Thirty-eight

My birthday was last week–the big 3-8.

I’m not a huge birthday person. I like my birthday, but I never have a party or any kind of big to-do over it. 

I guess this year I could have really blown it out, all things considered, but I kept it low-key, spending the day with my son followed by a chill girls’ night.

In addition to that, I received so many kind wishes from family and friends, which really made the day special. And those wishes seemed a little extra-sweet this year. It’s funny how a bad medical diagnosis makes you realize the significance of things. It helps you see how each birthday truly is a gift. 

So, while I didn’t have a huge party, I spent the day with people I love. And despite everything I have going on right now, that made this birthday one of the best yet.

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Lucky

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It feels kind of odd to say this considering what I’m going through right now, but I am a very lucky person.

No, I’m not generally the one who wins the big giveaway, and I’ve been in a lottery pool for years and have yet to hit it big.

I guess lucky isn’t exactly the right word. Fortunate might be more correct.

When I got my cancer diagnosis, I felt just the opposite. I felt marked. Cursed. Unlucky.

But then a strange thing happened–the outpouring of love and support began to wash over me.

In the days, weeks and months since my diagnosis, I have experienced a level of love and support I never thought possible. From the unfailing love of my husband and family to the constant cheering of close friends to the unrelenting support of my coworkers to the texts, emails, cards and Facebook messages of former coworkers, high school classmates and friends-of-friends, the level of love, kindness and concern I’ve received has truly humbled me.

At first, I didn’t really know how to handle it. I got tired of people constantly asking how I was. I even had the audacity to complain about all the attention (I know, could I have been a bigger, more ungrateful brat?). But once I got over the initial flurry, my heart just swelled with the love I’ve felt from others. It has moved me to happy tears more than once, and it continually restores my faith in humanity.

Whether it’s a container of homemade soup from a dear friend, or a comment from a complete stranger on this very blog, these gestures mean so much to me. They help me get through the rough days, and they remind me that there are so many good people in this world, and I am so very lucky to know and be touched by so many of them.

Good News

Today was a very scary day with a very happy ending.

This morning, I climbed back in the ol’ MRI tube to get my head scanned. There are few things in this world scarier than having a scan of your brain to check for cancer. And waiting all day for the results is no picnic, either.

By the time my doctor called, I was about to crawl out of my skin. But then he said those magic words: “no cancer.” The only thing the MRI picked up was a small cyst on my pituitary gland, which he said was common and not a cause for concern.

I wasn’t expecting it with this news, but I sobbed. The mixture of relief, gratefulness and sheer joy at hearing good news was just overwhelming–in a good way.

I will still have a PET scan to check the rest of my body, which also is a pretty scary prospect, but for today, I’m happy and just enjoying this win.

The Sick Blanket

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This blanket has seen better days.

When I was a kid, we had a special blanket in our house that we referred to as the “sick blanket.” Well-worn to a buttery softness, its faded 1960s floral pattern seemed to instantly soothe any invalid wrapped within its calming embrace.

Since I was diagnosed, several people have given me blankets. And while these new blankets are cozy and lovely, when I feel really cruddy I find myself reaching for my own “sick blanket.” A gift from my mother when I went away to college, the faded blue afghan is frayed and a bit ratty, but it’s also incredibly comforting.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the “sick blanket” the past two weeks. I started Taxol on Sept. 28, and two days later I started feeling bad. I was running a fever, which made me feel totally run-down. I took some Tylenol and a nap and waited for it to pass.

Fast-forward two weeks. I’ve been fighting a fever this whole time, which came with a headache, chills and other fun symptoms. I went to the doctor several times and got poked and prodded more than once to do all sorts of tests to determine the source of the fever. After multiple rounds of clean lab work, my doctors were perplexed. They gave me an antibiotic to try, but weren’t sure it would actually do anything since they couldn’t find any sign of infection.

On Monday of this week, I called to let them know it was still going on, and my oncologist decided I should have a brain MRI. Cue the stomach drop. This is not a test you want to have ordered. I immediately lost it, my mind going to all kinds of dark places and scenarios.

Yesterday, I went in for my weekly consult and to get chemo. My lab results showed my white blood cell count was too low, so they wouldn’t give me chemo. And the PA whom I usually see told me that my oncologist now wants to do a PET scan if the MRI results come back clean. Cue more freak-out.

I straight-up asked her if they think I have more cancer, and she said my oncologist has concerns, but this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything going on. I also asked her if this could possibly be a result of the Taxol. She said that was a possibility and that my oncologist’s partner had a patient who basically had a fever the entire time she was on Taxol. But, she said they wanted that to be the last box they check off, after they rule out everything else.

Rationally, I know it’s good to do these tests to be sure there’s not something else happening. If there is, we need to know so we can know exactly how to proceed. But I am scared. SO scared. The thought of more cancer showing up on one of these tests sends me into a tailspin. It makes me nauseous to think about it. I hope and pray this is just my body’s reaction to the Taxol, because that’s something I can handle. More cancer is not.

I’m feeling much better today (and have been progressively for the past few days). My fever and headache are mostly gone, and while I’m still wiped out from all of this, I am actually at work today and feeling halfway normal. I’m hoping this is all a good sign.

In the meantime, I wait. I’ll probably spend more time with the “sick blanket” this weekend, too. I’m not feeling as sick, but I still need the comfort.

I Miss My Hair

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Last night, I dreamed I had hair.

I was walking through a hotel lobby, wearing a cute dress and kind of bouncing with a little swagger in my step. And as I walked, I could feel my long hair bouncing along with me. I remember in the dream touching it, surprised, because I couldn’t believe it was actually there.

I miss my hair so much. I know this is a silly, vain thing. I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is such a minor inconvenience. I know that I should just be grateful that my treatments appear to be working, and the side effect of losing my hair is a small price to pay. I acknowledge all of this.

But, I still miss it.

I run my hands over the fuzz that’s left on my head, willing it to grow and multiply. My oncologist told me that it could start growing back while I’m on Taxol, and I’m trying so hard not to get overly excited at that prospect, lest it not actually happen.

I look at other people out in public, envying them and their full heads of hair. I feel like people with beautiful hair are everywhere. And I’m so jealous of them.

I gaze wistfully at my hair products and appliances, seeing them gather dust in my bathroom. I still shampoo my head, which is kind of silly since there’s so little actual hair there, but it feels better to me to at least use a little something.

I got a pretty nice wig, but to be perfectly honest, I hate wearing it. It looks so fake to me (even though it has fooled quite a few people at my job), it gets hot and itchy, and it has a weird smell. I thought wigs would be fun, but I think they’re more fun when you’re not forced to wear them. I much prefer just wearing my beat-up old ballcap that I’ve had since high school.

So, I’m just watching and waiting, hoping to see some growth.

Birth Day

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Our first family photo

Two years ago today, my baby boy was born.

Like most parents, I cannot believe how fast the time goes. It feels like just yesterday that I was pregnant. Looking at this photo, it’s hard to believe that little peanut is now a rambunctious two-year-old boy who sang “Happy Birthday” to himself this morning.

I remember the day he was born so vividly. I was three days overdue and was induced because they didn’t want me to go too long past my due date because of my age (35 is ancient in child-bearing years). The labor process via induction was long and painful. At first, very little happened. Then I got pitocin and the doctor broke my water, and things got real (and by real, I mean seriously painful). Contractions on pitocin are no joke. After laboring for a while on my own, I could no longer take the pain and got an epidural (a magical, wonderful thing).

Even after all that, he wasn’t progressing enough, and my blood pressure was rising, so the doctor made the call to do a c-section. I was disappointed because I wanted to do it on my own, and also afraid because a c-section is fairly major surgery.

But, it all went well. Even though I was terrified, the moment I heard Alex’s first cry made every bit of it worth it. I relived that moment this morning as I held his wiggling toddler body as he slept next to me in our bed, marveling at how much has changed in just two short years.

So, happy birthday to my sweet boy. I love you more than you will ever know.

 

Five Years

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Five years ago today, I was getting married.

It’s amazing how fast five years of marriage and nearly 10 years together have gone by. Totally cliched to say, but true nonetheless.

This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding day. It’s not one of the beautiful professional shots we paid for, but rather a grainy cell phone photo taken by a friend. But I love the pure joy it captures. And how it captures us as both individuals and a couple. Rodney throwing up the horns, me grinning like a fool–that’s us at our goofy best. And at the center, our hands intertwined, facing a roomful of people as one.

We’ve been laughing today at how unromantic our anniversary has been, thus far. We both felt kind of cruddy when we woke up, and we spent much of the day putting toys together and running errands for Alex’s birthday party tomorrow. Right now, Rodney’s snoring on the couch in front of a football game on TV, and I’m wrapped in a blanket on the recliner after my own nap.

But that’s real life, and real life is what marriage is truly all about. I feel sorry for people who are constantly chasing some Champagne-and-roses Hollywood ideal. Real marriage, and real love, is in the boring moments, the hard moments, the little moments. It’s having someone by your side who will hold your hand as a doctor manually breaks your water (which is super-fun, in case you’re wondering) and then later as you’re cut open on an operating table to deliver your child (terrifying and yet amazing). It’s someone who will sit up with you in the middle of the night as you figure out breastfeeding a screaming infant, and who will basically feed you by hand when said infant insists on being fed when you’re trying to eat. It’s having someone who will buzz all your hair off, and still look at you like you’re beautiful even when you’re bald and sick. It’s someone who will make you laugh through all of this.

We’ve been through quite a bit in our five years of marriage, and I am so thankful every day to have him there with me every step of the way. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s ours and it’s good, and in a time of so much uncertainty, I’m grateful to have something (and someone) in my life I can always count on.