I saw her face

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Last week when I went into the locker room and turned on the lights, I realized that someone was already in there. In the dark. Locked up in the larger-sized disabled shower stall. They had lots of things lying on the floor in there, I could see under the stall door. There was also an electric cord coming out from under the door, plugged into an outlet on the wall. It was pretty obvious this person planned on being there for a while.

As I ran that morning, I pondered this person. Maybe a student who’d had a fight with her roommate and needed a temporary place to sleep? A student who’d been evicted from her apartment? I thought about who to call to get this person help. IPF? Student Affairs and Services? Someone who could point them to the services they needed and especially to make certain they were okay. I didn’t end up calling anyone that day. I mean, maybe she was just resting for a while.

She was still there by Monday. Same situation, all her stuff stacked around in the stall. I could hear her in there sniffing her nose occasionally, moving around. I went about changing and hurrying out to the track, again wondering who she was, knowing I needed to call someone, DPS maybe. And then after my run, as I went to step into my shower stall, she came out of the large stall, and I saw her face.

She wasn’t a student. She was an elderly homeless person. She’d found a warm place that even had water and toilets. She was living in there. She obviously needed help. I called DPS and they said they would come check on her.

Yesterday, she was still there. She was taking a shower in the morning when I went in to change for my run. I called DPS again. They were in the locker room for quite a while with her. It was obvious she’d resisted leaving. They walked her out and I saw her face. She looked confused, agitated, alone. They walked her to the door. Three officers carrying her stuff – a blanket and a few other odds and ends. Probably all she owned in the world.

I ran, then showered. I got into my nice clean clothes. Then I got into my car and turned on the heater, sipped from my bottle of water, and started to sing along to the radio. And then again… I saw her face.

As I drove across campus I said a prayer for her – that they would find her a warm place to stay and some food. That she would be safe and feel cared for. Because doesn’t everyone deserve that?

I know I did the right thing. Another woman at the track had told me she had also noticed the woman and had waffled back and forth about whether she should call DPS. And we both agreed that as University employees, we are stewards of MSU. We have an obligation to put our students (and their safety) first.

This homeless woman may have been on drugs. Or she may have not been on drugs that she needed for a mental condition. She might have become agitated if someone confronted her (See this and this). If something had happened to a student, well, not reporting her presence would have been inexcusable. I did the right thing. I know this.

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Last night, I came home to my family where we had pizza for dinner and watched a movie, laughing, enjoying being together. I kissed and hugged the kids before they went to their beds. Later, as I lay down in my own bed, I pulled the warm covers up around me and I settled down comfortably to go to sleep.

… And I saw her face.

 

 

The No-Tamoxifen Trial

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been suffering from extreme leg/feet cramps and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). I’ve tried all I can to supplement my diet, drink water, stretch, exercise, etc to relieve them. Sometimes it works, sometimes I’m up all night in misery. I also cramp up easily in my stomach muscles (just by bending over to pick something up) and my neck (especially at night when I first lay down on my pillow). Feet cramps can be triggered by something as small as slipping my foot into my shoe, or simply rolling over in bed.

For a while, I thought I had it figured out – drink 5-6 bottles of water a day, eat my banana and yogurt, take my calcium and magnesium supplements, plus my multi-vitamin, and don’t drink too much caffeine. It worked, for a while. Then, with absolutely no changes (wearing the same shoes, doing the same run and stretching, same food and other activities), I suffered from a 4 night set of spasms that kept me from sleeping more than a half hour at a time. And since before Thanksgiving, I’ve been getting random nosebleeds. I’ll just be sitting there and blood comes pouring out of my nose.

I thought at first it was due to having the heater blowing in the colder weather, so I started using a humidifier in my office at work (we don’t have forced air heat at home). It seemed to help, and then the nosebleeds started again. I read the literature on Tamoxifen and it stated in rare cases it can cause low blood platelets (which is what causes blood to clot), thus the spontaneous nose bleeds. I also read that Magnesium levels can affect platelet counts.

When this started happening even at work, I tried upping my magnesium supplement, since most medical articles state that is the one mineral of the trifecta (calcium, magnesium, and potassium) that is most often deficient. No relief from the cramping, but since magnesium is a laxative…well :/ . At work, I could barely stay awake, I was afraid to drive very far in case I got too sleepy, I was mentally dull.

MSU Health, including my cancer team, recently implemented a new electronic health system. I wasn’t scheduled to see my chemical oncologist until March, but I found in the new system that I could send her a message. I explained my concerns about the Tamoxifen being a possible magnesium leech and what I’d tried to counteract it. I asked if, other than the laxative effects, was there an upper limit on how much magnesium I could take.  A nurse from the chemo center, Therese, called and told me the doctor wanted me to get a blood test so she could see my mineral levels. So, the next morning, I did not take my magnesium or calcium supplements and went in for the test.

A few days later, the doctor called. Guess what? All my levels were absolutely normal. She then went on to tell me that Tamoxifen should not cause low magnesium levels, or bloody noses, or RLS. I nearly started crying. It was reminiscent of the Taxol/Neulasta debate (which I won, by the way… that is if you can call feeling extreme pain from a medicine “winning” :/ ) -this medicine shouldn’t cause this symptom, yet it was causing it for me. I believe it is the same with the Tamoxifen. The doctor suggested (after convincing me it would safe to do so) I stop taking tamoxifen for a two weeks trial to see if my symptoms improved. I also stopped the magnesium supplements, but continued my same diet and water consumption.

For 5 days, I was gloriously free of muscle cramps and bloody noses. And then Sunday night, I woke up extremely ill (norovirus, we think) with vomiting and diarrhea. So much for the experiment, as vomiting and diarrhea can deplete your body of minerals, especially magnesium. Within two days, I was back to having bad leg and feet cramps. I have tried for nearly a week now to get enough magnesium, calcium, and potassium in my diet and get back to drinking 5 bottles of water a day, but when you are having stomach issues (I didn’t even eat for two days), it feels impossible. I finally caved in and took a magnesium pill one night, leading to a re-triggering of diarrhea by morning.

I’ve only been out of the house twice in the past week. Once on Thursday to drive my son to karate, only getting out of the car to walk to the docheng and back to the car. It wore me out. Then yesterday, I went to Walmart to grab some groceries and just walking around the store caused severe leg cramps- mostly in the front of my legs (shins) making me stumble around holding onto my cart to get through the store and back to my car.

Last night, I took magnesium, calcium and my multivitamin before going to bed. Even so, I had to jump out of bed 7 times between 4:00 and 6:30 am to relieve the severe leg cramps in my shins. (doing the math- that’s about every 20 minutes). Regardless of my exhaustion (I had wanted to drink as much water as possible before bed, so I was up until 1 am ), I finally just gave up and got out of bed.

Today, as I was writing this blog, I dug around in the literature to make certain what I was stating was true and I found something out. Magnesium deficiency does affect platelet counts, but not in the way I had thought. The lower the magnesium, the higher your platelet aggregative ability, i.e. the more your blood clots and vice versa. So, it’s possible, even probable, that I have been causing my own nosebleeds by making my magnesium levels too high, causing my platelets to be less “sticky”. No wonder my nosebleeds stopped when I stopped taking Tamoxifen – because I’d stopped taking magnesium at the same time! 😦

On the other hand, the Tamoxifen drug literature lists that a rare side effect is low blood platelet counts. So, at least I was right about that. But my magnesium supplementation only made it worse, not better. I also found that magnesium can affect your body’s potassium and calcium levels, the other two minerals required for proper muscle function. Calcium helps your muscle contract and magnesium helps it relax, thus the reason most people take magnesium supplements for muscle cramps. Too much magnesium is associated with low calcium levels and high potassium levels. So, it sounds like I shouldn’t be taking calcium supplements, since I probably get more than I need already due to my dairy-addiction. Too much calcium can cause cramping, so can too little. But I possibly shouldn’t be taking magnesium either, or at least maybe should take a lower dose.

The next thing I guess I can look at is my shoes. My husband has been convinced it is my shoes. When I think about it, I usually don’t have cramps on the weekends. What’s different on the weekends?- I don’t usually wear my dress shoes (at least not for 10 hours straight), I don’t run (which means I also don’t usually wear my running shoes), I don’t sit at a desk all day long, I don’t drink as much caffeine. Yesterday, when I went shopping and had the severe cramps, it was the first time I’d worn my dress shoes to walk around since getting sick a week ago. But of course my cramps have been going on for about 5 days- again due to my sickness probably depleting the nutrients from my body.

It’s so frustrating to always be the one where no one can seem to diagnose what is causing my sleeping, pain, bleeding or cramping issues nor what to do to fix it. 😦

A Glimpse

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I had lunch with my daughter yesterday. She’s lived at college for the past several years. Close enough to visit often, but we don’t, for her sake. She has adjusted to her new young adult life well. And I miss her.

I miss knowing that I will see her each night and get to hear all the details about her day (good and bad). I miss seeing her face at the dinner table. I miss her cuddling up to me on the couch at night when she needs a little mom-time. She comes home every few weeks, at least until midterms and/or finals hit her and then it’s less often.

I’m always happy when she texts me a “do you have any plans for tomorrow?” message. Assuming my work schedule allows it, my answer is always “having lunch with you?” Yesterday, she came to my office after her morning class and waited for me to finish a meeting, then we walked across the street for lunch.

The event that sparked our lunch this time was that I needed to give her her vehicle registration card and sticker for her plates, as well as her “Time for Renewal” notice for her driver’s license. She’s turning 21 next month and will get the “adult” version of the license that is horizontal orientation instead of vertical for the “under 21” kids. So, I explained how she needed to go to the S.O.S. to renew it, get her photo taken (not one of her favorite things), make sure she took her I.D., her wallet, etc.

We didn’t necessarily discuss anything major. Just small things about which of her siblings had done or said what recently. She talked about how her classes were going. She’s in pre-vet and had to raise a chicken for butchering this term. She really enjoyed that and now has some chicken in her freezer for a “free” meal sometime soon. 😀

Then I drove her to the Plant Bio building where she had her next class. And we sat in the parking lot and chatted some more before she headed off to class. She was scheduled for a volleyball game that evening. Her lab would end at 5:50 and her game started at 6:00 pm. She and her roommate would eat dinner after that (I remember those crazy schedules!). We talked about relationships and how you find the best ones when you aren’t really looking for them.

She kissed me before she left (she’s never been one to be embarrassed about her love for her parents 🙂 ) and I watched her walk up the sidewalk into the building. As any mother knows, you feel this mixture of absolute pride and bittersweet emotions when your adult child heads off like that. My baby is all grown up and she’s beautiful and intelligent and confident. And she doesn’t really need me every day anymore. :/

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And as I drove back to my office, I thought. I thought about how I only get glimpses into her life now. I thought how I’m jealous of the people that get to see her daily, at the same time that I’m glad that she is finding her place in the world.

And I thought – I wish I could just see her in her daily activities and interactions without actually being there. Like a fly on the wall. Not because I’m worried at all about her. But because I would love to continue reading her story. See, as her parent, I got to be the author of her story when she was a baby.

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At first, I got to choose everything for her, what I thought was best, her clothes, her food, her activities. And then I slowly relinquished my place at the keyboard over time, letting her spend more and more time typing up her own story as she grew, with me just helping edit along the way.

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And now, she’s the full author in her own life story. She gets to make things up the way she wants them to be. And I have to wait to read excerpts of it in these little glimpses of time that I get to be with her. She still asks my advice, and I have to work very hard to make certain she is asking for my opinion, not my approval. I’ve explained to my kids that they get to choose what they want to take from their dad and me into their own lives, and what they want to leave out. That their lives are their own, even though we’ll always be there for them. I love who they’re becoming. And as most moms, I miss not knowing everything, but it’s okay. So far, from the parts she’s let me see- it’s turning out to be a great story.

Now #2 is starting her journey, applying to college, planning her life. Slowly letting loose of my hand. Bittersweet.

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And #3, 4, and 5 are starting to spend more time at the keyboard writing their own stories as well. And I get to be the reader, as it should be. I look forward to seeing how these stories all turn out. 😀

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Good for you!

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It’s one of those statements that I know is meant to be encouraging, but somehow it feels judgmental. This morning I was about 1.5 miles into my 3 mile run when a guy on a bike rode past, and as he did, he gave me a thumbs up, then held his arm out with a fist (like he was flexing his muscles). I know what he meant. Good for you, keep it up, you got this, etc.

And I know he meant well- and when people do things like that, I take it in the vein it was intended. He was encouraging me, and I did appreciate that. It’s just…

Well, no one does that for the skinny in-shape people. No one says “good for you” to the fit people who are out running.

So, I take it as – “hey fat ass, it’s good to see you got off the couch and are doing something to get in shape”. I know, I know. Be positive. Be happy people notice what you are trying to do. Bleh, bleh, bleh. I DO get it. It’s just…

Well, it feels demeaning. Like they think if someone doesn’t encourage me, I won’t keep doing it or something.

I have to remind myself that they don’t know what I’ve been through. About how the cancer treatments rob you of all fitness. How the steroids they give you at every treatment keeps you from losing weight, even when you are barely eating due to nausea. How the anti-cancer medicine continues to rob me of sleep, which causes increased stress levels, which makes it nearly impossible to lose weight, regardless of how much I exercise. :/

Hey, he noticed I was trying my hardest and he wanted to let me know that. He meant well. That’s what matters, right? So, I yelled out “Thank you!” to him. And I smiled for a while as I ran.  And I remembered that what other people think of how I look doesn’t quite matter that much to me anymore. So, good for me!

I wanted to also let everyone know who may be wondering- I remain cancer-free! The radiologist said that all looked normal, nothing to worry about! Thanks for all your support.

The next test

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On Tuesday, I have to have an ultrasound. On my “left axillary area” officially.

I had my next “every 3 month” checkup with a doctor from my cancer team this afternoon. She was surprised when I told her I still had pain in the left side of where my surgery was. You can feel a small lump there near the mastectomy scar, near where that monstrous drain was (see A day that started out badly). It’s actually quite painful to the touch. She said it did not feel like a mass and she was pretty certain that it was just from the surgery scarring, but she wanted to have it checked out. I, of course, being a worry-wart, completed agreed.

So, on Tuesday, I’m scheduled to have an “ultrasound, with biopsy if indicated”.  Which means that if they think the site is suspicious they will do a biopsy right then and there so I wouldn’t have to wait.

It’s reassuring and yet terrifying all at the same time. Used to- when I had to have a test for something, I always could tell myself “that won’t happen to me”. See, once it does happen to you, it’s almost impossible to believe that it won’t happen to you again. I won’t even pretend that it is anything like PTSD from being in a war or assaulted or anything like that. But it is PTSD just the same.

It’s a constant stress that hangs over you all the time. Everytime you hear the word cancer (which is A LOT) your stomach drops and you relive that moment when they first told you that your life would never be the same (The first post…). I try to remember what my chemo doctor told me – she said that I needed to go live my life and not worry about it coming back, because the chance is very small. I try to do that. But… it’s always there.

Like a shadow, it follows me wherever I go and whatever I do. Other people get to forget, you know. They were worried about me when I was really sick and healing, and they prayed a lot. But once I got better, everyone was relieved and … Well their life goes on much the same as it did before. My life is irrevocably changed. Mentally, physically, emotionally changed.

I deal with the after-effects of the cancer on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to be alive and to be considered cancer-free. It’s just that when you face something life-threatening like this, when at one point in your life, you weren’t sure if you would survive- well, you always feel like you are one step closer to death than the person next to you. And that changes you.

And beyond the mental and emotional issues comes the physical ones. My surgery scar is completely numb in some spots, uncomfortable in others, and as I said above, quite painful in that one place. I have not yet recovered full mobility in my shoulder, though I stretch daily. I tried to do 5 pushups today for the first time since surgery. I did it, but ended up with some mild pain in the surgery area. (Before cancer, when I was training for my Tang Soo Do karate test, I did 25 pushups a day.)

I take Tamoxifen daily. It’s the anti-hormone pill that I’ve talked about before. Since I’ve been on it, I’ve dealt with seriously painful leg and feet/toe cramps, most likely caused by the medicine. I now eat a banana, eat yogurt, drink milk or take a calcium supplement, take a magnesium supplement and a multi-vitamin, and drink at least 80 oz of water a day. I run 3 miles a day at least 4 days a week. And still, some nights, like the last 3 nights, for no reason whatsoever, I wake up anywhere from 1-4 times an hour all night long (no exaggerations, ask my husband) so that I am unable to sleep for days on end.

Maybe the hotter weather has something to do with it. Maybe it’s just random, I haven’t yet figured it out. But for anyone who has sleep issues- you will understand the kind of stress it puts you under to not get enough restorative rest for such a long time. I’ve spent years with sleep issues, and I have always heard (well-meaning) advice from people- make your room darker, cut caffeine intake, go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time, exercise, etc etc.

I’ve really heard it all. I even had a sleep study done. Results? There is absolutely nothing wrong with me. According to their data, I slept all night long. Which is really quite funny (and yet not) because I was most definitely awake for a lot of it. I spent most of the night checking my phone for the time, then finally fell into an exhausted slumber around 2 am and slept for a few hours before my alarm went off. Yet their results said I had slept just fine for 6.5 hours. Hmmmm….

But what am I going to do? Stop taking the Tamoxifen? Of course not. I’m grateful to have it even with the side effects.

The chemo caused nerve damage as well (What is Taxol?), and recently I’ve been showing some signs of Restless Legs Syndrome. It’s where your lower leg muscles feel like they are twitching and pulling, but when you reach down to touch it, there’s absolutely nothing moving. It’s like a ghost nerve impulse. You feel it mostly when you are sitting still or trying to sleep. (You know, because I needed just one more thing to disturb my sleep 😦 )

And mine is severe enough that it results in leg cramps. My leg muscles will twitch and pull and twitch and suddenly, a severe and excruciating cramp in my calf or the front of my lower leg happens, which has me leaping out of bed to try to stretch and relax the muscle. Anyway, I will likely always have this issue due to the nerve damage from the chemo. But again, I am alive and grateful for the chemo meds that were able to kill the cancer cells.

And I’ve mentioned “chemo brain” before. Yes, it’s real. Yes, it’s frustrating. If I ever see you and call you by the wrong name (or not call you by any name at all), please be patient. I’m doing the best I can right now, and the lack of sleep makes it even worse. A friend at work had the same issues a few years back and he has since recovered, so I am hopeful that within a few years I won’t feel so mentally dull anymore.

So, why am I telling you all this? To complain? No.

As I was driving home today, after getting the news that I would need an ultrasound and possibly a biopsy, a man in a truck was doing an awesome job at tailgating me on the highway. For no reason – I wasn’t driving slowly, hadn’t cut him off, nothing. He was just driving like a bully in his big truck, riding the tail of my small car. When he was finally able to pass me, it was a great relief. So much so, that I got tears in my eyes.

Normally, that sort of thing doesn’t bother me, but today, because of my lack of sleep, and my news from the doctor, it did. And it made me think about the day I received news that my Grandpa had died, and there I was 5 months pregnant, with 2 year old Chally in her car seat, driving to Lansing to try to find some little girl dress shoes so she would look nice saying goodbye to her great-grandpa. And as I made my way south down Business 27, I had a similar incident with an “out of nowhere” road rage. Obviously someone having a bad day and taking it out on others. They had no idea what devastation and pain I was in about losing my Grandpa, and of course they’ll never know the effect they had on me that day.

So, the reason I’m telling you all this is because I hope you will stop and think about the people you pass each day – at work, on the street, in your car. You have no idea what they might be carrying with them, just like I was today. Just like I was 18 years ago on the way to my Grandpa’s funeral. Something that makes them need some empathy, some tolerance, someone to show they care. Something small even, like yielding in traffic or holding the door for them, a simple smile, that will help brighten their day some and remind them there is still good out there. That someone cares.

 

 

Do the Hard Cider Run – check.

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It’s been a whirlwind of a month for me. It started with having the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. At first, it was hard to think about – one whole year had passed since my world went crazy. But then, I started thinking – one year ago, I had a very steep mountain to climb. I had just begun to have all the tests and had been given more information than I could take in. I had months of chemo that was about to start. And at that point I couldn’t even think farther than just getting through chemo, even though I knew surgery and then radiation would follow. This summer promises to be a much brighter, more enjoyable one for me. I made it through to the other side! I plan to enjoy every second.

Then, it was time for my annual mammogram. On my right breast of course, since there’s nothing left of my left. I had been doing self-exams, but of course I was still worried. I mean, I used to believe it was never gonna happen to me, and then it did. So nowadays, I don’t feel so invulnerable. So they did the big squeeze, and a week later, I got the letter. All’s well!

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So, I walked the Survivor’s lap at the Relay for Life a week later feeling pretty good!

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Of course, that’s an event that is very emotional. I read all the tributes to those who didn’t make it. I thought a lot about my Dad and my mother-in-law – who both succumbed to lung cancer. I thought about a friend from work who very recently was diagnosed and lost his battle before he even had a chance to try to fight it. The father of my daughter’s teammate who did the same. A friend from church who has already outlived the doctor’s expectations. My Grandma who fought it off and lived to be 93.

My friend Kristina and I walked it together. She said that the woman who gave an inspirational survivor speech last year, passed away before this year’s event. At several points we put our arms around each other and cried as we walked. It’s difficult to explain the range of emotions to someone who has never been through it. Relief, anger, sorrow, joy, worry, guilt, all wrapped up in one big stressful event. Why did I live and not Bill? What if my cancer comes back? Who will still be here next year?

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I did see alot of people I hadn’t seen in a while and they were happy to see me looking healthy 🙂 it’s still amazing to realize how many people were thinking of me and praying for me while I was sick. It was also amazing to see many other survivors in the same place for the same reason. To support each other, to give hope to those who are still in the battle, to be alive. You can see it on each other’s faces. They feel the same things I do.

Today was the Hard Cider Run – the goal I set back in January to run the 5K without stopping to walk. I have been running at least 4 days a week since my radiation treatments ended at the end of January. As I mentioned before, I started at 1 mile a day, then added a lap or two every week or so until I reached 3.3 miles a day. I figured that was a good level to maintain and would make the 5K seem easy since it’s a little shorter than that.

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This morning started with me waking with a terrible headache from not sleeping well. Tim and Chris were off to a PKSA karate training seminar with Grand Master Kang Uk Lee, his possible last visit to the U.S. As I rushed out to my car to head to the race, I found this on my car hood:

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My daughters Challis and Kelsey happily volunteered to make sure that Rea got to her softball pictures and game, and that Andy was taken care of while I went to the race. Then, I was blessed to not only have two friends who ran by my side through the whole race, but had three more friends waiting at the finish line to cheer me on with big signs and give me hugs, a trophy, a ribbon, etc. I ran the entire race without stopping. Goal reached! This was an incredible end to a fairly stressful month for me.

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Side Effects are Contagious

<SPOILER ALERT- if you are planning to watch the movie Creed and don’t want your experience spoiled, do NOT read any further until after you’ve seen the movie.>

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When you have cancer, you aren’t the only one who suffers from the side effects. I think the hardest thing my family had to go through was the feeling of helplessness as they watched me going through such sickness and pain. My husband said it just about killed him to know that there was absolutely nothing he could do to take away my misery.

Of course, the good thing about it was that it gave me a reason to not wallow in my misery.  Some days, it was all I could do to just exist through it as I waited for time to pass. But for the most part, I tried my hardest not to let my kids see how bad it was for me. At least I thought I hid it from them. I did my best to try to stay as normal as I could, even though I spent a lot of time on the couch or sleeping.

A few weekends ago, my daughter came home from college to visit and we were talking while she made herself a cup of coffee. She asked if I’d seen the movie “Creed” yet. She and her roommate had gone recently to see it and they both loved it – she had texted me right after they saw it to tell me it reminded her of me. I figured that was because she knew I was a huge Rocky fan as a teenager (in the 70’s who wasn’t a Rocky fan?).

This was the poster I had on my wall right up until I left for college and my step-mom cleaned my room out :0

This was the poster I had on my wall right up until I left for college

When I told her I probably wouldn’t go see it, she asked if it was okay if she told me about the plot.

<This is where you should stop reading if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you.>

So, apparently, Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son is a boxer and ends up meeting Rocky and convincing him to be his trainer. Then Rocky finds out he has cancer and chooses at first not to do chemo, because it had made Adrian so sick and she died anyway. When Creed finds out, he tells Rocky – if I’m gonna fight, so are you. So as Rocky starts chemo, he begins to lose his hair and is in a lot of pain, having a hard time walking. As Chally was telling me this, she burst into tears. She said – “Mommy it was so hard to watch because it reminded me of how much you went through last summer when you were going through your chemo treatments.” Tears were streaming down her face as she told me about how Rocky struggled weakly to climb the stairs at the Philapdelpha Museum of Art, which he’d run up in his training during the original Rocky movie. “I thought about you, Mom, and how hard it was for you when you were so sick and in so much pain.”

See, when you have cancer, everyone who cares about you- your family, your friends – have cancer along with you. When you suffer, they suffer. When you worry, they worry. I did my best this past year to be strong for my kids, to not let them see quite how bad it was for me, but obviously I failed to completely protect them from it. Maybe that’s okay. Parents aren’t infallible or invulnerable. I think it’s okay for my kids to see that. The reality of cancer is something that unless you have to go through it, many people would prefer not to deal with. I don’t blame them. It’s an ugly disease. Luckily, I was blessed to have a cancer that can have a fairly high rate of survival compared to many other cancers.

rocky-IV

But regardless of the type of cancer you have, chemo doesn’t distinguish between them. It makes most everyone sick -although some lucky few are not as sickened by it, and of course it depends on the type of chemo drugs you are given. I never realized before I had cancer that there are so many different chemo drugs available, and that each one has a different efficacy on the various cancer types. One of the drugs given to breast cancer patients is extremely nauseating (Cytoxan). To this day, I still can’t see an IV drip bag without getting nauseous, even though that particular drug is given in a shot into your IV tube, rather than through a drip bag. It’s also, ironically, pink in color, so I can’t see pink or red kool-aid without also feeling ill. Just writing about it right now is starting to make my stomach turn. 😦

While I went through the treatments, I had every hope that I would be cured. I can’t imagine going through the chemo and getting that sick while knowing that it is only likely to extend your life. I hope I never have to experience that. I’m grateful that my cancer responded extremely well to the treatments and I am blessedly cancer-free now.

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Flying high now…

I ended up purchasing the Creed movie on DVD and watched it yesterday. It was, as many critics say, as good as the first Rocky (unlike most of the other sequels). I had tears at times as I saw Rocky getting sick,  and wearing the symbolic chemo hat. I cried as he walked up the stairs to the museum and had to stop, doubled-over to catch his breath. Not because I was remembering how I felt the exact same way for so many months, but because I saw it through the eyes of my daughter for the first time – the horror of watching someone you love basically fall apart in the fight for their life, and then begin to piece themselves back together.

I think my family is reaching the point where we can kind of look back on my cancer treatment with relief that it’s over. We can joke some about things that I went through during this past year.  But, the wound is still raw enough for us – the pain and sickness, the worry that the treatments wouldn’t work, the worry that the cancer could come back, the long healing process and permanent scar on my chest- that we still feel it strongly. We had cancer. I am cancer-free now, but it has irrevocably changed my life and the lives of my family and friends. And I suppose once that bad thing, which you were certain would never happen to you, happens to you or your family, you are never worry-free again. :/