Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29

I don't have a whole heck of a lot to say...

Wait, that's a lie. I have a whole heck of a lot to say (I always do!), but I don't have a whole heck of a lot of energy to say it with, so this is gonna be short and sweet.

I just wanted to throw a post up to answer a question that I'm sure so many of my readers (yeah, all three of you) are dying to have the answer to.

And that answer is: No, I do not have any information as to the insurance approving the MRI. Which means, I don't have it scheduled yet.

I promise to report that info as soon as I have it.

I'm not too concerned. I'd figured it would take all of this week to get it approved, and that I'd be getting a call tomorrow at the earliest. I'd hoped to have it sooner, but I hadn't expected to hear from them before Friday this week. *Fingers crossed that I'll get a call tomorrow asking if I can come in on Monday for an MRI. (Doubtful it'll play out exactly like that, but a girl can hope.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: I am still freezing all the time, I still get head rushes when I stand up, I'm still unable to keep my elbow straight when I try to lift my right arm and I'm feeling that weirdie pain in my back more this week than I did last week. (Maybe because I'm stretching it out more with one of my cool (and I use that term lightly) new PT exercises? Maybe because, now that I know it might be something to be afraid of, I'm more aware? ... Maybe both? ... I don't know.)

Anyway, that's all. I just wanted to report that I have nothing to report. It's been a doozy of a week. I have been totally slammed. This is the first post I've written all week, because this is the first night I've had time to turn my computer on all week. I'm completely exhausted - which is why I'm keeping this short, I want to be in bed at 9:00 - and there aren't words for how glad I am that tomorrow is Friday, but I am doing well. Just hanging in there, playing the waiting game and hoping for a call from scheduling tomorrow. (In fact, if they don't call me, I think I'll call them. I'm nothing if not proactive. ... If you don't believe me, ask my friend James. I've been hounding him to introduce me to Nathan for years. I am my best PR rep and I know it!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24

My body.

My body makes me laugh, because I am IRRATIONALLY cold all the time. Seriously, all the time. It's ridiculous. I keep my heater at 74. That's the coldest I let it get in here. (I tried to live like a normal person and keep it at 72, but I was freezing. Since I don't have anyone else around here to complain about the heat, I bumped it up a couple notches.) I keep my heater at 74, and I have a blanket with me at all moments. I sleep with a quilt, and wrap myself up in a blanket when I'm on the couch. ... And my feet and hands are still cold. All. The. Time.

Even now, my toes are are cold. I'm sitting cross-legged in the middle of my couch, with a fuzzy blanket wrapped around my  legs and under my feet, with my laptop (that doesn't have a proper fan, so it blows hot air the entire time that it's up and running) resting across my folded legs. You would think, with the insulation of the blanket and the added heat coming from my computer, that I would be hot. But I'm not. In fact, I can feel my cold toes on my legs while I type. It is ridiculous, how cold I am these days, and it makes me laugh out loud.

My body makes me cry, because I can't do some of the things I used to be able to do. Last night, I was at a birthday party, and one of my girlfriends was carrying her three-year-old nephew around, holding him upside down, while he laughed himself silly. Suddenly, it hit me that I used to be that aunt. I'm not anymore, but I used to be. I used to chase my nephews down, or grab them while they walked/ran by, and pull them onto my lap and kiss them silly. They would bring me my purse, so I could gloss up before I'd run them down and mark them up with dark red lipstick. I used to pick them up and throw them over my shoulder and carry them around. I can't do that anymore. I can't run, I can't bend over quickly. And heaven knows that I no longer have the physical strength to lift a six lb weight over my head, let alone a six year old child!

A few weeks ago, I was at Jo's and Maggie asked me to "catch" her. I crouched down, so we would be eye level (I feel that it's important to talk to children on their level - literally) and told her that I wished I could, but I just couldn't catch her anymore. She tilted her head, squinted at me, and, like she was remembering something, said "But you used to." I smiled and said, "I know, but I can't anymore. My body doesn't work like that right now." I asked her if she remembered when I used to catch her and pick her up. She smiled, nodded and said she did. Maybe five minutes after that conversation, Sally came running at me and Maggie stopped her, bent down to her two-year-old sister's level and softly said, "Sally, we have to be careful with Laurie. She has a broken body."  I love that Mag remembers that I used to play with her. I love even more that she defends my broken body to her baby sister. ... So sweet.

It makes me happy to know that Jo's older kids all remember playing "Baby". I don't have it in me to hold them and rock them anymore, but I love that they remember that I used to. I'm glad that most of my nephews are old enough to remember that I used to wrestle them down and kiss them. I live in hope that, by the time Monson is old enough to play chase, I'll be able to run after him.

My body makes me laugh, and my body makes me cry. It works wildly differently than it used to, but... for the most part, it still works. I miss some of the things I used to be able to do with it, like chasing and picking up kids. But, at the same time, I'm so incredibly grateful for the things it can do. (Did I tell you that I can now raise my right arm high enough to put a hanger on the tall rack in my closet? Progress!)

I'm grateful that I was that fun aunt/cousin/grown-up/friend to so many kids for long enough that they remember me like that. (I like to think that, because that part of me is in their memory banks, she still exists.) I'm grateful for socks and blankets and electricity that keep me warm. I'm grateful that there are children in my life who want to play, but are content to pull themselves up into my lap (since I'm generally not strong enough to pick/pull them up and put them there) and sit there and talk to and laugh with me. Even on the days that it makes me cry, I am grateful for my body and what it can do.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22

Keep your eyes open to your mercies.
The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.

--Robert Louis Stevenson

Today is Thanksgiving. (I heart Thanksgiving. Big time.) In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd make a little (or maybe not-so-little) list of the things I am thankful for today:

Pumpkin Rolls
My nieces
Theater popcorn
My relationship with my mother
Family pictures
Holiday traditions
The kindness of strangers
The generosity of my friends
Egg Nog
Pumpkin flavored cream cheese (on a whole wheat bagel)
A multitude of cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix
My Christmas tree
A soft bed
Feather pillows
Modern Medicine
Mint M&M's
My cousins
My favorite aunt(s)
My grandparents
My nephews
The gospel
My job
The children in my life
My brothers
My sister (and sisters-in-law)
My dad
Christmas music
My car (and the radial dial radio in it)
The ability to wear heels again
The sound of Salvation Army bells
Infectious laughs and easy smiles
Really good hot chocolate
Granny's dressing
The sunrise/sunset (every day!)
Good books
Water (it is truly my favorite drink in all of the land)
Jellied cranberry sauce in a can
Bunnies and kittens
Really good Kleenex (by which I mean: Puffs, not actual Kleenex)
Tree-shaped Reese's
Honey-baked ham
Indoor plumbing and hot water
The diversion that is Nathan Fillion/Castle
Jeans (they're so warm!)
The heater (it's a steady 74+ in here, people, and I love it!)
The smell of cinnamon/cloves
This great country that I live in
My hometown
My health (such as it is)
The ability to love and be loved
My life, every day

My goal today has been much the same as it is every other day: To have an awareness and appreciation for all of the good things and people who bless my life, to be as grateful as I can be. (Because - my goodness gracious - it is, indeed, a blessed life.) But today, because it's Thanksgiving, I let myself make a list. (You know I love them!)

I hope you also know that I love you, whoever you are, reading this. (Even more than I love a list. ... Which, if you know me at all, you know is a lot!) So very much of why I love my life is because of the love I feel from the people in it. Thank you for being part of my life, part of me.


*Gobble, gobble*

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21

I had my followup with Dr. H today. ... I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know he's as handsome and charming as ever. ... This is how it went down.

Dr. H: Hi. How are you?

Me: Well...

Dr. H:  (Grinning) Besides the fatigue, I mean.

(The first thing I ever tell anyone who asks me how I'm feeling is how tired I am, because heaven forbid that my doctors start to think my energy level is anywhere near where I'd like it to be. ... I'd already told the nurse all about it, and she'd prepped him before he came in to see me.)

Me: (Laughing) Besides that, I'm pretty good.

Dr. H: Really?

Me: Yeah. I was happy to hear that I have some new tissue growth.

Dr. H: (Incredulously) You were?

Me: I was! ... I've been having this weird pain in my lower back that I couldn't explain. I'd wondered if I was losing my mind and/or having a phantom pain experience, but it turns out that I have new scar tissue back there.


Dr. H: Where is the pain?

Me: Uh... Where I don't have a kidney.


Me: I don't know how else to explain it. It's a familiar pain, in a familiar spot. I couldn't make sense of it, but now that I know I have scar tissue again, it makes sense that I'm feeling what I used to feel back there

Dr. H: How often do you feel it?

Me: Not every day, but often. In the morning, when I first wake up and get out of bed.

Dr. H: When did it start? How long does it last?

Me: I first noticed it about three weeks, maybe a month, ago. I feel it for about an hour or so after I wake up. Once I get ready for work and out the door, I'm not really aware of it anymore.

Dr. H: Do you think it could be a muscle ache? Is it sharp or dull pain?

Me: I don't think it's muscles. It's inside, if that makes sense. ... And it's neither sharp or dull. It's steady.


Me: Maybe I'm sleeping wrong or something. Who knows? I'm just happy to know that there IS something growing in there. New scar tissue explains why I'm feeling something I've felt before.

Pregnant pause as Dr. H leans forward, places his elbows on his knees and smiles...

Dr. H: I think your cancer might be back.

Me: (startled, but not surprised, necessarily - since Friday, I've been feeling like I couldn't officially latch onto the "mostly good" news of the PET scan until I met with Dr. H and he told me the same thing Amanda had told me) Thank you for smiling while you said that.

Dr. H continued to smile, while I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the situation. I leaned back in my chair, crossed my legs and started questioning him...

Me: Really?

Dr. H: Yes. ... It's the pain you're talking about that has me concerned.

Me: Huh. ... I told Amanda about the pain, too, and she didn't think it was a big deal.

Dr. H: Of course she didn't think it was a big deal. She's a surgeon. ... Surgeons cause pain!

Me: (laughing - OUT LOUD) True. ... Is it sick that I've been secretly happy that Dr. G had to have surgery?

Dr. H: No. It makes sense.

Me: Please don't think this means that I secretly hope you'll get cancer. I don't need all of my doctors to experience what I experience, but it does help me to know that my surgeon has become acquainted with the pain of recovery.

Dr. H: Of course not. (Then, getting us back on track.) I see two options. The first is to biopsy the tissue. There are always risks associated with an invasive procedure, and there's a chance that we'd biopsy the wrong area and the results would be inconclusive...

Me: (Interrupting) What do you mean, "biopsy the wrong area"? Are we talking, my right side instead of my left? ... Do you not have any faith in your staff? What are you saying here?

Dr. H: (Smiling, on the verge of a laugh) There's a chance that it's scar tissue, and a chance that there are cancer cells mingled with scar tissue. We could do a biopsy, but we might pull only scar tissue and have a false negative.

Me: Okay, that makes more sense. Thank you. ... Or?

Dr. H: Or we could do an MRI, which would allow us to get better pictures of what's going on in there. I'd rather do the MRI. It's non-invasive, and whether what you have now is only scar tissue or scar tissue mingled with cancer cells, I'd like to have a baseline picture to compare against your next scan in 2-3 months.

Me: So, you'd be able to tell, just by looking at a picture, if this is scar tissue or something more?

Dr. H: Yes.

Me: That is amazing to me. (Seriously. Amazing. It blows my mind that these people can look at MRI images and know exactly what they're looking at! I have nothing but respect for medical students. They have to learn SO MANY things!)

A quick break to relay what I learned today regarding the an MRI v. the PET of last week. The PET scan was to look for cancer cells that may have spread to other organs/areas (I'm pleased to report that my lymph nodes and lungs are A-OK!), but it doesn't show up close and personal pics of each organ. While the tracer does show how various organs react to the sugars in the radioactive injection, the PET doesn't give the kind of detailed pic that an MRI would give. In an MRI, the contrast they inject you with creates an actual contrast in how the organs/tissue show up in the pics. That contrast helps give more detailed and specific pictures than you can get otherwise. ... Interesting, no?


Dr. H: What do you want to do?

Me: I will do whatever you want me to do. (Anyone who knows anything about me and how I handle the cancer as it comes at me is that I will do what my doctors tell me to do. I have been given very specific instruction from the Lord, multiple times, that I am to trust my doctors and follow their counsel.) ... I say, let's do the MRI.

Dr. H: (Smiling) Okay. Is your work schedule still crazy?

Me: (Laughing) Of course it is. ... It always is. ... But they know that this is the most important thing in my life, and are really great about letting me rearrange my schedule so I can do what I need to do. It won't be a problem.

Dr. H: I need to get pictures, soon, so I can develop a surgery or treatment plan if I need to. I would like to have the MRI scheduled in the next two weeks.

Me: Okay.

And that, my friends, is where we are right now.

Five months ago today, I had surgery to remove two tumors (and a slew of impacted organs). This morning, I was told that my new tissue may be more than scar tissue. Awesome. I love it when I have momentous occasions on anniversaries - makes it so much easier to remember/track. (I'm not kidding even one little bit. I really do love it! And I'm pretty sure the fact that things keep happening on anniversary dates is another sign that the Lord is invested in the details of my life. He knows I like to track things, and He makes things as easy for me as He can in that way. I love Him!)

The good news is that there's still a 50/50 chance that it's just scar tissue. And I have this fabulous, aggressive (and super dreamy, single) doctor who's not wanting to waste any time when it comes to figuring out exactly what's going on inside of me.

I'm incredibly grateful for the way my oncologist thinks; that what a surgeon took for residual pain associated with surgery recovery, he sees as possible symptomatic pain, and he wants to check it out.

I'm so grateful for a team of doctors and health care professionals who see things from a multitude of different angles, and collaborate to find the best treatment plan for me. (I also had PT today and learned a lot - again - about my body. But this post is already too long, so I'll save that info for another day.)

As always, I am grateful for my support system, for all of the people in my life who I know love me.

It has been interesting to me today, how many people have said something along the lines of "What crappy timing!", or "I hope this doesn't ruin your Thanksgiving!" in response to my sharing this information with them. I can promise you that it won't ruin my Thanksgiving. And  the interesting thing is that, for me, this isn't crappy timing. In fact, for me, it is perfect timing.

Nothing - and I do mean nothing - makes me as grateful for my life as the days/times in which I am made aware that everything can turn on a dime. Days like today help me recognize the blessings in my life in a way that few other things can.

I am so incredibly grateful for the miracle of modern medicine, for the fact that I was born - in this body - in this dispensation of time, when we have access to so many awesome diagnostic and treatment options.

I am grateful for technology: for the cell phone that allows me to talk to my family while I'm on the road, for texting that provides a quick and easy touch stone with friends throughout my day, for the www and this blogspot that allow me to share my life in real-time with my people who live all across the country and on the other side of the world.

I'm so grateful for family and friends who I know are with me - some literally, some virtually - every step of the way.

I'm so grateful for all of the love that is in my life. ... Some days, I am simply astonished at the warmth I can feel coming at me from all directions.

Today, I was told that the cancer might be back. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for. Much. (And I'm not just talking about that 13 lb turkey that I get to eat all by myself!)

My life is blessed. Truly, blessed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16

The results are in, and the words of the day are: Cautiously Optimistic.

It's not a perfect scan, but it's not complete crap, either. (And in this body, like I could ever expect to hear the word, "perfect", anyway? ... Please.)

I have some new tissue growth in the area where my left kidney would be if it was still there. The good news is that there isn't a whole lot of metabolic activity in that tissue, so there's a good chance (a very, very good chance) that this new tissue is scar tissue. I will show you a picture of my recently glowing guts:

The new tissue is marked by the little white arrow, just to the right of my spine. As you can see, it's pink, but it's not glowing. This is a good sign. (Note: that's my liver that's lit up like a Christmas tree, and it's okay that it's looking like that. Apparently, livers have a high metabolic rate, so they always light up with the radioactive tracer. ... Deep sigh of relief.)

The organ just to the right and above the new tissue is my pancreas. ... Most people's pancreas is on the right side of their body. Mine fell over the hump and into the cavity in the left side of my body. My liver's also crossing over into what is now unused territory. (It's usually contained on the right, but a good third of mine has moved over into the area my spleen used to be in.) So much for having no guts on the left side of my body. Those little buggers seem to have a mind of their own, and they're migrating. .. Crazy!

You can see some lights on the far right of the pic. That would be my colon. There were little hot spots like that through my colon, all the way across. They're most likely due to recent trauma (aka: surgery) and it's still in recovery mode. ... Or maybe it was "processing" something at the exact time of the PET scan. (That's right. That was absolutely another poop reference. ... Listen, if it's between poop or cancer, I'm gonna vote poop every time.)

This afternoon, I met with my surgeon's nurse practitioner (Dr. G is out for... wait for it... surgery). Amanda's opinion is that the good doctors will most likely view this as another Wait, Watch and See mission, that they will continue to scan me every 3-4 months and look for any changes that may develop. Dr H was out of the office today at a seminar. I have an appointment to meet with him Wednesday morning. There's a chance that he may want to biopsy the new tissue to see what it is, but my gut's saying that they'll just leave things as they are for now and re-scan me in a few months to see if there've been any changes.

Like I said, it's not a perfect scan. ... But I wasn't expecting perfection, and all things considered, it's not bad.

The truth is, I'm glad to know that there's something in my lower back. I've been waking up with "kidney pain" on that side for a few weeks now, and was starting to wonder if I was a crazy person (or, you know, experiencing that "phantom pain" one hears about), since I didn't actually have a kidney there to be causing any issues. I've had scar tissue there from prior surgeries, and it's not fun to live with, but one can live with scar tissue. Cancer, on the other hand... not so much.

I'm also glad to know that my organs are migrating. I'd had a total freakout moment last month when I was lying in my bed with my hand on my stomach and realized... WHAT THE CRAP... there was something in the left side of my stomach. Earlier this summer, I could feel an obvious difference in the way my stomach leveled out when I would lie down. (Right side - full of organs. Left side - dipped in a lot more.) That my pancreas and liver have moved on over, and that I have a healthy amount of (probable) scar tissue in there explains why I'm not feeling (and I'll say it... seeing) a literal difference in the sides of my stomach anymore.

I'll post more information as I have it (look for an update on Wednesday, after I meet with Dr. H), but for now, the buzz words are "Cautiously Optimistic". Halle-freakin-lujah!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 14 - Evening

As I mentioned earlier today (does anyone else think that maybe I blog too often?), I have a PET scan tomorrow.

This is big news, people. The PET is the official cancer-patient scan. Ooh-la-la. I feel so fancy.

I'd done a little PET research last week (I get claustrophobic in an MRI chamber, so I wanted to see what a PET looked like to know if I'd need to dope up prior to going in), but that online research was nothing compared  to the info I got this afternoon from the PET tech who called to confirm my scan tomorrow.

Get this.

I am soooo getting injected with radioactive material tomorrow morning.

Awesome, right?!

This is how the conversation with Dave the PET Guy went...

Dave: Have you ever had a PET scan before?

Me: I sure haven't!

Dave: Well, let me tell you how this will work tomorrow. You'll check in downstairs at 7:30 for your lab work, and then head straight to the second floor when you're done. We'll take you back, and set you up in a recliner in a room by yourself.

.... Insert moment of me thinking. "A room by myself?"

Dave continues: We have a lot of warm blankets and we'll make sure you're nice and comfortable, and then we'll give you an injection. You'll be in that room for about an hour while the tracer goes into effect, and then we'll take you in to do the scan, which will take about 25 minutes.

Dave pauses to breathe, and I interject.

Me: I'll be in a room by myself?

Dave: Yes.

Me: ... Because I'll be radioactive?

Dave: Well... yes.

Me: So, you're putting me in a room because I'll be radioactive? ... Seriously?!

Dave: (sounding concerned, like maybe I'm freaking out about the radioactive-ness) But not for long. It only has a two hour life, and the more you drink, the sooner it will leave your system.

Me: Oh, I'm not worried. Please. I'm a cancer patient. Like I've never had radiation shot at my body before? ... I just haven't ever had THIS test before, so I'm curious. ... Really, I'll be radioactive?  

Dave: It's a low dose. Much lower than you've probably had before.  

Me: I'm seriously not worried about it. I'm just curious. ... So, you're putting me in a room by myself while the radioactive material activates or something?  

Dave: Yes. It takes about an hour for the tracer to set in.  

Me: And I have to be by myself? Like, I can't be with anyone? (See, Jo? I tried to see if I could worm you into my solitary treatment so we could hang out and you could take pics again. It didn't fly.)  

Dave: No. We want you to be alone. We don't want you to exert any energy, talking or laughing. (It's like the man read my mind with wanting to bring a friend along. ... It's like he knows that we like to talk and laugh. ... Crazy!)  

I'd like to point out that the man doesn't want me to exert any energy. ... As in, maybe he doesn't want me to get angry. ("You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." - Hulk.) I know what happens when radioactive materials and anger get together. Muscles bulge. Clothes rip. People turn green. (The good news is I'll be in a hospital gown if and when this goes down, so it's not like I'll be busting the seams of my own clothes when I go green.)  

I'm totally gonna be radioactive for up to two hours tomorrow. Suh-weet! (I haven't been radioactive for over two years. It's been a while. I'm sure you can appreciate why I'm stoked about this.)

The scan will be "eyes to thighs", so a slightly larger area than my prior chest/abdomen CT. I think this is pretty great. (I figure, the cost of the PET is probably the same whether they just shoot pics of my tummy, or 2/3 of my bod. Let's go for the greater gonga and get as much of me in there as we can!)  

My earlier research taught me that PETs can see things that don't show on MRIs or CTs (like, on a cellular level, instead of having to wait for a tumor to form so it can be seen/seen).   I'm pretty excited to see exactly what this scan shows or doesn't show.  

*Fingers crossed that the entire left side of my stomach is as hot as it was the day I came out of surgery. Slim and trim with absolutely no excess tissue in there.*

November 14

An actual thought I had, as I stepped into a hot shower,

"Come Saturday, I'll either feel better ... or ... I'll know why I'm so tired."

True story.

Again, it's not the manic exhaustion that I've felt in years/scans past. I'm not waking myself up at night, thinking about things. The reality is, I'm sleeping like the dead - for almost half the hours in the day, every day of the week.

I'm just tired, and I don't know why.

I know it's not: anemia, my thyroid, kidney function or anything else that can be found in my blood. It could well be a body slowly recovering from a really hard surgery. It's possible that it's a side effect of my doctor having put me on a low dose of Zoloft last month. (When I told her how tired I was, and my bloodwork didn't give any obvious reasons of fatigue/exhaustion, she suggested that an anti-depressant may help give some energy back.) Had I felt an emotional, depression-like, dip? No. But I get that my body has been through the ringer - trust me, I get that - and I understand that the bod could well be needing a little chemical pick-me-up at this point in time. That said, I haven't felt an energy boost from the Zoloft. But my guess is that part of why I'm not as emotional (read: hysterical) as I usually am pre-scan has a lot to do with that little blue pill.

Viva la anti-depressants!

So, I'm tired. But I'm not hysterical and I'm not worried sick, so that's a major win.

My guess is that part of the tired is that, somewhere in the back of my mind, the fact that it's Scan Week is taking a toll. (Thus the first part of my thought this morning.) There's also a possibility that something weird is going on inside of me, and that's sapping my energy. (You can understand that I feel that the second part of my thought is as well founded as the first, going off my history.)

The reality is, I've been tired for a long time. (For years, actually.) I'm a little more tired lately than usual (see my multiple nights of 10+ hours of sleep). That could be the scan coming, it could be my new little pill, it could be a tired body that's working 40 hours a week. It could be a lot of things. ... But this Thursday, they're doing a little more bloodwork and a fun new scan (I have officially graduated to the PET), both of which, I am sure, will help me feel better.

Knowledge is power. In two days, I'll have more of both of those things.

Like I said, come Saturday, I'll feel better (if only because I'll know more). ... Come Friday at 3:00, to be more specific. ... At any rate, Saturday morning's shower will, hopefully, be met with more energy than today's was.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12 - Evening

A follow-up to the previous post...

I'd said that the Crazy this time around hasn't been as bad as it has been previously, but I didn't go into a lot of detail on either the present or the past, so I thought I'd come back to give you a little comparison/contrast. (Because I know that it's super fun for everyone to track my emotional state of mind.)

Don't worry. I won't go through ALL of the scans (we all know that I've had three or four a year for the last two years), but I'll hit the high (by which I mean: low) lights.


In January of 2010, I was a CRAZY PERSON. Not in a dangerous sort of way. But I was scared. Out of my mind, scared. The truth is, I knew. I knew it was back, I just didn't have the confidence in myself to know for sure that I knew it, if that makes sense. ... I remember having a conversation at work with my friend Christine. I'd been on edge all day, and she knew me well enough to see it. She stopped me on my way out to ask me if I was okay, and I just broke. I started to sob, as I told her that I hadn't slept all week, and couldn't get out of my head that my scan was going to show that it was back. She listened, she commiserated, she told me she was sorry... And then I came home to my apartment and proceeded to not sleep for another night.

I tell you, I was a wreck before I got the results to that scan.

Sleep was hard incredibly hard to come by. I'm an easy crier in the best of circumstances (seriously, those darn Hallmark commercials get me every time!), but when I'm tired... Geeze Louise, it is bad. I was on edge, in part because of the tired and in part because of relationship stress. I could feel that things with Clint were shifting, I just wasn't sure where or why they were moving. I distinctly remember wanting/needing to spend time with him that last weekend before I got the results, because I knew it was the last weekend I'd have before I'd know it was back. ... I knew. I knew in my bones that it was back, and I was scared out of my mind.


In January 2011, I was less crazy, but still very emotional and, again, had a hard time sleeping.

To give a little background to the nerves of 2011, let me explain that I was 2-3 weeks behind schedule for the scan. I was technically due for the scan the second week of December, but I'd started a new job in September (which = new insurance), so I postponed the scan until January, so the percentage I had to pay would go towards the next year's deductible. (Listen, when the 10% you have to pay is still thousands of dollars, you want all of those dollars to count.) Add to the delayed schedule, I had a new church calling, I was working longer days than usual and I was ... erm ... sort of involved with a new man. My time, my energy and my attention were being drawn in more directions than they usually are. In some ways, the busyness was a blessing, in that my brain was so busy that I literally could not process what I was feeling. In others, it was... well, it was just exhausting. I was tired all the time. Tired because I was wearing my body out, being everywhere I needed to be, and also because I wasn't sleeping well.

I didn't know it was back, like I had the year before, but I was afraid that it was back.

I remember sitting in Greg's office, a few days before my scan in January and completely breaking down. We were having a conversation. My voice tone was normal, eye contact was there... I was fine. And then, all of a sudden, my voice choked and tears ripped out of me. GT sat on the other side of his desk, as calm as he could be. I apologized, shook my head and explained, "I'm sorry... I just get a little crazy before I get the results." Greg immediately teared up. He said "I can only imagine", as he reached for his box of Kleenex and handed them across the desk.

When  I met with Dr. W, and he gave me the results, I remember nodding my head and saying that I'd thought it might be back. Surprised, he asked me why I'd have thought that, considering the size of the tumor (it was too small to physically feel it). I remember shaking my head and saying "I don't really know, other than I've been afraid that it would be."


Right now, I'm not sure it's back, nor am I living with fear. It's ... different.

I'm achy, but a lot of that, I think, can be linked to the cleaning. (Also, I have a broken body. It often hurts in bizarre places, and I just get to live with that.)

I'm more emotional than usual but all things considered, I'm nowhere near as crazy as I typically am the week of the scan. (I only had to take Ativan twice last week to shut it down, and my last double dose was on Tuesday. That's pretty good, all things considered.)

Every once in a while, I'll get a burst of anxious energy - but I can usually ditch that if I get up and do something to take my mind off things. (You should see my stove top. It sparkles.)

I'm tired, but it's not because I'm not sleeping. ... If there is anything I'm excelling at right now - other than the pretty constant cleaning - it's sleeping. Seriously, I've been getting at least 8, and often 10, hours a night for the last two weeks. ... It's more of a constant, slow, tired instead of the manic exhaustion from scans past.

Like I said... it's different. Maybe it's different because I am different. Maybe it's different because the results will be different. Maybe it's both. Maybe it's neither. ... Who knows?

Right now, I am grateful that I can sleep. I'm tired, but it's not exhaustion from lack of sleep, so I'll take it. I'm a little nervy and emotional, but I'm not hysterical, so, again, I'll take it.

When I wake up in the morning, I'll be one day closer to having some answers. In the meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy this extraordinary ability to sleep...

November 12

I'm on the four day countdown.

That's right... Four days.

Four more days. I can count them on the fingers of one hand. (Yup. Fingers. I don't even have to use my thumb anymore.)

In four days I will - for better or for worse - have the results to my scan.

*Deep breath*


It's been interesting, this time around. The anxiety that usually sets in about a month prior to my scan took longer to show up this time, and it hasn't been as constant/crippling as it has been in years past.

I usually have several weeks of the off-again-on-again crying jags, the sleepless nights and the all around wondering when the other shoe's gonna fall. This time, it didn't set in until two weeks prior to the scan (last Saturday was my first official "Crazy Day"), and the anxiety's been more off and less on than it has been in the past.

I'm okay with that.

As long as I keep myself busy (guess who's been cleaning, baking, laundry-ing and yes, even vacuuming, on a daily basis for the last week and a half?), I've been pretty well able to keep a lid on the anxiety.

I control what I can control. (It's pretty clean around here.)

Oh, and I eat a lot of peppermint M&M's.

And every morning, I know I have one less day on the countdown.

My scan is Thursday morning. I'll have the results Friday afternoon.

Four days. That's totally doable. (I may need to hit Target for more specialty/seasonal M&M's, though.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 8

I got the most unexpected (and amazing, and totally awesome) package in the mail.

Seriously. Unexpected. Amazing. And totally awesome.

I picked up my regular mail, and was surprised to see a little "we left a package for you in the office" slip there amongst the bills and political mailings.

When I went to the office to pick up said box, I was surprised to see the return address. Romney/Perez in Louisville, Kentucky. ... Huh, what in the world could Shannie be sending me?

Enter me carrying a fair sized box that weighed next to nothing back to my apartment. As soon as I cut the tape and peeled back the top of the box, I smelled it...


That's right. Fall has a smell.

My old roommate, one of the sweetest people I have ever known and dearest friends I have ever had, sent me Fall in a box.

This is a garbage bag FULL of leaves, stuffed into a box and mailed to a Fall-loving girl who happens to live in a part of Arizona where Fall is celebrated because the temperature goes down to the high 80's, rather than a season of color that ushers in the winter holidays.

Awh, man. I love Fall leaves. But I love my friends (Shannon and Pat, her mom) who walked the streets of Kentuckiana, picking up leaves to send to me, even more.

I have the best life, and the best friends. Ever.

The End.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6

Get this.

I've had three (count them, three) people ask me in the last five (yeah, I said five) days ask me how much weight I've lost.



That's right, folks. I'm here to tell you, I have lost weight on the all-you-can-eat-cream-with-anything-you-can-justify-pouring-it-on/in diet.

I have no idea how much weight I've lost (because I do not own a scale), but apparently I'm slimming down while I pour that heavy cream right down the hatchet. (Crazy, right? The first person who asked me about it, I laughed at. Then, two days later, I put on a dress that I had worn three weeks before - and it fit totally differently than it had the last time I'd worn it. As in, it was loose. Oddly, so are my work pants.)

Go figure.

And like going through two quarts of cream in two weeks isn't enough of a reason to lighten up, I introduce you to my new favorite seasonal friend:

White chocolate with peppermint M&M's.

Holeeeeee crap, are they delicious!

I cannot stop eating them. (Actually, to use the correct tense, I could not stop eating them. I had to get to the bottom of the bag to make myself stop. Now that they're gone, I should be able to start eating like a responsible grownup again.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 4

A couple weeks ago, when I was pseudo-preparing my workshop talk(s), I spent some time trolling through my blog, confirming dates and looking up data. I found some seriously awesome stuff.

I hope that doesn't sound too full of myself. (Who's kidding who? Anyone who's read half a dozen posts here knows that it's all pretty much about me.) But seriously, these posts are AWESOME. From posts of gratitude about specific prayers having been answered, to photographic evidence of tumors past, there's some pretty fun stuff archived here, folks.

I thought it would be fun to do a post that did nothing more than link back to some of the oldies but goodies. (Click on the dates and they'll take you to the original posts.) I hope you all enjoy this little trip down memory even a little bit as much as I did.


June 21, 2012 - A comparison/contrast of Tumor Tummy 2010 and 2012

June 12, 2012 - Showcases the growth of my new little friend from June 2 to June 10

July 14, 2010 - Before and afters of my first surgery

June 22, 2011 - Anniversary photo shoot with 22.5 pounds of watermelon

June 22, 2011 - "Pregnant" pic with Jo in 2010, with follow-up of me in the same outfit, 12 months later

Direct Answers to Prayer:

July 9, 2012 - The Miracle of the Poop

June 12, 2012 - The Miracle of the Medical Release

June 20, 2012 - The Miracle of Family Getting Together (Best Medicine Ever)


June 16, 2012 - The First and Original Fundraiser of 2012, aka: the day my blog went viral. I wrote a post that was literally read around the world... and the help came pouring in.

July 4, 2012 - The Navajo Taco Fundraiser. A handful of friends of in my hometown gathered together and cooked up a storm... A storm that brought in enough money to replace a full month's income

August 1, 2012 - The Car Wash Fundraiser. A few of my local girlfriends spent a couple hours washing cars in a McDonald's parking lot. Between their hard work, the generosity of both friends and strangers - and one sweet homeless man who emptied his pockets - my rent was paid in August.

September 27, 2012 - People do not suck. The email to Dr. G releasing stats and info from the three fundraisers done over the summer.

Aha Moments and Testimony:

March 3, 2012 - Sometimes peace can sneak right up on a person.

February 13, 2012 - There is a plan. There has to be one. I will accept no other reality.

Because some people are silly enough to think I am always strong and/or brave, I give you some posts about seriously hard days:

February 6, 2012 - Dr. W had told me that there was a special blend of chemo that he thought would work. Many sleepless nights ensued. ... Until I met Dr. H, who advised that surgery was still the game plan. (I heart medically-induced whip lash.)

February 8, 2012 - The day I learned (the hard way) to NEVER leave the house without a bottle of Ativan at my disposal.

May 20, 2012 - One of those (luckily, few and far between) days when the sick and the tired caught up with me.


August 29, 2012 - A Thank You Note to all the world

June 14, 2012 - It was like EVERYTHING in the world was going right, the week before my last surgery.

July 17, 2011 - My body blows my freaking mind.

February 14, 2010 - Valentine's Day 2010. ... I am pleased to report that the cancer hasn't done much in the way of changing most of the items/people on this list.

December 31, 2010 - New Year's Eve, 2010. Little did I know then that the summer of 2010 was just a warm-up phase. I meant every word that I wrote that night, most especially these:

I am grateful for the clarity that being sick brought me. That which has always been precious to me (family, friends, the gospel - life) has become truly treasured.

I've been writing at this blogspot for four and a half years. Almost half of that time, there have been posts pertaining to - or specifically about - the cancer popping up among random testimonials, book reviews, science project reports and love letters to my celeb crushes. In the last ten months I have written almost exclusively about what it has been like to be sick, to go through surgeries and treatments, about my friends and my family and all of the amazing things that have done for me.

The primary reason I went back through my blog was to verify data and confirm dates prior to speaking about it publicly. (I know that the cancer was in my abdomen, but I swear, sometimes, I think it was in my head. By which I mean: my brain is fried.) What I found as I searched through the past two years surprised me. Were there pics of distorted abdomens and freaky CT images? Yes, there sure were. Reports of hard days, and frustration with both my body and the health care system? Absolutely.

But there was also an overwhelming theme of gratitude.

I surprised myself with what I had written, almost two years ago. To go back to the 12/31/10 post:

I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for where I have been, because I survived it. I am grateful for wherever it is that I am going, because now I know that I am strong enough to go there.

Little did I know, in December 2010, where I was going. (To that same end, little do I know now, where I'll be in 2014.) But I have been strong enough to come this far, and I will be strong enough to keep going, wherever it is that I am supposed to go. Because if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that I will be made equal to whatever it is I have to go up against.

I'm so grateful for the written record that this little blog has been. I'm so grateful for the pictures and the stories and the opportunity this little corner of the www has given me to share my life with those of you who aren't physically here to do this with me. In my home, I am just me. When I write, and when you all read what is written, I have the strength of many.

Thank you for having cared enough to read what I have written, for laughing with me, for crying with me - for loving me. I could not have possibly done it without you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 3

In retrospect, the post I wrote last night may make it sound like I'm in complete and utter agony and my mouth isn't getting better. That is not the case. At all.

While I am in a fair amount of discomfort at any given point in time, I wouldn't call it "agony". I have certainly known worse pain in my life. (The upside of having my wisdom teeth removed AFTER having had three major surgeries - and one outpatient procedure - in the last two years is that I have a different perspective on pain, and the process of healing, than I used to. Compared to what I have done/felt, this has been a walk in the park.)

And I am feeling much, MUCH better than I was a week, or even a few days ago.

Does it still hurt to talk and/or smile? Yes, it does. Like the devil. And does the talking and/or smiling that I have to do in the course of normal human interaction wear me out and make the muscles in my face hurt? Yes, they do. Like the devil.

But the pain is getting better. It is much more manageable than it was at the beginning of the week. (On Thursday, I went all day long without opening one single prescription bottle... Impressive, no?) And the swelling is going down.

I'm hopeful that next week, I'll be able to get an entire forkful of food into my mouth and that Tylenol will be the only pill bottle I will need.

Mission: Do Not Talk to Anyone All Day is still definitely a go, because, frankly... I love that it's 10:30 in the morning and my pain level hasn't gone up since I woke up this morning, but I did want to check back in and report that I am not dying from the pain. While I would not recommend a wisdom tooth extraction a the age of 38 to anyone, it's certainly not the worst thing that I have ever experienced. ... And it gives me one heck of an excuse to go through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. (I heart their cookies and cream milkshake. A lot.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2

Halle-freakin-lujah, it is Friday night and I have the possibility of going a full day tomorrow with NO TALKING!

I'm super excited.

Why? Because talking is killing me, man.

Seriously. Killing me. I wake up in the morning, feeling fairly decent. (Keep in mind that my definition of "decent" had slid a bit in the past several months.) Basically, when I wake up in the morning, I lie in bed and move my facial muscles to assess the overnight damage/improvement. While it honestly never doesn't hurt to open or close my mouth, or squinch my face up, I don't want to cry first thing in the morning.

And then I go to work, where I have to talk to people.

By 10:00 this morning, I was holding my jaw while I talked to my teammates, because the pressure of my hand seems to hold the pain in somehow. ... It's ridiculous, how sore my jaw is by the middle of the day. (I'm not going to go into what it feels like at night and the copious amount of pain pills and sleep aids I've gone through this week.) And it's not like I'm chewing anything hard, crunchy or ... you know ... chewy. (That's right, I am still living the high life, eating at least one cream-drenched bowl of cracked wheat every day. And I've found a new snack that I love - mashed up banana and a heaping spoon of peanut butter. I know it sounds a little troubling, but I'm telling you, it's pretty fantastic.)

I tell you, it's the talking that's making me hurt.

Oh, and the smiling.

Honestly, I never knew how often/easily I smiled until it hurt to use those muscles. ... I, apparently, have a smiling problem. I fear that I am addicted to smiling and may need a 12 Step program, because I can't stop the reflex, even when I make a concerted effort to (literally) hold it in.

So, now I hold my jaw while I talk. Because it helps alleviate some of the pressure. And also because, if I'm already pinching those muscles with my fingers, my smile reflex has a manual stop that keeps me from hurting myself more than I need to.

The Saturday game plan: No talking. No smiling. Lots of soft food, and maybe a nap.

I'm hoping that, at this time tomorrow, I'll be able to open my mouth wide enough to get my toothbrush in there without associated pain. ... It may be a pipe dream, but right now it's mine.