Thursday, April 30, 2009

bald is the new black

capacity via adversity

it's true...i've been slacking. i know it's bad when "starbucks rich" mentions to joey that i haven't updated my blog. the truth is that round 3 was a little tougher than the first two and i just wasn't feeling inspired to write. here's how it works: every other wednesday, we go to the cancer center where they feed "Fox" her liquid lunch which takes about 3-4 hours. we then go home and i climb into bed, as to not jossle around the kerosene-filled stomach. it's then a crap shoot for the next 6 days. the nausea, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches are a given. it's the little daily surprises that keep it fun, like the cellulitis that developed in my vein, the rash that appeared on both arms and magically went away within 10 minutes (two consecutive days), and the sudden loss of vision and sound on any given moment when my blood pressure is too low and my hot flash temperature is too high.

speaking of hot flashes...i just want to take a moment and apologize to all the women who have or are going through menopause. i'll admit that i've rolled my eyes when you were fanning yourself or thought "cry me a river" when you complained about your hot flashes. but i am here to tell the world that hot flashes are no laughing matter. one second you're feeling fine and the next it's like you're being cooked from the inside out. pools of sweat form in a nanosecond and you feel as if you can fry an egg on your body. the doctor thought it best that we force my body into a menopause by shutting down my ovaries. this will give us a better chance at having kids after this whole ordeal is over. so, every month i get an injection into my belly that even the nurses are squeamish of giving because it's the "longest and thickest needle we have." you know it's bad when she says "i'm sorry, baby" as she injects you.

i always used to threaten to shave my head. i never actually believed i would until i did two weeks ago. even then, i was in shock. apparently i thought covering my eyes would help the process, but unlike a gruesome scene on tv, it wasn't all over when i removed my hands. it came after a long weekend of slowly losing about half my head of hair. it was a monday morning and i took bailey to the vet. i wore a hat to ensure my hair would stay put. i started getting really hot but didn't want to take my hat off in fear that all my hair would come off with it. so, after losing my vision and hearing and all the strenth in my legs, i sat down and thought for sure an ambulance would have to be called. thankfully, joey came to my rescue, took me home and gave me a haircut to match his own.

i have heard other female cancer patients say that losing their hair was the one of the toughest aspects of the entire ordeal. was it easy? definitely not. but it was kind of like ripping off a bandaid. don't get me wrong, it's still disheartening to wake up in the morning to see my now short hair all over my pillow. i got a dog that doesn't shed for a reason and now i'm running a lint brush over the couch so our friends don't leave with my hair on their clothes. i may look like GI Jane now, but what will i look like when the rest falls out and my forehead never ends. my ears also get cold pretty easily now and i have to cover my head with a blanket of its own. but it turns out that my head is a lot smaller than i would have thought. that was a pleasant surprise.

so, it's not the adversity that breaks us. it's really how we view it, and ultimately how we decide to portray it. cancer happens. financial hardship happens. heartbreak happens. the beauty is that we get to choose our attitude during these trials. *"if you don't have any problems, you don't have any potential. here's why. your ability to help others heal is limited to where you've been wounded." i had a few rough days that i certainly did not enjoy. the side effects were just a little more heightened than the prior two treatments. but, i knew that after those 6 days, i would get to enjoy a full week of feeling great before my next treatment. the day i feel the best is always the day right before treatment, which just so happens to be my birthday this time. coincidence? maybe. i choose to believe that it's not.

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:29-31

*taken from the book: "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson

Friday, April 10, 2009

say hello to my little friend

well, chemo round #2 happened two days ago (rachel: 2, cancer: 0). it went much better than the first time thanks to my little alien baby that was implanted on tuesday. no more burning arm and i have both hands free to read my "who needs hair" book I got from my new 80 year old friend, Nonnie, who too has cancer. they also switched out one of my anti-nausea drugs via IV due to a rare side effect that i had last infusion. good news is that i shouldn't get that headache i had last time, bad news is that this drug only lasts 24 hrs as opposed to the other one which lasted 5 days. it's been about 40 hours and so far so good. i'm mentally tougher than that ;)

i decided that cancer in itself isn't all that's what comes after the diagnosis. all the doctor's visits, the xrays, CT scans, PET scans, surgical biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, echocardiogram, pulmonary function test, and now my new friend i just got put in my chest. i haven't named her yet, but it will be something i will share because i like, suggestions welcomed.

the tests are just cruel...take the PET scan. they make you drink 2 huge bottles of watered down sugary milky crap and then make you lie still for 30 minutes in a small tube where all you think about is how much you have to pee. and don't let them fool you, because even when you motion for the tech to come into the room because you are gonna pee all over their multi-million dollar machine...she will ignore you, because there's no way she's gonna stop the scan. plus she knows there's no way a 28 year old is gonna pee her pants. i'll show her next time!

the bone marrow biopsy was not fun either, but it's just pain...i can handle that. it's not like a small bladder where it can all flow out...clearly i'm just still bitter. but they can only numb you so deep, so the doctor says, "this will hurt...just think good thoughts...and don't move because we don't wanna have to do this twice." there's no way i'm moving now...and yet my body starts to move. but, i realize i'm not moving my's the hollowed out screwdriver stuck in my back that is moving me. good times. i did get to see the bone marrow in the specimen cup. totally worth it.

cancer changes everything. i have no stress. doctor's orders and i willingly abide. it helps that i am married to the world's greatest husband who has made every step of the way so easy on me. everyone is so nice. a friend pointed out how life would be so different if we all treated each other like we had cancer. so true. i now look for the hidden meaning in things...7 days after my first treatment, i woke up in the middle of the night in the worst bone pain i've ever felt. it was as if i jumped off a building and landed straight-legged and jarred my entire body. it was 3am and lay awake for an hour while joey held me and i cried. i just kept repeating in my head, "rejoice in your suffering, rejoice in your suffering."

but when you don't have any stress, you can handle the steroids waking you up at 4am, water tasting like metal, food lacking all taste whatsoever, wearing a surgical mask on a plane, accumulating scars all over your body (7 and counting), watching your hair come out in your hands...because it just drives you to persevere even more.

the support from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers has been amazing. is spreading like wildfire and is so exciting to see the effort that has gone into it and the generosity that will come out of it. joey and i have decided that along with donating the remaining money to a charity, we want to help out others who we have met in the treatment center who need assistance with their co-pays and deductibles. this fundraiser is going to truly change lives...and we will all look pretty darn good doing it in our team rachel gear :)

so, even though my new friend is causing me some pain and discomfort after being implanted under my skin, i like her. she is just giving me more character...and who couldn't use a little more of that. so, when we come up with a name, don't forget to say hi to her as well.

"we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts" romans 5:3-5