you considered medical marijuana?
A: No, not really. But only because there's no real need to go there at this point. The doctors will give me high strength pain meds to get me through surgery recovery (this I know). Two of the major benefits of MM include pain management (which I'll already have taken care of) and help with nausea (I have pills for that, too, actually). There have been some studies that show that MM can help decrease the growth rate in tumors, but... those studies, once again, don't include liposarcoma tumors. Gosh, I love having the rare cancer/freakshow tumor that doesn't respond to much of anything.

*Disclaimer: If I were to ever go the MM route, I'd do the pill. No way would I smoke it. The smell is offensive to me. Oh, and I wouldn't want the college kids across the way to think I was having a party and invite themselves over.

While we're talking about my tumors not responding to much, I am feeling the need to break the Q&A pattern and dish some new intel I got on liposarcomas yesterday. Get this. We've talked about how liposarcomas don't respond well to traditional treatments (radiation and chemo), but yesterday, Dr. H went into a little more detail and gave me some hope that there may be treatments available to me at this point, should I have another recurrence after Dr. G basically guts me. It seems that research has shown that liposarcomas, in their beginning stages, don't respond to chemo based treatments, but... as the tumors recur and start to get more aggressive, the cell make-up changes, and they're seeing that those more aggressive tumors DO respond to chemo, because they've turned into fighting cells, and aren't just weird little baby cancer cells anymore. Soooo... one of the things that the pathologists will be looking for, esp on this new little friend, will be the mutated/aggressive cells. If I'm now producing a stronger, more aggressive tumor, it could open up an opportunity for treatment options (v. surgery, which is the only option I've had thus far), should my body continue to grow tumors even after they take all the guts out of the left side of my body.

*Disclaimer: Please do not read that I am expecting the cancer to come back after this surgery. This is not me sending a message to The Universe that I want or expect that. At all. ... I'm just saying that, while I hope this surgery does the trick, I need to be honest with myself that, esp since they can't tell me where the first tumor came from or why this happened to me in the first place, there will always be a chance that it could come back. I know that may sound like negative thinking to some of you out there. I assure you that I don't assign negative or pity elements to this thought process. This is purely me being a realist that the other shoe could drop at any time (which, in the world I live in, is a totally different thing than expecting the other shoe to drop). Knowing that this is something I'll have to be regularly scanned and tested for - for the rest of my life - is a coping mechanism and a survival tool for me. While I hope and I pray that this will be the end, and that it will never ever come back, I have to be prepared for the possibility that it might. ... And if that sounds like I'm borrowing trouble, all I can say is that this is the way my brain works, and I have to let my brain be. It takes too much energy to fight the part of me that has to define and prepare for all possible outcomes, and I don't have any energy to spare these days.

Q: What stage is your cancer?
A: There isn't staging with liposarcomas. At least, not in the traditional and familiar sense. When my tumors come out, they're sent to pathologists who dissect them and give them a grade of 1-4. The grading isn't the same as "staging" that you'll hear about with other, more common cancers. If I remember right, my first (22.5 lb) tumor was a grade 3. I don't know what my second tumor was. ... I'll try to remember to ask what #3 and #4 are, so I can report that, but I know I'll be pretty out of it when the reports come in, so I promise you nothing.

Q: How are you?
A: Welllllll.... I'm fine. Except, you know, I have cancer.

Here's a true story from my actual life. My cousin Julie called this afternoon (when I was at the tail end of a crying jag... it's been coming and going like that all day) and she asked how my day had been. I said, "I'm going to be honest here and tell that it's never a good sign when I'm blowing my nose into my shirt". Her response? "Really? My girls do that all the time, and they seem fine." At which point I said, "Well, that's because they're kids. But I'm here to tell you that if they're still doing it when they're 37, it's a sure sign that they have cancer."

Disclaimer: I wasn't actually blowing my nose into my shirt. I was just wiping away the snot with my collar. ... That's SO much better, right?

Q: Are you scared?
A: Of course I am. (And I have the boogery t-shirt to prove it.)

Q: Is there anything I can do to help?
A: Not really. Except prayer - or finding a cure for cancer.

Q: Are you still going to do the Jester'Z fundraiser?
A: Yes, but not any time in the immediate future. For a few reasons, the most important of which are: A) I want to be there, and I won't be able to laugh until at least August. (Not like I'm going to want to laugh, anyway.) and B) I'm in need of a serious cash infusion. By the end of next week. So, I'm working another angle. More details on that to follow...

June 9

So, I went to the store this morning to get some breakfast.

Yeah, that's right. My breakfast plans today were McDonald's Coke (next to the Disneyland mix, theirs is the best!) and a pint of Moo-llennium Crunch. (Yeah, I know. I said I was going to eat one pint. One pint today, and one for tomorrow... just in case.)

I figure that I have 12 more days of being able to drink the Coca Cola. ... When I'm down to one kidney, I'll be on a strictly water diet. For, most likely, the rest of my life. (Insert a deep, greiving sigh here.)

And I know what this surgery does to my ability to process dairy. I will be able to eat ice cream again, but it's taken me 3-4 months in the past to be able to work my way back to ice cream.

So, I went to the WalMart in search of ice cream and Coke. Because, while I'm not planning on dying any time soon... I do definitely prescribe to the "eat, drink and be merry" mentality when I'm in the pre-surgery zone.

And while I was there, I saw a Summertime display of Smore's ingredients. I tell you, they had the graham crackers stacked in a diagonal and the marshmallows were puffy and delicious looking. It was impossible to resist.


Do I have a fire pit over which I can roast these marshmallows? Nope, I sure don't. (I don't even have a gas stove top.) So... I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to make this happen. But once I saw the makings for Smore's, I knew that I had to have them. I figure the graham crackers have some sort of nutritional value. Between my Coke and ice cream breakfast and the Smore's I'm planning for lunch, this is shaping up to be a day full of deliciousness. And maybe a little bit of denial in the way of health and nutrition. But delicious, nonetheless.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8 - The Results

Something I've learned in the past two years: It's never a good sign when you've have noticed substantial abdominal changes (to such a degree that you've outgrown your clothes), and yet... when you weigh in at the doctor's office, you weigh exactly the same as you did the last time you were there.

Just a little foreshadowing there, folks.

It turns out that my "imagined" abdominal changes were not so imagined. (Duh. I could have told you that something was amiss. I can't button my black pants anymore. Haven't been able to wear them comfortably for about three weeks now.)

And the thing that's amiss is... I have a new tumor.

Yeah, as in... another tumor. A tumor in addition to the tumor they've been tracking since January (which still hasn't grown, thankyouverymuch). What I'm saying is, I am now have two active tumors.


(By which I mean: not fan-freaking-tastic, in case you're not a regular reader and aren't sure how to read the subtext here at Razzzberries.)

The new tumor is sitting on top of my left kidney (as opposed to under the left kidney, in the retroperitoneum, as its predecessors have done). It appears to be pushing up against my spleen, and possibly my colon.

What does this mean? Surgery. Imminent surgery. As in, the surgeon had me scheduled for June 21st before I even met with him today. That's a Thursday. Thirteen days from today. (Can you tell that I'm working on wrapping my head around this?)

What's the rush? ... Oh, just that this tumor is roughly the size of a grapefruit and this is the first they've seen of it. And my last scan was 12 weeks ago. If you do the math, that's a pretty aggressive and rapidly growing tumor. (Confession: I don't even know why I said "do the math". I don't know that math is even possible, at this point, because we're missing a lot of words in the word problem equation. Not that I'd know how to do said math, if it were possible. ... I guess all I'm saying is, I can't do math. - I'm more of a word girl, in case you hadn't noticed. - Also, I have what appears to be a rapidly growing grapefruit-sized tumor that we don't want to turn into a watermelon-sized tumor. Been there and done that. I'd really rather not repeat the experience.)

So, surgery it is.

During said surgery, I will lose: my hernia (glory be and hallelujah!), both tumors (hooray!), my left kidney (not surprising, but I'm still wrapping my head around it), my spleen (because, if he left it in and something crazy happened down the road - say, like a new tumor cropped up - it could put me in danger if he had to go back in...  apparently, spleens are bleeders (who knew?!) and can cause all kinds of  drama, so it's better to just take it out since he'll be in there...) and possibly part of my colon (don't worry, he said he could take out a section and then sew it back together and I'd be as good as new, no need to carry a bag around for my poo... phew!). Basically, all of my guts on my left side will be removed.


He'll open up my full incision (all 13 inches). (There aren't words for how much I am not looking forward to the recovery there.) I did tell Dr. G that I will allow him to operate on me if he promised to go straight to Dilaudid, because I simply cannot bear the thought of waking up to Morphine that can't even touch the pain. He promised Dilaudid and raised me an epidural. (Is it sick that I got giddy at the talk of an epidural? Probably. But I'm seriously anti-pain, so I'm in! ... And giddy as all get-out.)

I have other grody details (IV's in my neck to check blood flow and oxygen? ... Something like that. Disgusting.), but I won't go into a lot of them now. Mostly because I'm tired, but also because I think it's grody to talk about neck IV's.

I do have CT pictures of my new tumor, but for some reason I can't get them to upload right now. Be sure and check back, because a gray blob in the middle of a lot of other undecipherable matter is going to be a treat, for sure.

And there you have it. The Results.

More information to come as I receive it, remember it, or can muster up the intestinal fortitude to talk about it. (Lest any one of you readers think that I'm some kind of brave soul who's ready to take on the world, I will just come right out and say that some of this stuff melts me into a puddle of tears and I really have to make an effort to stop the crying so I can find the words. Sad, but true.)

At the (literal) end of the day, I am, once again, incredibly grateful for doctors who check my body on a regular basis for changes or inconsistencies. I'm grateful that they did a different set of scans than they usually do, because I owe the fact that they found this tumor to the (mocha, thanks) barium that I drank yesterday and the way it lit me up inside. I'm grateful to friends and family who've blown up my phone (and my Facebook page) tonight with so much love and support that I have to wonder what I ever did to deserve so many good people in my life.

Yeah, I have cancer. (Times two.) ... I also have the most amazing medical and emotional support. I'm so grateful for all of the awesome people in my life, and for the "First World Problem" of having a disease that can be treated (and *fingers crossed*) cured with surgery. I am a lucky, lucky girl... who just happens to have the cancer.

June 8 - Morning

I woke up this morning feeling a little curious about the barium that I drank yesterday. I thought to myself, "Self... what was that stuff?!" So, I asked my friend Google about it and he told me all about barium. It turns out that it's a chemical element. It's on the periodic table and everything. It's powerful stuff, Barium.

It turns out that it's used in the manufacturing of pyrotechnics.

That's right. I said pyrotechnics.

No wonder I felt like my stomach was going to explode yesterday. I'm pretty sure that it very nearly did.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

June 7

As mentioned in an earlier post, Thursday was Scan Day here at Cancer Girl HQ.

I'm pleased to report that I did not have to do MRI's this time. (Read: I didn't have to spend an hour of my life in the chanting and vibrating tube of death.) Instead, I got to do a triple CT, complete with barium sulfate and intravenous iodine.

Don't be jealous.

All this really means is that I got to drink a good half gallon (that may be a slight exaggeration, but it really is only a slight exaggeration) of thick goo over the course of an hour while they IV'd me so they could push the contrast through during my abdominal and pelvic CT's. There were several delightful "flavors" of barium from which to choose. I went with mocha. Why? Because I had it on good authority that the apple is about 17 different shades of nasty, and I was afraid that the berry flavor might ruin berry shakes and smoothies for me forever. ... And also because I thought that drinking the mocha would give the rebellious side of me a little more purpose in getting it down. (Turns out I was right, in case you were wondering.) I giggled more than once at my "medicinal" coffee. Sometimes being a practicing, yet very snarky, Mormon has its upsides. (Whatever it takes to get through the barium, I tell you. Whatever it takes. ... And if any of you Super Mormons out there are getting all Judge Judy over my mocha barium, I have nine words for you: "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you." - Just cracked myself up. Hardcore.)

I'm not exactly sure why they good doctor ordered this specific kind of CT. I've always had the iodine contrast, but I've never had to drink the barium stuff before. When they were setting me up for the CT, I asked the tech running the machine what all the goop was for (do you love how technical I am?) and she explained that it gives a different kind of picture than an MRI does, more of a 3-D shot, if you will. She explained that this would help them see not only my tumor, but also what's going on in my surrounding organs and even with my hernia. This is intriguing to me. I still don't understand how it works, but it's fascinating to me that I can drink something that makes my guts light up so the doctors can see what's going on in there.

The scan itself didn't take long 20, maybe 30 minutes. Jo was kind enough to drive me (so I could take a double dose of Ativan and not have a freakout on the medical personnel at the cancer center). After the tests, we hit McDonald's (totally our breakfast of choice) and then she took me to work.

It's been a long day. ... Mostly because I have been alll kinds of sick to my stomach from the medicine that turned my guts into a Christmas tree.

But Scan Day is over. ... Now I just have to get through Results Day. I'm curious to see what the results are, because there's something going on here. My pants don't fit. My stomach is more pokey-outey than it was two weeks ago. And I ate the last Nothing Bundlette that was in my freezer some time ago, so I'm pretty sure it's not the cake that's making this happen. Tomorrow, I will be smarter. (Or, at the very least, get the results from today's blood work and CT's.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 6

I finally found (read: made) time to call the nice Jester'Z lady today. I got some info on what it will take to get a fundraiser put together, and I'm rather pleased to report that I've been scheming and planning and fantasizing all night about how this is all going to work out.

First things first, I need to find a venue. She suggested a church, or maybe a school auditorium. The Jester'Z need a stage and some kind of a sound set-up, so the audience can hear them. My brain's been running its little hamster wheel and I've had a few ideas pop up. I've sent a few texts and emails to friends who are big on the theater scene here in the valley, and I'm hopeful that the perfect venue is out there, just waiting for me to find it, and that my friends will help get me there. Worst case scenario isn't really all that "worst case", in that I know that I could make an LDS Stake Center work, but I'd really rather not have to worry about having chairs set up and then taken down. Let alone the gym acoustics and the mic situation.

The ideal situation would be something with a stage and an auditorium of sorts, that also has a large enough lobby to accommodate a bake sale. (I only want the best for my friends and family who will come to this party. As a lover all foods that are butter and/or chocolate based, I've decided that a bake sale with home-made goods is a must.) I've also sent an email off to the fine folks at Fight Like a Girl Club, asking them for more details on how their fundraisers work. As much as I am NOT one to wear a T-Shirt with any type of logo on it, I AM one who supports their cause. And besides, it would be another fun (and hopefully, profitable) thing to sell at this fundraiser that I've decided to throw myself.

So, here's what I need: a venue, a series of dates and times that Jester'Z can work with (nothing on a Friday or Saturday night, as the performers need to be available for their regular shows). Once I have confirmation of a location and a date/time, I'm going to need a publicist (or a team of them). I'm thinking maybe a website specific to Cancer Girl Enterprises and The Gala Fundraising Event, with the ability to pre-purchase tickets with a credit card (does anyone know how to set up a PayPal account?).

All in all, this day has left me hopeful that I really can make this happen. Can I control the cancer? No. But I sure can control what I let myself focus on. And, right now, I'm focusing on making a fund raiser happen.

To quote one of the greatest media influences on my life to date: "I love it when a plan comes together."

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4

A funny thing happens the week that I have my scans scheduled. (This happens every single time. Seriously, I've been doing the rounds every 90 days for almost two years now and this always happens.) My friends and family know I have doctor appointments coming up, but they either don't know or can't remember when they are scheduled. So, every time I make a phone call, it seems, the person on the other end of the line picks up (thanks to caller ID) and asks some variation of "What did they say?" instead of "Hello".

And my response is, "My appointments are at the end of the week. Scans on Thursday. Results on Friday."

I've been having this conversation with... oh, just about everyone in my life since the end of the week last week. No less than three people stopped me at church yesterday and asked about the growth of the tumor. (I'm choosing to believe that this is because they love me and know that I have an appointment coming up, rather than I looked very much like I was wearing a maternity dress - complete with baby bump.)

Another thing that happens whenever I have a scan coming up. ... I turn into a crazy crying person.

I know, you're rolling your eyes and wondering how the crying could possibly be any worse during my check-up weeks than it is every other week of the year. ... All I can say is that it is. I hate that I turn into an obsessive, blubbering fool this week. H-A-T-E it. ... But I learned some time ago that it just is what it is, and trying to fight the emotion just makes me that much more tired. My best defense/coping mechanism is to make every effort to just live my life. I put myself to bed on time. I eat normal, healthy meals. I make myself assignments to go shopping and do my laundry and live life like a normal person....

But in the back of my head, I have a lot going on. Here's a small sampling of what's going on in there:

* Has it grown?
* How much?
* I hope it's grown, because if it hasn't, I have some weird hernia/cake combo going on in my midsection right now.
* I wonder if it's big enough to operate yet.
* How many radiation treatments will they do before they cut me open?
* How is it even possible to irradiate an area that's been hit before? (Didn't they tell me this can't be done? ... And the answer to that is Yes. Yes, they sure did. But these are different doctors who say they can. So, whatever. Who cares if my guts start to look like Chernobyl?)
* Will I ever truly be well?
*Gosh, I hope they don't have to put a tube in my stomach again this time.
* I need to find a way to make this surgeon believe that I'll need him to put me straight on Dilaudid. I don't think I can bear waking up on Morphine again.
* I need to play more with my nieces and nephews.
* Yeah, right. I need to sleep more than I need to play.
*If it has grown, I wonder if I can talk them into not operating until after July. I want to go to my 20 year reunion walking on my own two feet - NOT with my walker.
*At some point, I need to cook that turkey that's in my freezer.
*I wonder how long I'll be in the hospital this time.
*I'll bet all their rooms are private...
*I'm going to have to have Mom read Les Mis to me, or I'm never gonna be able to keep up with Myra.
*Who's kidding who? If I have surgery in the next few months, the plan to read Les Mis is toast. I have no attention span when I'm on drugs and I know it. ... Not to mention, the unabridged book is so heavy that there's NO WAY I could hold it until at least two months after surgery.
* I need a Kindle.
* I only have three boxes of Thin Mints left, and I can't buy more Girl Scout cookies until February. Crap.
* Another reason to hold off until after July: Batman. No way could I sit in a theater for at least two months. Let alone, my nervous system. I'm a pansy, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't take the stress of that movie if I was still in recovery from surgery.
* How in the world will I pay my rent, bills, etc when I have to stop working?
* One more day down that I didn't find/make time to call Jester'Z about my fundraiser. Rats!
* For now, I can still lie on my side. I need to revel in that.
* I need to take an Ativan so I can breathe.
* Will I ever be able to just live my life instead of taking a ride on this emotional roller coaster every 90 days? ... I hope so.

These are the things that I'm thinking, when I'm not consciously side-tracking myself with something else. No wonder I cry.

Scans on Thursday. Results on Friday.

I'm hoping for a full night of sleep on Saturday.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 2

This is the first thing I saw this morning. God bless Facebook! (Oh, and James Owen, since he's the one who posted this with the instruction "Go forth, and be Awesome". I heart James.)

I'm happy to report that it has, in fact, been a great day. Even if I did wake up at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. (I finally gave in and got out of bed at 5:00. The good news? I got three loads of laundry done, not to mention to and home from the grocery store by 7:30.)

Since I was up anyway (and all of my chores were way past done), I decided to go to the breakfast and Morningside at the Singles Conference. (In an effort to not let the cancer rule my life, I'm trying to be a little more sociable. Now, I can't really do a whole lot in the evenings, because I'm too tired. And we all know there's no way I was going anywhere near the bowling and/or roller skating activities they had planned ... Mostly because I don't even want to think about how badly I could hurt myself with either or both of those plans. So, basically, it was Morningside or nothing for me at this conference.)

Anyway, I got myself dressed and across town by 8:30 and I'm glad that I did. (And I'm not ONLY saying that because there was a breakfast buffet with all-I-could-eat bacon involved.)

The speaker was exactly what I needed. (John Rhode. ... I hope I spelled that right. He was The Biggest Loser winner, Season 12.) I tell you, the talk was basically written for me.

Except for the part where he talked about how hard he had to work to stay on the ranch and how determined he was to do his best, and how he knew that he'd stay on the show for as long as the Lord wanted him to. That part wasn't written specifically for me - as I'm not on a televised weight loss competition. -- Oh, except that even that part of his talk hit home, in that I am also fighting a hard fight. I'm working really hard to beat what often seems unbeatable. And I'm in this for as long as the Lord wants to keep me here.

So, see... pretty much everything he had to say struck home:

* The Lord knows who I am, what I need and what I am capable of.
* I have exactly as much strength and determination as I will need to do what I need to do.
* My prayers are not answered, even if I don't get the answer that I asked for or expected.
* There is a plan. It might not always seem like there's a plan, and it might not make logical sense, but it's always there.

These are all things that I know. I mean, I know this stuff. ... But life's been a little crazy, and I needed to hear these truths coming from someone else to really register them.

My goodness, I love timing! I mean, sometimes I hate it... Like, at 4:35 in the AM, when I absolutely cannot fall back to sleep. ... But when I can look back on the day and realize that my waking up extra early set things in motion for me to be awake, dressed and ready to be somewhere that I needed to be at 8:30, I am grateful for an early morning that was the gateway to get me where I needed to be today. Hallelujah and amen.

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 1

I've said it before, and I'm sure that I'll say it again... I hate picking up my mail.

I mean, I don't always hate it. Sometimes I get cards or packages and those are fun days. But more often than not, the stuff that's in my mailbox is of a more ominous nature.


That's right. Ominous.

Just what I needed to see, the week before I go back for another round of tests. The actual cost of my routine scans/appointments. Awesome.

(On the upside, I'm incredibly grateful that I have insurance. I mean, soooooo grateful! ... Just call me Pollyanna.)

PS - They're not kidding when they say that this country is in need of medical reform. I'll give that multiple MRI's and CT scans are gonna be pricey. That equipment is not cheap, nor is the staff that administers the scan and/or translates the data into a report, but $16,518?! For three scans, some blood work and a couple consults with the doctor? Really?! ... That seems excessive.