Friday, June 29, 2007

Walking No Where

Jake talked for years about getting a treadmill. For years I was against it. We didn't have anywhere to put one in the old house and I was convinced after a few weeks we wouldn't use it and it would sit there in the way. When he brought it up again a few months ago I finally agreed. We put it in the Man's Room above the garage so there's no risk of hanging laundry on it or tripping over it as you get out of bed. Just as Nate was finishing school for the year I thought it might be possible to get a workout in while hanging out with the kids (I've never been one to formally exercise). I decided I'd use the treadmill 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Five weeks later, I've actually done it! The kids watch TV in the adjacent room while I walk and watch the Today Show each morning.

The upside to all this is that I can see definition in my legs...the downside is I haven't lost one pound. It hasn't discouraged me from walking because I feel so much better, but I'm bummed I haven't shed a few pounds. I guess it's time to incorporate some sort of diet change. My weakness......sugar, especially in the form of chocolate.

Confessions of a Recycler

I cleaned out the frig this morning. You know, looking for expired salad dressing, ketchup etc. The kind of clean out the frig you know you should do more often. After collecting all the expired stuff, I opened up the trash can and then paused. I knew I should rinse them all out and recycle the containers, but I REALLY didn't want to. Since Nate's interest in the environment we've had to get a second recycle bin to hold all of our recycle loot. Because of his passion and because I knew it was the right thing to do I held my nose, dumped dressing, sour cream, salsa and relish down the disposal, rinsed and then planted every last container in the recycle bin.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Full Circle

We FINALLY finished swimming lessons today. We weren't suppose to wrap up until tomorrow, but Ms. Ali said the boys did so well she didn't see any reason for them to come tomorrow. I was so excited until I looked at Nathan and he began to weep. He went from crying because he didn't want swimming lessons to crying because he didn't want swimming lessons to end. He's cried off and on for a few hours saying he wants to see Ms. Ali. He has such tender's one of the many things I love about him.

Mocha (our dog) will be going in for surgery tomorrow. We found a lump on her neck 2 1/2 years ago. A needle biopsy said it was probably cancer, but we wouldn't know unless we had it removed. Since we aren't into doggy chemo or radiation and it wasn't causing her any problems we thought it best to leave it alone. It has slowly increased in size, but now week to week I can tell it's getting even bigger. She had a vet appointment today and I made the decision to have it removed. I'm scared she's going to scratch it open and really hurt herself. It doesn't appear to cause her any pain, but as big as it is it must be uncomfortable. I'm praying it's a smooth surgery and that the pathology comes back benign. Even if it is cancer hopefully she'll have a good recovery and be around a bit longer.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

No More Plastic Grocery Bags

Consider this...........

Phoenix might have a future without plastic grocery bags.
City Councilman Greg Stanton said the council is considering ways to phase them out and he thinks people can adapt to the change.
“Almost everyone has included recycling principles into their daily lives,” Stanton said. “The same thing with the use of plastic bags, we’re just going to eventually have to integrate reusable bags into our lifestyles.”
Stanton said plastic bags can’t be recycled.
“When plastic bags are put out in the recycling, people at the recycling plant have to pull them out and put them into the dump,” Stanton said.
Stanton wants to see the bags phased out and replaced by reusable bags and paper sacks.
San Francisco and Taiwan recently passed a ban on plastic bags.
“Many cities around the world have done the ban,” Stanton said. “We’re first looking at working with the industry to come up with solutions before there’s an ultimate decision to eliminate them in our community.”
He said the council plans on working with grocery stores.
“I don’t think you’re going to see an outright ban in the short-run,” Stanton said. “I think you have to give people time to integrate this into their lives.” - Earth 911

We made the switch about a month ago. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I found these cute bags on Oprah's website. Everyone knows I'm an Oprah fan, but that is NOT why I picked these bags. I looked a long time for a good quality bag that didn't cost too much. These are nice and sturdy and at $9.95 a bag much cheaper that other's I found. Consider the switch.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Tongue Cancer Story

In November 2004, shortly after the birth of my second son, I noticed a sore spot under my tongue. I didn’t think much of it at first. About that time I was dealing with the exhaustion only the mother of a newborn knows and an awful head cold. I made an appointment with my family doctor complaining of a sore throat, ear pain, head congestion and a sore under my tongue. After examination I was given a round of antibiotics and sent on my way. Soon after, all the symptoms disappeared except the tongue sore and ear pain. It was the holidays and I was enjoying our little family and just ignored the pain. Come January 2005 as the sore on my tongue started to affect my eating I started to worry. I hopped on the computer and did some research. After battling breast cancer 2 years earlier I immediately googled oral cancer. Ten minutes later I was crying, calling Jake at work and telling him the oral cancer pictures and my tongue looked the same. However, certain two cancers couldn’t possible be in the cards for me I held onto hope. I scheduled an appointment with my dentist for later that day. He took one look at my mouth and said it looked like cancer, but because I had never been a smoker and do not drink it was unlikely to be the case. He referred me to an ENT for the biopsy. The day after the biopsy the results were in….squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. Overwhelmingly I felt anger. Hadn’t I paid my dues with breast cancer? Reese had just turned 4 months old and my second chance at enjoying my child’s infanthood was snatched from me once again.

My medical oncologist saw me later that day and it was determined I would have the mass removed along with a lymph node dissection of my right neck, chemotherapy and radiation concurrently. For once in my life I was in love with my hair. After being bald for nearly a year, my hair was to my shoulders and I was enjoying good hair days. Then my oncologist tells me chemo will most likely make it fall out again. I had held it together pretty well until that point and then I lost it. Not over treatment, not over fear, but over hair!

On January 25, 2005, I had one third of my tongue removed and a node dissection of the neck, a stay in ICU and weeks of learning how to talk and eat normally. Just as my speech returned I faced chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Unlike breast cancer I would have them at the same time. This appealed to me only because I would be done with treatment sooner…….my goal. My mom came to live with us for two months (couldn’t have managed without her) as I would have radiation treatments every day and chemotherapy once a week. Yes, that meant one day a week I’d have radiation followed by a four hour chemotherapy session. I began taking daily Amifostine shots to help protect my salivary glands during radiation. Eleven days into it I developed an allergic reaction to the shot that landed me a three day hospital stay. The doctors misdiagnosed me with a UTI and once I was discharged I resumed treatment and the shot. Within one hour after the next shot as I shopped in Old Navy I had “that feeling” coming on again. I got home as soon as I could and told my mom it was happening again. She tracked Jake down to come home and I demanded they call 911 and get me to the hospital. I had uncontrollable nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, shakes, dangerously high blood pressure and a racing pulse. I was admitted four days to the hospital, this time they determined it was the Amifostine and I would resume treatment minus the shot. I was so thankful to not be getting the daily shot, but what would this mean to my salivary glands? I continued treatment fairly uneventfully and after completing all 40 days of radiation and eight chemotherapies. I was at last finished! I was left with a thirty pound weight loss, no appetite, a dry mouth and no taste buds.

I am happy to report the taste buds came back very quickly and with it a few extra pounds and I managed to keep all my hair this time! May 2005, at the age of 32 I became a cancer survivor squared.

My Breast Cancer Story

Written January 2004

It should have been the best time of my life, but on May 31, 2002 all of that changed. One day in late April 2002 I found a lump while nursing my then 6 month old son. Previously I had had some nipple pain and my son wasn't nursing well on that side. I just assumed it was a plugged milk duct, although the lump didn't hurt. Just to be sure I scheduled an appointment with my OB/GYN. Although I had this sinking feeling about it I was certain it was nothing. Just 4 months prior I had my post partum clinical breast exam, I was 29, healthy and had no family history, it couldn’t be cancer. After an exam, ultrasound and mammogram my OB/GYN called and said the ultrasound report showed a 2cm suspicious mass and that I should have a biopsy. I said OK (still not worried). My OB/GYN set an appointment with a surgeon for 30 days later. She said I was lucky to get in that soon. I figured if it could wait 30 days then it must not be too big a deal.

So I waited the 30 days and during that time my breast began to swell. I had stopped nursing and simply assumed that was the cause. Then on May 30th I had a needle biopsy and the doctor called the next day to tell me I had invasive ductal breast cancer. The next few days are a blur. I cried uncontrollably. My husband had the daunting task of telling friends and family while I tried to process the news and care for our 8 month old baby. How could this be happening?

The following Monday I met with my oncologist, had a CT scan and bone scan, which thank goodness were clear. I immediately had a port put in and started chemo within 5 days of my diagnosis. Because of the swelling, my tumor measured 10 cm by external exam (however a repeat ultrasound showed it was still 2cm) and was thought to possibly be inflammatory cancer (a poor prognosis). In my case, surgery would have to wait, the swelling would have to go down in order to be confident they could get clear margins.

After I received my first chemo treatment I drove 2 hours to see the doctors at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right to fight this monster. They agreed that I needed to complete chemo first, however, they disagreed with the diagnosis of inflammatory to my ears!

I completed eight chemotherapy sessions (4 A/C and 4 Taxotere) every 3 weeks over the course of 6 months. The side effects were tough, but on November 4, 2002 I celebrated what I hoped would be my last chemo treatment. If the mastectomy still showed cancer in my breast I would have to endure more chemo. On November 25th, just 5 days before my 30th birthday I had a left mastectomy. The days that followed were filled with anxiety. What would the pathology report say? Would I have to have more chemo? I could hardly stomach the thought. Finally the results were residual cells were found and all 17 nodes removed were NEGATIVE! A miracle!

My strength began to come back, I celebrated Christmas like I had never before and I knew I was going to be OK. To ring in the New Year I shed the bandana that had covered my head for nearly 8 months. I wasn't about to spend any of 2003 covering my battle scars. January 8, 2003 I had the first of 28 radiation sessions. The doctors were uncertain if I needed radiation at all, but I insisted. I wanted to know I had done everything to beat this. So on February 14, 2003 while everyone was out celebrating Valentine's Day I was out celebrating life. I had done it, I had fought and won!

I planned a trip to Chicago with some girlfriends to see a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Something I had dreamed of doing for 15 years. It was an amazing trip and a great way to celebrate my recovery. It's almost been a year since my last chemo treatment and I feel wonderful. I completed the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing and both were negative. The doctors have also said we can try for more children. Just like Lance Armstrong wrote in his book, It's Not About the Bike, "We're the lucky the ones".

Thanks to my amazing husband, generous friends and family and precious son, I'M A SURVIVOR!

June 2007
Five year update: We did go on to add a beautiful son, Reese, to our family on October 5, 2004. In February 2006, after three years as the uno-boober (as Jake so affectionately called me) I had a prophylactic mastectomy of the right breast and bilateral DIEP breast reconstruction by Dr. Robert Allen. I completed the nipple reconstruction and tattooing in November 2006. I am thrilled with the results.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


It's HOT!

Jake would cringe at hearing me complain about the heat. He loves the heat and loves to sweat...makes me ill. In my defense I've really made an effort to be outside even as the temperature and humidity rise, but it's HOT. It will be a struggle, but I promise not to hibernate until October.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Saturday morning I got inspired to clean and sort through the playroom. Always seems that when there's too many toys and clutter the boys spend less and less time in there. The boys were watching TV while I secretly threw away and put away some of the toys that they haven't been playing with. We'll either do a garage sale or donation at some point, but they'll have to buy into letting some of the toys go which isn't easy for them. They surfaced from the TV just before I was finished and came to the conclusion a leprechaun changed the room around. It was cute. Reese has been playing with Nate's old LeapPad I found up on a shelf and Nate is enjoying a flannel board I made him. I came up the the idea when our library had a flannel board the kids love, then I read how it helps kids develop fine motor skills to work on things vertically and even suggested a flannel board. I'm not the crafty sort, but it seemed simple enough. I made the flannel board and bought some felt sets to go with it.

We had a great Father's Day weekend. We signed Nate up for fall soccer and played at the park, went out for lunch before taking the kids to Snip-its for a hair cut. We usually get the $8 kids cut at Hair Cuttery, but since we were right by Snip-its we sprung for their kids cut, $17. A one time thing, trust me. It's a cute idea, but I can't see paying that when our kids don't mind the no frills cut we're used to getting. We came home and went swimming. I told Nate if he would jump into the deep end of the pool I'd do a cannon ball jump. He was instantly sold on the idea and I found the courage to keep my end of the bargain. Today we went swimming again, this time the deal was a 10 second float for a cannon ball........we both faced our fears. It was fun.

Jake and I watched Dead Girl and Stranger Than Fiction. Dead Girl was different, but good. Stranger Than Fiction put me to sleep.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Farm Weekend

The kids and I took off to a farm for the weekend while Jake and his brother enjoyed a trip to California to see Kristen. We got to feed and hold every farm animal imaginable. After the farm we took our stinky, sweaty selves to our hotel and jumped in the pool. I wanted to stay in a nice hotel so I sprung for the cheapest room in a 4 star. It was worth it..clean, clean, clean. The pool was great and I got so many compliments from others swimming around us about how the boys were such good swimmers. If they only knew what we've gone through to get to this point! We were so tired that evening I couldn't even imagine the long, hot walk back to our car (nearly 1/2 mile away) so we took a bath and ordered room service. Reese managed to pour an entire cup of very hot chocolate down his belly. I ripped his pajamas off as fast as I could and luckily had ice in the room to soothe the burn. Within a half an hour his skin returned to it's normal color and I changed him into his dirty clothes from the day to sleep in. Before 9pm we were all snuggled together fast asleep. It was the first time ever I've slept in a bed with both boys. If the kids have a sleep over in our room they use their sleeping bags on the floor so it was a nice treat to have them right there in bed with me. I woke up about 1am and smelled urine, argh! I put my hand on Reese who was right next to me and he was damp. His pull-up had leaked onto his clothes, his blankie and a little of the bed (must have been all that pool water he drank!). I woke him up enough I could change his clothes.....this time into Nathan's dirty clothes. I was trying to hold off on the only clean clothes I had for the next day. Then I removed a pillow case from an extra pillow to lay over the damp spot on the bed and tucked him back in. Before going back to bed I decided it would be wise to clean his blankie so it could air dry by morning, knowing he'd be asking about it. So, in the middle of the night I'm hand washing his blankie in the bathroom sink with hand soap. Of course by that time I was wide awake so I hibernated for an hour on the bathroom floor (so greatful we were in a clean place) and read my book, The Secret Lives of Bees. It's been a very long time since I picked up a book to read so I was so glad to be deeply involved in a book and have something to do without disturbing the boys sleep.
The next morning they woke up at 6:30am as usual. My hope they would sleep in because of a dark room vanished as Reese tugged at me asking for a drink and his blankie. With the help of the blow dryer it was dry before we left the hotel. I had gotten brave and made horseback riding reservations nearby. They told me Nathan was old enough to ride his own horse, but I wasn't sure he would go for it. To my surprise, the boys turned out to be regular cowboys. It was an hour nature trail on horseback and Nate rode like he owned the place and each time we stopped our horse, Jesse James, for those behind us to catch up, Reese yelled YEE-Haw as we began to ride again. The group loved it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ladybugs and Swimming

We got this ladybug land and loved it. It was solid entertainment for weeks. We just let our ladybugs out in the yard today. We were a bit sad to see them go.

The kids are 4 days into swimming lessons. It was a horrible 6 week (5 days a week) experience last year so I wasn't looking forward to it. To my amazement there was no crying today and both boys were swimming and laughing. I'm so glad we stuck to it. We are doing the same program as last year, just a different instructor which seems to have made the difference. They should finish pretty quickly since it's just a refresher course. Last night they both jumped in the pool from the side and swam underwater all on their own.

Confessions of a Survivor

Let me start out by saying that in an effort to move past my cancer experience I rarely blog about it or even talk about it anymore. In one sense it keeps me sane to push it to the back of my mind however, sometimes I feel compelled to share a bit of my story or what life is like post-cancer. Today, I'm compelled to share.....well........vent and in my venting I hope you find a small sampling of inspiration to take care of yourself.

Ironically, just a few days after my sunscreen post I got a call from my dermatologist about a "mole" they had removed just a week before. Turned out it was abnormal. I silently freaked. I had to go back and have the surrounding tissue removed for further biopsy and with it a dozen or more stitches and another scar to add to my collection. After doing an Internet search off of my pathology report I freaked some more and called the doctors office near tears. The doctor had already told me it was not cancer, but the Internet provided me with some scary facts that I attempted to interpret from a bunch of medical mumbo-jumbo. The nurse spent a good bit of time on the phone with me and helped ease my mind and told me to get off the Internet. She called today to let me know the additional tissue they removed was completely normal! And only now can I relax. Honestly, deep down I knew it was fine, but I've gotten bad news twice and so I know how that scenario feels.

My challenge 5 years post breast cancer and 2 1/2 years post tongue cancer is to battle the thoughts that enter my mind (sometimes daily) about what my future health holds for me. I will be doing completely fine until something needs to be biopsied or I have to have a scan or blood work etc. That's when I have to give myself a pep talk and reassure myself everything will be just fine. I've talked to young women survivors and there doesn't seem to be a magic post cancer year mark when you instantly stop being concerned about your health. I will continue to be concerned, some moments more than others, but I will not be a victim and let it consume me.

So, here's to health! Wear sunscreen, check your boobs or have someone do it for you and check your tongue........or have someone tongue you.