what thoughts rattle around in your brain when you're a mom of a toddler and a breast cancer patient?

Monday, January 24, 2005

My New Challenge: The Breast Cancer 3 Day

3 Days, 60 miles of walking and 2 nights of camping out in a tent. I want to do this to prove to myself that there is life after cancer and that life includes the joy of physical exertion, setting goals and reaching them.

Yes, I've run a marathon (1998--Mayor's Midnight Run) and a three half marathons (1998-1999) but nothing recently. And to be honest, I really haven't worked out much since becoming pregnant with Jennifer in the early spring of 2003. I'm anxious to get myself back into shape again, it's been really hard not having any energy and I don't have any personal pride in my appearance right now.

The Susan B Komen 3 Day seemed just right for me. I would do anything I could to spare another woman from going through breast cancer treatment. The only way to do that is by raising money for research so those sharp minded medical people can find a cure for this.

I don't really know who is reading this blog but if it's not someone who knows me, then it's probably someone who has been touched in some way by cancer. Please help me raise money by donating. Click here to do so and please share this link with your friends and family.

Thanks.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Idiosyncratic Routine

I stole today's title from the movie Chasing Amy.

I'm done with chemo. I guess it will take a while to sink in because I don't feel elated yet. Mostly I just feel tired and crappy from the last chemo, which was yesterday (1/19). It ought to take me about 5 days before I start to feel better, and then as time goes by, I ought to be getting my energy back more and more.

Energy. Feeling energetic. It's been so long! I went from pregnancy to child birth to caring for a newborn to cancer diagnosis, testing and then treatment.

I still have radiation to complete. I'm hoping it's not too bad. I hear it isn't. The bad part of radiation is how often the patient has to go to the doctor's office to get it...5 days a week for 28 sessions, in my case. I'll start on Feb 21, 2005.

Will I ever feel like my old self again? I think not. I have a new self now: she looks different, she acts different, she thinks different. The old self wasn't a bad person. But her priorities were different. Her self image was different. Better. The new self needs to work on that some more.

Right now all I can think about is sleeping— I want to go home and crawl into bed in the worst way. Unfortunately, it won't be possible to go to bed immediately. I have the kids on my own after work tonight because Dan has something he has to do. As soon as he gets home, I'll crash.

Signing off for now. I'm just too beat to be a creative writer today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Redemption

As I head into the final stretch of treatment, more and more I find myself thinking about reconstruction. For those of you who know me, I'm a planner. With HMOs and health insurance, this is a great trait to have because without prior authorization and approval, they don't pay for stuff.

After much research, I've decided on my reconstructive procedure. Now it's a matter of getting my dear friends at the health insurance company to agree to pay for it. I would like to be reconstructed via the GAP method and this procedure is only done by a small handful of doctors in the US. If you're curious about it, go to www.centerforrestoration.com and read up. There are before and after photos, too. Be warned: these are graphic photos since they show breasts and butts.

The wheels are in motion. Even though I could in theory have surgery as early as July (I need about 4 months in between my last radiation treatment and this surgery), I'm hoping for a surgery date in late October or early November. I'm doing the Susan B. Komen 3 Day which is Oct 14-16 and I don't want surgery messing up my training or event days.

Update August 5, 2005: Since orginally writing this entry, I have had metastisis to the lungs and bones and am no longer that concerned with reconstruction. First I need to be cancer free.

Other Items of Note:
My last chemo is tomorrow! I am super tired from treatment these days. I get out of breath climbing stairs and vertigo if I stand up too fast. I know this is because my red cell count is suffering from chemo and I know I'll start to feel better in a couple of weeks. Still, it doesn't make it any easier to get out of bed and have a decent day.

Baby Jen has a new word: bye-bye. Although it sounds more like bah-bowwwwwww and is accompanied by scrunchy handwaving. Totally cute. How much do I love this baby?!

To Anonymous, the only person to actually comment so far on this blog:
Thank you for reading. I will think about your 3 year old baby girl with leukemia often, and I'll think about what a dynamic person you must be to take care of 4 young children, especially with one who needs extra care. In 1998 I raised $4100 for Leukemia through Team in Training, and then ran a marathon in Alaska. Consider this my solemn promise to raise more money for leukemia in 2006. If you'll let me, you can give me the name of your baby and I'll run in her honor. Healing thoughts to your little one, and strength to you as you nurture her. In the same way I wish to dance at my baby's wedding, I hope the same for you. Namaste.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Protecting the Innocent

At the risk of offending some of my more liberal-minded friends and readers, I'd like to applaud the ruling of a Family Court judge who recently took a very strict stance on a "mother" (and I use the term loosely) who had lost custody of her 7 children from seven different father, with the childrens' age ranging from 8 months to 12 years. The ACLU is already trying to get it reversed. I think it takes real courage for a judge to take a stand like this and try to protect the unborn from falling into such unfortunate circumstances.

The youngest child and two others tested positive for cocaine at birth and all seven "were removed from her care and custody because she could not and did not take care of them," Judge Marilyn O'Connor said in a December 22 decision made public Tuesday.

"Because every child born deserves a mother and a father, or at the very least a mother or a father, this court is once again taking this unusual step of ordering this biological mother to conceive no more children until she reclaims her children from foster care or other caretakers," O'Connor wrote. (quote courtesy AP and found on cnn.com--get the full story here)


Read it carefully. It doesn't say that the woman must be surgically sterilized or even that she have injections of a drug that would temporarily prevent her from becoming pregnant (which is actually my first choice for her penalty for being so careless with other human lives, but that's just me). Only that she must reclaim her children by cleaning up her act before she goes out and conceives more.

I don't understand why the ACLU values the rights of the mother over the rights of the potential offspring who would be born drug-addicted and/or abused and neglected. I have worked as a volunteer for the Juvenile Court and I have friends who still do...the things we have read in court documents or seen in person would make even the most liberal of you feel like you would want to protect the unborn, I just know it. Read this:

Guillermo, a newborn at Broward General Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale, has spent his whole short life crying. He is jittery and goes into spasms when he is touched. His eyes don't focus. He can't stick out his tongue, or suck. Born a week ago to a cocaine addict, Guillermo is described by his doctors as an addict himself. Nearby, a baby named Paul lies motionless in an incubator, feeding tubes riddling his tiny body. He needs a respirator to breathe and a daily spinal tap to relieve fluid buildup on his brain. Only one month old, he has already suffered two strokes.

Guillermo and Paul are two heirs of America's deadly romance with cocaine. There are many more, and over the last couple of years their numbers have risen sharply. In 1984, for example, Dr. Xylina Bean of Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital in Los Angeles saw just 10 newborns with traces of cocaine in their urine; last year that number rose to almost 100. By May of this year King had logged 180 babies born with cocaine in their systems.

It was just 2 1/2 years ago that the Perinatal Center for Chemical Dependence at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital began to see mothers with cocaine habits; today cocaine is a problem in a majority of the center's cases. In the last year the approximate number of drug-addicted mothers seen at New York's Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center has risen from 70 to 150; the number of cocaine users in that group has jumped from 25 to 75 percent. (1986, courtesy of Newsweek)


What is wrong with the checks and balances of ________ (insert your religious icon here) that allows a deadbeat like this woman to get pregnant so easily even while she takes illegal drugs when I personally know of wonderful women who have carefully watched every single item in their diet and are still unable to have a child of her own? What about me and my friends who have had chemo and may or may not be able to have children (or in my case, another child) because of the effects?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Little Star

Yesterday, when I went to pick up my babygirl Jennifer at daycare, she did something new that completely melted my heart: she saw me, smiled her biggest smile, held out her arms and toddled over to me as fast as her little legs would carry her.

I remember something that happened at the daycare early on, when Jennifer was just a few months old...I was walking thru the playground area and kids were playing on both sides of the fenced in area. There was another mom walking in behind me, and when that mom's little girl saw her, she screamed "mommy!!" and ran over to the fence to get as close to her mom as she could. And I thought, I can't wait until Jennifer can show me that she's that happy to see me.

A newborn baby that isn't talking/walking/crawling yet can show you in a lot of other smaller ways that she's happy to see her mom (or someone she loves). For instance, she might stop crying when you pick her up, or she might smile a gummy little smile for you. Or she might lay her head on your shoulder and fall asleep. Jennifer has done all of those things for me and her daddy but yesterday's new development really made me feel great.

Never forget who you are
Little star
Never forget how to dream
Butterfly

God gave a present to me
Made of flesh and bones
My life, my soul
You make my spirit whole

Never forget who you are
Little star
Shining brighter than all the stars in the sky
Never forget how to dream
Butterfly
Never forget where you come from
From love

You are a treasure to me
You are my star
You breathe new life
Into my broken heart

Never forget who you are
Little star
Never forget how to dream
Butterfly

May the angels protect you
And sadness forget you
Little star

There's no reason to weep
Lay your head down to sleep
Little star

May goodness surround you
My love I have found you
Little star

Shining bright

You breathe new life
Into my broken heart

Never forget who you are
Little star
Shining brighter than all the stars in the sky

Never forget how to dream
Butterfly
Flying higher than all the birds in the sky

Never forget who you are
Little star
Never forget where you come from
From love

Thanks to Madonna, who wrote this song. She really said it just right.


Monday, January 03, 2005

Natural Disasters

During my blogging break, the Earth suffered a terrible loss of human life. I'm mostly speechless about words to use to describe how it makes me feel. That so many souls left the planet at the same time has me wondering what sort of karmic energy blast might have occured that simple people like you and me can't possibly perceive.

One of the stranger things about the tsunami is that rescue crews have not found any dead animals. What does that mean? Did the animals have a good early warning system that made them flee so far inland that they were all safe? Or did those animals just get swept out to sea only to sink to the bottom of the ocean?

I feel incredible sorrow for any parent who has lost a child. I can not imagine the pain.

The suddenness of it all reminds me that quite possibly, today might be the last day here for any of us. When I write "here" I mean here on Earth. Every once in a while, Mother Nature shakes her coat like a dog with fleas and people die. I spent alot of time in 2004 worrying about cancer. I'll probably spend more time worrying about it in 2005 but a big disaster like the tsunami of 2004 might help me keep my perspective.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One other thing I wanted to write about...I was talking to Dan last week and he mentioned that while I was in the hospital for my mastectomy surgery, there was always someone (Dan, JoAnne or Dad) in the room with me because he never wanted me to wake up alone and scared. I actually didn't realize that since I was so out of it. But hearing it made me want to cry simply from gratitude. He is such a good man.

On the subject of chemo countdown? I have two more treatments to go. The treatments are getting harder to deal with: I'm more tired and out of sorts for each one. This last one took me about 5 days to get to a place where I felt ok. I slept alot during the holiday break--I just didn't have much energy and frankly, I still don't have much now.

Once chemo is over, I'll get a three week break and then I start the final kind of treatment: radiation. I have 28 sessions and I'll have to go 5 days a week.