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Archive for the ‘Cancer Humor’ Category

Off week.

That happy time where you’re in between cycles of chemotherapy.  When you get that chance to have a little recovery from the medication you’ve been hammering your body with steadily for months.  That time that you squeeze in every bit of social activity that you can without overdoing it because the last thing you want is to crash during the only week you have a little freedom.  Vacations are planned for off week.  Social get-togethers are planned for off week.  Chores you’ve desperately been putting off are reserved for off week.

It may sound a bit like I’m waxing poetic about off week, but really…it’s a whole week without chemotherapy.  Not that I dislike my nurses or anything, but as they say;  “We love you, but we don’t want to see you again.”  This is the week I have a little more energy and I feel a little more normal.

Or it’s the week that my children bring home some sort of elementary school plague and I end up, ironically, sick on the only days I’m supposed to be recovering.

And yes…yes it’s happened several times.

This time around off week is a grand total of at least two weeks.  This isn’t too unusual, as I’m due for a CT scan to see if this chemo is even working.  We’re hoping for stable.  We’re also hoping to see what might be causing the chest pain I’ve been experiencing since early April.  When you have such a laundry list of things that could be causing the symptoms it can be hard to diagnose.  This time around we’re waiting on the CT scan, though, which you also tend to want to limit exposure to because…oh right, it’s one of those cures/diagnostic tools that can also cause cancer!  Sometimes I wonder if the human race just really likes shooting itself in the foot in that regard.   Yet I’ll find out if it’s broken ribs, bruised ribs, torn or sprained muscles, fluid pressing against my chest wall (there was some stuck between the lung and chest wall in the last CT scan), or the cancer itself pressing against my rib cage.  Maybe it’s scar tissue, that seems to be the bane of my existence quite frequently.

So, again, during my beloved off week I also get to play the waiting game.  Everybody knows the waiting game, but it seems to be a constant for cancer patients.  One thing we share in common with this widely varied disease.  You scan and then you wait for results.  Has it spread?  Has it gotten smaller?  Is it simply holding steady?  Is it causing problems with the rest of how the body is functioning? Most of the time only a CT or a PET scan can tell.  I wish a simple X-Ray could, but the detail needed to see most cancers isn’t going to be picked up with a quick run through an X-ray I’m afraid.

Though this does also mean I get two off weeks.   Granted one of them has a few doctor appointments to follow up on scans but…

It means I get to go to the beach.

Now if only the weather would stop pretending it’s early April.  That’d be awesome.

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Really, I want to know who came up with that.

Especially the followup of ‘make lemonade’ part.  This would thrill my husband and son, as are both avid lemonade enthusiasts.  Me?  The one with the ample supply of lemons?  I can’t imagine wanting to risk diabetes just from the sugar alone you’ll have to throw into the lemon juice to make it a drinkable treat.  Perhaps not Kool-Aid recipe sugar dosage (though I’ve seen some recipes come close…), but lemons have a pretty good chunk of natural sugar that you add into the mix.  Nice for one glass or two.  But if life is throwing a peak harvest California lemon orchard at you there’s only so much lemonade you can really handle.

I mean…does it have to be lemonade?  What about a nice meringue?    Lemon bars?  Cheesecake?  Pie?  Sorbet?  Trifle?  Panna Cotta?  How about some pudding or pastries?  Lemonade just seems so limiting by itself.

Granted pretty much all of the options above will have you sitting in a nice diabetic coma or a sugar rush eventually.  That sort of sugar rush and crash will have you busting through walls like the giant Kool-Aid pitcher guy.

Suppose that explains a few things about that guy, doesn’t it…

There is too much of a good (or just flat out sugary) thing, too.

Don’t get me started on the mouth sores that come with too much lemon.  God forbid you have a cut on your lip.  I mean, chemo mouth is bad enough, but add your body weight in lemon juice and you’re asking for a month of pain. So … let’s look at it in a different way, shall we?

I like savory things.  Let’s go in a savory direction.  Gotta do something with these lemons…

Lemons can go into all sorts of sauces, marinades, can be squirted onto poultry and fish, into drinks…the opportunities are endless!  Roasted lemon chicken, lemon drenched veggies and pastas,  lemon fish of all kinds, lemon rice, lemon soups and stews, stir fry, shrimp…

I really should stop right here and point out that my doctors have had me on a pretty high dosage of steroids, so just about anything food sounds good.  That being said…this is still a bit of an overdose on the lemon scale, even for me.

That doesn’t change the fact that my life is, at the moment, an orchard of lemons.  Not to say that it’s terrible, just a bit more challenging than usual.   I try to be positive (and apparently ravenously hungry at the same time), but there’s only so much lemonade a person can take.  I get creative, flexible, come up with as many recipes as I can manage but in such a large dose if I can’t start selling these lemons I’m going to start turning yellow myself.  Yet somehow I persevere.  Being positive is what keeps my head afloat in this giant lemon juice swimming pool.   At least I hope it’s lemon.  I do have kids.  Is this a public pool…?  I really don’t want to know now.

So in my positive rhetoric that I’m sure some of you are tired of, I have decided to completely change the stupid saying so I’m not drinking lemonade until my stomach lining sloughs off into an acidic whirlpool of lemon-scented pain….

When life gives you lemons…

At least you won’t get scurvy.

It's my lemon! Love him!

Because what’s more confusing than a lemon with scurvy? I mean, other than my medical history…

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There’s always that lapse of time between diagnosis and treatment that is riddled with tests and multiple doctor appointments.  Over the last two weeks I think I’ve spent a vast majority of my time in my car driving to and from the various doctors offices.  To my list of specialists I’ve added a new radiation oncologist, who has, as of yesterday, had me fitted for a new pillow.  There’s a technical term out there, but it’s essentially a plastic bean bag pillow that they lay you on and suck all of the air out of so that it forms neatly to your back.  Line it up with my old radiation dots and you’ve got a pre-posed position suitable for every radiation treatment.  After doing a little fitting the official word is that my treatments will begin next Friday.  I’ll be continuing radiation treatments for six weeks and after that there’s still the possibility of chemotherapy on top of it.  Both my oncologist and I are a bit hesitant to jump into that just yet.

Radiation is going to be a bit different, from everything I’ve been told.  I will likely have that deep sore throat that will last for far too long once more.  My heart will be exposed, as will my spine, lungs, and esophagus.  There’s a whole list of things that could turn wrong, including the risk of secondary cancers from the radiation. (Hah!  Secondary.  I think I’m a bit beyond that, somewhere in the quaternary and quinary arena.)  My radiation oncologist seemed a bit surprised that, due to how the cancer is pressing on both my esophagus and my bronchial tract that I’m not coughing up blood.  I’m not sure what to think when I’m not having an expected symptom.  Am I not coughing hard enough to make the cancer cells hemorrhage? Should I be aiming for this?  Somehow…I think I’m going to count myself lucky in this case.

Image

I live in the shadow of a volcano. This isn’t metaphorical for anything, I just..really like that volcano and this update was in dire need of a picture.

Amid all of this what do I do?  I live on.  My daughter will be registering for Kindergarten today with the same teacher that my son had.  I’m working on getting the Day Camp I help run planned and ready to run, and also trying to wrap up what commissions I have so that I’m not leaving those who’ve requested them out in the lurch.  It’s the day in and day out chaos that most people expect on some level or another.  I get by, press on, and enjoy every minute I can.  Really, what else should I do?

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Ok, so this is something that’s bugged me for a very, very  long time now.  I thought, perhaps, that I was imagining it when I was a teenager looking into possible support groups, that there was a bit of a cancer hierarchy.  The only support groups I could find were for women in their 40s and up (which is ancient to a 16-year-old) who had gone through breast cancer alone.  When I was re-diagnosed I found the same situation.  The only support group that was relatively close to my needs was at my college campus: which consisted of people my age who had known somebody who had gone through cancer.  Usually a mother, father, or grandparent.

But that’s not where I’m going with this.  See, on the list of importance Hodgkin’s is somewhere on the low scale, mostly affecting people who are young.  Non-Hodgkin’s is far more popular, and diverse, and therefore given much more attention.  But not nearly as much as breast or cervical or ovarian or prostate.  However, when I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer it wasn’t a sudden get-in to the pink cancer club.  It was disbelief.  “What? You’re 27?  Everybody knows it doesn’t happen that early. Go on your merry way, now, back to being a normal twenty something.  This club is for 40 and up.”  Of course, until I had a breast removed.  That apparently makes you qualify for the club.

Now…now lung cancer.  You see, for me this is all very simple.  It’s a cancer.  Cancer sucks.  I do what I can to get treatment, same as the last three times thinking that there’s no possible way I could face any more disbelief in my situation.  Most people I know, including doctors and nurses, are used to my odd predicament.  They don’t bat an eye when I say, “Guess what!  I’m back!”.  My insurance company, however, is convinced I’m doing this to myself.

Ever since they’ve processed my claims I’ve had non-stop pamphlets on how to quit smoking.

You know, that’s funny, since I’ve never smoked a day in my life.  I never got a pamphlet on how to prevent Hodgkin’s.  And instead of a pamphlet on how to prevent breast cancer I was showered with pink, given stuff on how to find support groups and tips for early detection from my insurance company.  But, now that I have lung cancer, I should have been able to prevent this.  All that smoking I didn’t do has caught up to me!

Funny how certain cancers can be made out to be your fault, while others are simply a tragedy that sympathy must be showered on.

Thanks, guys!  I’ll do my best to quit cancering, but somehow I just haven’t figured it out.  No worries, I’ll keep working on it though, wouldn’t want people to think that I’m not trying to cure myself.  This disease totally would’ve been prevented if I had just known that I should quit smoking those imaginary cigarettes.

Too much sarcasm?

Probably.

But just FYI?  Breast cancer = tragedy.  Hodgkin’s = Tragedy.  Lung cancer = Why did you not take greater measures to prevent this?!

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Sometimes I’m not really sure how I did this in college.  In bed by eight, up at four to make it in to work by five.  Then again, I’m not sure how my husband does it now.  But, when you have to make it in for an early morning PET scan to follow-up from chemotherapy and live over an hour away from the clinic you frequent…?

Oh yeah, really wishing I didn’t have to fast right now.  Not so much because I’m hungry, but because the sweet siren song of coffee is ever so powerful this morning.  At least I get to look forward to a 45 minute nap before the scan.  Gotta look at the bright side of things, y’know?

But in all honesty PET scans don’t really bother me.  Out of all the doctor visits and procedures and surgeries that I’ve had to go through, PET scans are the spa-trip in comparison.  Sure, there’s a needle prick, but it’s once as opposed to an IV they have to run during CT scans.  Then there’s laying there in the dark with a nice warm blanket for a little under an hour so that the medication can seek out and cling to any glucose masses throughout my body.  After that? The scan is quick, usually in a room with soft jazz playing so that I’m border-line sleeping once more.

And then I get to hop in the car with my kids (who now argue with each other at least once for every car trip over ten minutes) and divert myself to the nearest Starbucks for my caffeine fix.

Because, after all of that? I’m going to need it in order to drive all the way home and keep at least some small sliver of my sanity.

Hello, Mr. Coffee, you handsome devil.

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…when you go to put mascara on and realize that while one eye is rich in eye lashes, the other is missing over half.  I suppose this is what happens when allergy season comes early and your eyelashes are already holding on by a thin thread.  It’d probably be a good idea to stop rubbing my eyes.

Even though I can say that chemotherapy is done my hair still hasn’t quite gotten the message.  Nor has my body, not completely anyway.  While things are slowly starting to feel normal again (Normal…wait, was I ever normal?) other things are taking their time catching up.  Hair is still thin, eyelashes are trying to fall out, and the internal plumbing is still acting up in just about every way that it can.  Regardless, I’m happy to be done.

I still have my follow-ups, which are things that are never truly done.  PET scans, CT scans, blood draws, port flushes (why yes, I’m keeping that port in.  With my veins it’d be folly to get rid of it.), echocardiograms and all sorts of other fun things are a constant in my future.

To be fair, so are my kids’ birthdays, summer, day camp, and Christmas.  So I think it balances out.

Because I really, really like Christmas.  It’s when I get the most chocolate.

 

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When I was little and an adult would ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” there were really only two options that I ever replied with.  The first one came natural, as it revolved around a hobby I’d come to thoroughly enjoy.  All of my notes and homework were littered with illustrations on the side, sometimes they were cartoon characters, other times they were doodles of family members or the family dog.  Even into college my lecture notes often had doodles along the edges of the paper, often times serving as my own interpretation of the written subject or as marks that I could easily find exam material by.  Obviously, I wanted to be an artist.

My second one was a little less known and considerably less obvious.  Especially if you consider that, while I enjoyed babysitting kids and working with them, I truly was not a fan of toddlers and diapers.  I preferred being able to hand a difficult child off back to the parents when they came home or back to the leader out at Girl Scout camp when I was quite done with being a climbing tree/song leader/line leader/game instructor/hiking guide/helping hand as a Program Aide.  Despite all of this, for some silly reason I really, truly, wanted to be a mother.

To be honest I also wanted to be a teacher, but that would mean I had three things I wanted to be when I grew up, and completely derail my train of thought.  But I digress.

Now, I did not, however, go to college looking for a husband.  I went to work on my art, get a degree, and have a new experience away from home.  College was an adventure dabbling in a bit of reality and a lot of childhood, all crashing together in one central place.  I was never one that delved into the party-scene, in fact, I rarely touched alcohol.  My ‘parties’, if you want to call them that, consisted of me and a few friends meeting up to play Rolemaster or Dungeons and Dragons.  There may have been alcohol at a couple of these, and there may be a story about somebody taking shots to rolling natural 1s and 20s…but that’s a story for another time.  But while I was in the midst of this, I managed to end up doing what I didn’t expect I would.  I found a husband.  No, I found an amazing best friend.  (If you haven’t been reading long, I have a few best friends, all of a different assortment.  My mother, my husband, my father, my sister, and also the ‘traditional’ sort of best friend, if anything about my life can be considered traditional, that is.)  One thing we both found out after a while was that we both had the same sort of goals…we both wanted to be parents.

Now, Bryan, that’s my husband, had the idea of having a nice sized brood of children, having come from a family of four kids.  I was, for the most part, an only child since I rarely saw my half-sister until we were both in our teens and it switched to a constant.  For me a smaller family seemed more like something I could handle, but I wanted more than one since the times I did have with my sister I enjoyed more often than not.  We settled on four…maybe five as our decision, depending on whether or not motherhood drove me down the path of insanity after only two.

Then came cancer.  You know, you never really realize just how much you love somebody until something like this happens.  Bryan had already been informed about my cancer, but he, like myself, thought of it as something in the past.  I was sixteen then, and at this point I was twenty going on twenty-one.  Cancer was in my past.  But I was about to learn the hard way that cancer would never, ever, be fully in my past.  It was my past, my present, and my future.  My chances at motherhood were about to be tested in a way I never had even perceived.

When I sat down with my doctor I was given a few options for my treatment.  Not only had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma come back, but it had come back to the full extent of which it had been when I was originally diagnosed as a teen.  The chemotherapy hadn’t worked.  They wanted to hit it with everything, but in the spirit of giving me options, they told me I could either A: Do full body radiation, or B: Do an intense chemotherapy with localized radiation.  I was a little giddy about not having to do chemotherapy, but it seemed to dawn on me to ask, “Will I be able to have children?”  The two doctors exchanged looks, then looked to me, “With full body radiation it’s unlikely, however there are procedures we can do to surgically move your ovaries aside…”

Let me remind you that up to this point putting a port in scared me to no end, so the thought of somebody operating down there to move around what I’d hoped would be the temporary home of a new addition to my family was petrifying.  I opted for chemo and localized radiation.  To this day I’m thankful that I did.

Because of this, Bryan and I sat down for one of the most difficult talks I’ve ever had to start with him.  We were barely dating, but we knew we wanted to marry after we were done with college.  So I felt it important to bring up the elephant in the room.  After dealing with chemo twice, I wasn’t sure my body could handle doling out a brood of five children.  What surprised me was that he didn’t seem to mind.  I thought not only the cancer, but possibly the thought of having fewer children might scare him away.  But it didn’t.  Bryan stuck by my side through the whole ordeal and even afterwards.  If that doesn’t say love, then what does?

Over the years I got a bit braver, thought maybe I could do up to five.  After my first I was convinced I only wanted one, then eventually two, maybe three…my decisions never really had any finality to them because I knew that based on my own experiences that I would constantly change my mind on the matter.  Somewhere, inside, I had decided that I was done when I was holding my daughter in my arms for the first time.  I had one of each, they were both beautiful and only two years apart.  My husband, however, thought just maybe…maybe he might be able to convince me for just one more…

…and then cancer.

Again.

This time it was breast cancer brought on by the radiation I’d had previously.  Later Bryan told me that the only reason why he never tried to convince me for a third was because of breast cancer.  Two births, three different types of chemotherapy, radiation … the body can only handle so much and still be able to thrive during healthy times.  Not to mention my daughter’s birth had to be induced early due to pre-eclampsia.  We both decided that a third was out of the picture at this point.  We had two to cherish, love, and raise…probably a good decision on our part.  Why? Because as you know…cancer came back.  Again.

The chemotherapy I’ve only just recently finished will also possibly cause uterine failure.  Kind of the nail in the coffin when it comes down to  having any more kids.  However I count myself lucky.  I had six years of good health in which I had time to finish college, marry, and have two beautiful children.  Not everybody gets that choice or that chance when faced with similar situations to my own.  I always have to think of that whenever I feel a little bit of regret for not having more.  Besides, I think the two I got are pretty awesome and really, there’s only so much awesome the world can handle, right?

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

 

 

 

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