Tag Archive | twins

Warmth — Weekly Photo Challenge & Thoughts Of You…

 

Radiation, Cancer Center, breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

 

I can’t believe I’ve allowed so much time to pass — again.  It just happens.  It’s so easy to let this happen.  And yet it is so difficult.  So difficult.

I’m doing it here.  I’m doing it in my life outside of this blog.  I’m doing it everywhere.

Pulling away.  Distancing myself.

And I don’t want to do this.

It just happens.

There is so much to tell you.  So much I should have shared with you about everything that has been going on.  But…

I’m just so tired.  So tired.  So tired of feeling awful.  Of being in pain.  Of being tired.  Of feeling sick.  Of vomiting.  Of everything…

And I realize how terrible that sounds.

I should be grateful to be here.  To be alive.  And I am.  But there is a part of me that feels as though maybe that just isn’t enough anymore.  That maybe quality — and not just quantity — of life is important, too.

Of course this is a complicated topic.  Even my own point of view changes throughout the day and as I lie awake at night often feeling too sick or in too much pain to sleep.  There is no easy answer where all of this cancer and cancer treatment “stuff” is concerned.  On the one hand, I (like so many) have been driven to do everything I can to survive.  But on the other hand, I never really considered how much collateral damage there would be.

Who really does?

For many of us — and for many of our oncologists — the goal really is survival and/or life extension.  Sure, there are consent forms and there’s a bit of discussion about the risks of our treatments, surgeries, etc.  But how many of us fully appreciate what the cost (and I’m not even addressing the financial toll…yet) of these sometimes Herculean efforts will be?

I’d venture to guess that the answer is “not too many.”

There is so much I want to say.  So much I want to tell you.  There are so many topics I’d like to cover here.  Questions I want to answer.  And I know I need to try to do better here.  To be present more.  To give this platform the respect it deserves.

In the New Year I hope to do better.  To tell you more.  Because there is so much to tell.  And to address the questions/issues/etc. that so many of you have written and asked me to address.

I will try…

For now I will say “hello again” and tell you that I’ve missed you and that I hope you are doing okay and that you had a nice holiday.  And I will thank you for continuing to stand by me, to check in, to care.  And I will tell you that you are appreciated more than you know…

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

And for old times’ sake I’ll leave you with our Christmas card and some photos that illustrate The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge topic—  “Warmth.”  — for me.  {If you would like to participate in the challenge, just click on the link above.}  In the Christmas card you’ll see two humans and two pups who warm my heart.

Radiation, Cancer Center, breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins family dogs morgan william mastectomy Christmas Hanukkah 2014 lymph nodes weekly photo challenge warmth the daily post

And in the fleece photos, you’ll see a literal example of warmth.  My boys (and one of their special friends) were asked to do a service project for school.  They chose to volunteer their time at one of my cancer centers, a place that is very dear to my heart.  They helped to prepare fleece ponchos to gift to new patients set to undergo radiation.

I’m not sure who first thought of the idea, but I know these warm ponchos will provide a bit of comfort for patients who will appreciate them, I’m sure.

The Cancer Center’s social worker was kind enough to give the boys a tour of the radiation suite that I once visited daily while I was undergoing that phase of my treatment so they could see where the patients will be wearing the ponchos.

Thank you, friend…  Sending my warmest wishes to you during the holidays and as we head into the New Year…  xxx

 

 

On a Dark and Winding Road

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's illness twins lymph nodes bilateral mastectomy stage 3c boys family stonybrook park life

This is where I have been during my absence.  On a dark and winding road.  It has taken me nowhere good.  It has been fraught with pain and stress and painful, stressful days.  And weighty revelations that come when you feel as though you just can’t handle one more thing — until one more thing comes and you begin to tell yourself that you can’t handle one more one more thing.  But still I walk this thorny path.  Or drag myself along its rough terrain.  And I wonder what choice I have.  Or if it is even a choice at all.

But I am here.  My twin boys are with me.  And though it doesn’t “feel like” summer in our world most days, summer is here.  My favorite time of year.  The little break we have from snow and cold and grey is here.  And it means more time with my growing boys and dogs.  And for that I am grateful.

I am grateful to you, too.  For continuing to “visit” even during my silence.  For continuing to leave messages or send emails.  I feel fortunate to have you.  I hope you know how fortunate…  Thank you…

p.s. My youngest sister (21…well, she turned 22 days after getting off the plane) just returned home from Alaska with her greyhound mix, Gracie.  So that is a good thing, too.  We’ve missed her and hadn’t seen her in a year and a half — and now they are living in my house!  Here’s a photo —

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's illness twins lymph nodes bilateral mastectomy stage 3c boys family stonybrook park life

A fun afternoon with my littlest sister & the boys

Thank you all…  I hope life is being kind to you…

 

 

 

I’ve Missed You — and Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

gator breast cancer thirties 30s 30's owl john deere gator world cancer day postaday weekly photo challenge object young twins kids

Hello dear readers,

I realized weeks ago that I had not yet posted in the New Year, but was feeling so awful that I just couldn’t force myself to do anything about it.  I decided tonight that this had to change this!

First of all, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year.  May 2014 be filled with peace, joy, and (hopefully) health.  As I welcomed the New Year this year, my thoughts turned to family and friends rather than resolutions.  Even when it feels as though the world is crumbling around me, I know that I am fortunate in that I have good people in my life.  And I count you in that mix of important people who make my life better.  How many bloggers are fortunate enough to have readers email or leave comments to make sure they are alright?  I’m grateful to say that I am that one of those lucky people.

There is much I want to tell you and much I want to share — but I’ve been so crippled by pain and fatigue that I’m just going to have to share things in bits and pieces.  I hope you will continue to bear with me!

Until my next post, I will leave you with a couple of photos of the boys and a school owl they were asked to take care of and write about for a weekend.  These photos are from an Autumn ago.  There is far too much ice and snow on the ground for grass or light jackets or John Deere gators in the yard right now!  But the memories are nice…

All my very best to you —

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's world cancer day twins owl john deere gator

p.s. If you’d like to see other Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge photos, please click here or here.

Lone Jellyfish, Candy Apple Redhead, Happy Holidays, and a Weekly Photo Challenge

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In a tank full of jellyfish, we watched as this lone jelly moved gracefully away from the others

It has been far too long, but I am popping in to wish you all a very happy holiday season.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or warmest wishes for whatever holiday you might celebrate.

The boys and I celebrated a lovely (but exhausting!) Christmas together.  They both made special cards and scoured the house and found items to wrap up and place under the tree.  Picture that scene from one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  [If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.  My sister and I loved it so much as kids that we watched it more times than I’d care to admit.  As a result, we can recite the script verbatim, complete with accents and inflection, also something I only admit sparingly.]  Aunt Edna arrives at Clark’s house with two gifts.  One box is leaking and the other is meowing.  Old Aunt Edna doesn’t have much money (and is a bit senile) but still wants to give gifts, so she has wrapped up jell-o and her cat.

Thankfully the boys did not giftwrap the dogs this year.  [Yes, they wrapped the little one up last year.  She did NOT like it.]  They gave me chocolates from the cupboard, one of my favorite winter scarves (which was a relief because I thought I had lost it, but it was under the tree the whole time!), and a few other special items they found.

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's thirties kids twins mom motherhood loss art show bird one daily post weekly photo challenge mastectomy

“One of these birds is not like the others”
The photo doesn’t do the vibrant red hue of this red-crested cardinal justice. What a beautiful bird!  [What is a photo of birds doing in this post?  Trust me, there is a reason.  Read on…]

They gave their dad some things we were able to procure together, like a nice Columbia fleece and some of his favorite candy.  They also made homemade ornaments with their photos on them and special cards to accompany their gifts.  And they wrapped up a handheld showerhead we had gotten a few years ago for their bathroom.  Their current cheap showerhead leaks so much that their is minimal water pressure when they shower.  It takes them forever to rinse their hair.  So we acquired the new one from our struggling kitchen and bath supply business.  It’s lower quality than what we normally sell, so we decided to keep it for ourselves and figured it should solve the boys’ bathroom dilemma.

The only problem is that my husband hasn’t installed this unopened self-proclaimed “easy installation” faucet in the three years it has been sitting next to their bathroom door.  You are probably wondering why I haven’t just done it myself.  Believe me, the thought has crossed my mind a thousand times.  But I can’t manage it because I can’t lift my arms over my head thanks to the bilateral mastectomy & axillary lymph node dissection surgeries.  [Of course it would have helped to have continued my intense physical therapy sessions instead of failing to show up one day because I was too tired.  In my defense, I did call them to tell them I would reschedule when I felt better.  That was 2 years ago, though.  Woops!]

The boys thought that if they wrapped up their new showerhead and some of the other home improvement items that have been gathering dust, the jobs would get done.   I even caught them wrapping the curtain rods from their bedroom windows!  I had been really sick for months when we decided to remove the curtains, rods and their anchors so we could paint the boys’ room (ocean colors with freehand waves and plans for ocean creatures).  I had just started the painting when I had to go in for biopsies on both breasts and lymph nodes. The biopsies confirmed the doctor’s cancer diagnosis 24 hours later, and the diagnosis and more biopsies and scans were immediately followed by my first lymph node and powerport implantation surgery and intense chemo until I was ready for the mastectomy and full-blown lymph node removal surgery 5 months later.

Needless to say, I could not reinstall the curtain rods because of the “not being able to raise my arms thing,” so the twins still have no curtains up in their room.  Part of me thought, “good for them for wrapping up their curtain rods!”  But they know their father all too well.  They said they were sure they would have to wrap all of those things up again next year because (I’ll paraphrase, but it was something like this) “Dad doesn’t care about our curtains and showerhead and smoke alarm batteries and blah blah blah… because they are not the internet or a video game.”

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's thirties kids twins mom motherhood loss art show bird one daily post weekly photo challenge mastectomy

I know, I know. You are saying, “WTF, another bird? What does this picture have to do with the holidays?”

We had a quiet Christmas Eve.  I worked on finishing Christmas cards between appointments.  I’d been up until 3 or 4 a.m. for the few nights before, writing personal notes on the cards (and reapplying for health insurance).  I mailed a stack each day for those 3 days.  So when I was finished with my appointments at the hospital, my husband and the boys came to get me and it was a relief to stop at the post office to mail out the last stack of cards.

I was glad to be heading home after a long day.  I was tired and had a lengthy to-do list that had to be finished before Christmas the next day.  But my husband’s bad mood won out and when something set him off, he decided to punish us by parking the car and refusing to take us home or to relinquish the keys.  We sat for over an hour like this.  Luckily, I keep warm blankets in the car (it’s really a minivan) during the winter, so I gave the boys a couple each and they alternated reading and playing DS (handheld Nintendo games), while I worked on the Christmas cards that didn’t need to be mailed and finished my insurance paperwork.  It was 17 degree F and snowing but I dared not challenge him too much because I’ve learned that it isn’t worth it when he is in one of these moods.  And I honestly didn’t think he would keep it up for that long.

We sat until the kids and I couldn’t wait to go to the bathroom.  So the boys and I got out of the car and walked to a nearby grocery store to use their restroom.  When we got back in the car, the boys insisted that we go home.  We were going to Christmas Eve Mass at 7:30 (which they were not looking forward to earlier in the day, but were now begging to go home for) and we were still 30 minutes from home and had to eat dinner and get ready to go.  So he reluctantly drove us home.

We barely made it home to eat, and I didn’t have time to change out of my wet clothes (a byproduct of a day full of hot flashes — a gift from my hysterectomy) and then ended up getting to church late.  For as often as we go to church (not often at all!), I don’t think we should walk in late.  We hadn’t been in weeks and filing in while everyone was seated and the priest was watching us walk in the door was not a good way to return.  But the service was nice.  And we ran into my aunt and uncle (and my cousin and her boyfriend), so that was a good surprise.

Christmas was nice.  I was up until about 4 writing long notes in books and special cards for the boys and helping Santa get things ready (he left notes for the boys and personalized their stockings, etc.).  Comet even left a note and explained how he was sorry for leaving a bit of a mess on the front step — he left some chewed up carrots from the plate we left out for the reindeer and some droppings that looked a lot like raisins that had been soaked in warm water to plump them up.  [Yep, reindeer poop.  Since the kids had been questioning the Santa thing all of a sudden, the big guy had to step the proof of his existence up this year!]

And then the boys were up and ready for Christmas morning at 6:30.  Thanks to the kindness of a family at church who “adopted” us, and to the generosity of the boys’ teachers and school, we had gifts to put under the tree.  There were even gifts for me, including several giant packs of paper towel, toilet paper, Lysol wipes, and laundry detergent.  Such amazing angels who knew exactly what we needed.  Despite the events of the day before (and so many days before it), I couldn’t help but feel thankful for the good people in my life.  Such a stark contrast to my marriage are the relationships I have with other people.  Thank goodness, or I think I would have given up a long time ago.

We rounded out the day by going to my aunt and uncle’s to spend the afternoon with my family.  We hardly ever get to see them, so it was good to be together.  And then we moved on to Christmas dinner and dessert with my husband’s mom and dad.  It was a busy day and we didn’t get home until late, but it was really nice.  And I was glad we were able to have our own little Christmas in the morning and then have time for both sides of the family the rest of the day, so Christmas felt complete.  And I know the boys enjoyed the time spent with family.  They fell asleep on the way home, though they were up again at 6 a.m. to build their new Lego sets!

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Hmm, I was hoping to have this post serve double duty as a photo challenge post, but this week’s challenge topic is “Joy” and I think this post is just not joyful enough to qualify.  So I will improvise.   While I missed The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for last week, I might as well show you the photos I would have designated for that post.

Titled “One,” the challenge asked that we show:

“photos that focus on one thing.  Maybe you’ve got a stark photo of a single tree silhouetted against the setting sun, or a lone sandpiper wandering the beach as waves crash.  Perhaps you’ve caught your mother sitting by herself in a moment of quiet contemplation.  Maybe you saw a basket of wriggling puppies, and got a photo with a single fuzzy face in focus.”

So now you see why I have a photo of a lone jellyfish and two oddly placed bird photos here.  Thanks for bearing with me!

Here’s one more:

Easter cupcakes pink breast cancer thirties 30s 30's thirties kids twins mom motherhood loss art show bird one daily post weekly photo challenge mastectomy

And I promise to come back with the JOY photos from this week’s challenge.  Full disclosure — I’ll tell you that I’m in a “Tell it like it is” frame of mind so I can’t promise that the text will be overtly joyful.  But I can promise you honesty and I hope that’s good enough!

Until then, thank you for reading and for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts, light and dark.

My warmest wishes and appreciation for you all…

p.s.  If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here for a list of challenges or here for the current challenge, “Joy.”

Hello Again…

Safari

Hello dear readers…

Once again I am returning with a photo post after a long hiatus.  I know it is not the ideal way to manage a blog, but it seems to be what I need to do for the time being.

Though this used to stress me out, I am learning to let go a little.  And that is because of you.  From the comments I’ve received from so many of you, I have found that you are forgiving of my infrequent visits and that you’ve even embraced them.  What a lucky girl I am to be able to stop in with some photos of my spirited little boys and my quirky canines and know that you will be here to welcome me back with open arms, to know that you will celebrate the good moments in my life, and to take comfort in the fact that you will offer words of kindness when times are tough.

The past few weeks have been a bit of a mixed bag.  I began to follow up with those of you who left comments on my last post to let you know that the thickening in my chest was likely swelling compliments of the lymphedema that has made its way beyond my arms and into the area where my breasts once were, but I never formally posted about my appointment.  It was a bit of a blow to discover that it was likely an extension of the lymphedema, but MUCH less of a blow than a cancer recurrence would have been.  It’s amazing how cancer puts everything into perspective!  I never would have thought there would be a circumstance in which I’d “welcome” an advancement of my lymphedema, but here I am!

[If you would like to know more about what lymphedema is, what causes it and how it is managed, stay tuned — I’m working on a post that will deal with this important topic.]

Just after that last post, pneumonia came knocking and, as you can imagine, it has been difficult to come back from.  On a positive note, though, I had a nice Thanksgiving break with the boys.  I spent most of Thanksgiving day preparing a turkey with all of the fixings.  I was pretty exhausted, but I’ve always enjoyed roasting the turkey and making Thanksgiving-y foods, so it was a labor of love.  Still, the day itself was a bit sad.  It was an unusually quiet holiday this year.  My in-laws had just gotten on a plane that morning and we had visited them night before, so we weren’t going to be going to their house on Thanksgiving Day.  And we were also not honoring the tradition of spending the other half of the day with my side of the family (usually at my aunt and uncle’s home) because we were missing some very important members this year.  I lost my youngest sister to the Alaskan wilderness (and her Alaskan boyfriend) when she packed her suitcase and got on the plane for a 5-day trip to Willow, AK in February.  5 days has stretched into 10 months because she has yet to return!  And the sister who had always been within minutes of me since she came home from the hospital when I was two years old, moved to Virginia to follow her/our dream to be near the sea.   She and my brother-in-law and my only niece and nephews hugged us goodbye as they drove away in their minivan and a big moving van during the first week of July.  And, sadly, they have not been back and my husband will not allow us to go to visit them (which the boys and I were pushing our hardest to do over the long Thanksgiving school break).  That leaves one sister [I am the oldest of four], but she and her husband [who is not a giant meanie like mine] went down to VA to spend Thanksgiving with my sister/BIL and the kids.  So it was VERY quiet.  My mother came over to eat with us and brought her little Yorkie.  The boys helped me decorate the table with our Halloween lights so we dined by the lovely saffron glow of the twinkly pumpkins we’ve collected over the years.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Then on Saturday and Sunday we took a quick little road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Though the kids did their best to cajole my husband into allowing us to go to Virginia to seem my family, he made it clear that it would not happen now or ever, so we ended up “compromising” with Pittsburgh.  We had never been there but had heard that the city had a wonderful children’s museum and science center, both of which we have free admission to because of a reciprocal partnership between our local science center and other museums around the country (including those in Pittsburgh), and we also had a free hotel stay there.  Though the boys and I were sad about VA, we knew that it wouldn’t help to be upset about it, so we were determined to enjoy the weekend.  Though I would have been content to spend another “sick” weekend curled up under the blankets with the boys and dogs, I was the only one who would have gone for this over the long Thanksgiving weekend because the “sick” weekends had just been piling up with no end in sight.

Though it was tiring, I am glad we did it.  As it turned out, I had plenty of time to rest.   We only spent a few hours at the Children’s Museum on Saturday and then The Carnegie Science Center on Sunday, and we got home fairly early on Sunday.  And I just read during the roundtrip drive.  The hotel also provided board games, so we played Sorry! after the museum closed at 5 on Saturday, and then I was in bed by 9.  It was actually pretty relaxing.  At home, unless I am pretty sick, I have a hard time with giving myself permission to really rest.  For some reason it was much easier to do this while in another city or during the long car ride.   And the Children’s Museum was excellent.  There were plenty of activities to keep the boys engaged.  Our favorite section was an art annex of sorts.  The boys and I sat for ages at a long table cutting shapes that they could take up to a screen printing station where our designs would be printed.  I did the cutting and they would take the shapes up to be printed.  We made a nice stack of art that we plan to decorate their room with.  They loved the idea of stringing the pictures we made up on a long twine clothesline with old clothes pegs that were once my grandmother’s.  That will be our next project!

William enjoying one of the activities at The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA

William enjoying one of the activities at The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA

The Science Center was a bit more difficult for me.  But there was plenty to keep the boys busy.  And there were a plethora of benches and even some comfy chairs for me to sit in and even lie down on!  It really was chock-full of activities and displays.  We were even able to enjoy a star show (also free!) in their cozy planetarium chairs, located right inside the science center.  And the boys participated in some cooking demonstrations (free, too — and with samples!) in the “kitchen” section of the center.  Yum!

Yay! for The Carnegie Science Center's comfy chairs!

Yay! for The Carnegie Science Center’s comfy chairs!

And then we were back home to our dogs Sunday night, and I was back in to the hospital Monday morning to start off a full schedule of medical appointments this week.  But it was nice to have a change of scenery for a weekend!

Wow, I’ve written far more than I intended and I haven’t even gotten to the photo challenge yet!  Rather than muddle the photos up with all of these words (which have little/nothing to do with the challenge!), I’ll post a separate photo challenge entry in a minute.  I’ll also be requesting your help with a little something in the next post…

See you in a few…

Daily Prompt: My Little Characters

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's kids twins dog weiner dachshund sunflower young mother

I happened to notice The Daily Post‘s Daily Prompt for today — It Builds Character — and couldn’t resist the opportunity to share some photos of my little characters.

The prompt asks that we show readers a CHARACTER.

Every month, my boys, twins who are in the same class, must do a family project for school.  October’s project asked them to choose a character from one of their favorite books and turn a pumpkin into that character.  M chose Greg Heffley, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  William chose Darth Paper, from Darth Paper Strikes Back, an Origami Yoda book.

So when I saw today’s prompt, M and I hatched a plan.  We took the pumpkin heads and, well, I’ll just show you:

M wearing the pumpkin head we made -- Diary of a Wimpy Kid's Greg Heffley

M wearing the pumpkin head we made — Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s Greg Heffley

M as Darth Paper from Darth Paper Strikes Back

M as Darth Paper from Darth Paper Strikes Back

During dinner, M also developed a character he decided to name Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head.  Unfortunately, Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head had a not-so-secret admirer in Ginger (our weiner dog) and had to change his name to Detective Hamburger Head when Ginger got a bit too close to his mustache.

Detective Bacon Mustache and his secret admirer, Ginger

Detective Bacon Mustache Hamburger Head and his admirer

And both boys decided to pose for one last photo:

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And this is a terrible segway, but I just wanted to thank you for your kind words when I was struggling last week (Why I Can’t Wait for my Colonoscopy).  And I also wanted to tell you that of all the things they found in my colon (like plenty of scar tissue and adhesions), cancer was thankfully not one of them.   It’s nice to have some good news!

Thank you for helping me get through an especially rough week!

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside — A Word From the Dogs

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Let’s Make a Break for It!

I failed miserably with my plan to write a complete non-Weekly Photo Challenge post this week.  And now it’s Thursday at 12:47 a.m.

ImageI’d love to blame a brief stint in the hospital, too many doctor’s appointments, a lengthy to-do list, nightly struggles with 4th grade homework x 2, tear-filled boys who do not want to go to bed, crippling fatigue, high-maintenance canines, a husband who was logged enough hours to equal days worth of playing time since our local video store opened on Tuesday (10 a.m.) with the newly-released Grand Theft Auto Five (if you’re not sure what that is, please see photo to the left), and blah, blah, blah… but I won’t bother.  Instead, I will just present you with another photo challenge and I’ll hope you keep returning while I’m on my downswing!

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Well, much to my chagrin, it seems I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open for long enough to post this one, so I’m going to turn it over to the dogs — literally!

For this week’s challenge, titled “Inside,” Kevin and Ginger (or Big and Little as I often call them) are sharing the view from inside our kitchen out to our empty, unfenced backyard.  To me it looks like an empty not-quite-green palette that I long to paint.  To the dogs (my favorite Houdinis) it looks like the open road to FREEDOM!

Kevin & Ginger:  “Yep, all we need to do is pull the front door handle or slide the back screen open — and we DO know how to do this! — and we are free!  There’s no fence to stop us!  It drives our Mom crazy because she has to keep the doors closed ALL the time (even in the summer) and hold onto our collars whenever anyone goes in or out of the house — and that’s A LOT because the twins are always going in and out!  But she knows we’ll take any chance we can get to run away.  And then she has to run through the neighborhood for hours to catch us.  It scares the hell out of her!  It’s SO much fun!!”

Me:  “Yes, it’s a real hoot!”

Kevin & Ginger:  “So these photos are of us trapped INSIDE.  I remember when Mom took these.  She unlocked the glass door for a few minutes while the boys carried the compost out to the compost bin.  She was watching us like a hawk ’cause she knew what we were thinking.  We were working hard to figure out how to unlock the door again.  See the smoke coming out of our ears?”

Kevin:  “Ooh, look, you can see where I scratched big holes in the screen.  See the tape she put on them?  I have no trouble pulling that right off.  Silly Mom!”

Ginger:  “Anyway, I just uploaded the photo — it’s at the top of the post.  I’m the little one.  Kevin’s the big one.  Thanks for reading Mom’s blog!”

Kevin:  “Ooh, I just found a picture of our butts.  I’m going to put that one in for fun.  Don’t tell my Mom.”

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Our Cheeky Bums!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

Since it’s been ages since I participated in a Weekly Photo Challenge, I thought I would take a brief break from the serious topics I’ve been posting about and share a few photos with you.

I have been overwhelmed with the kind responses to my last post, The Devil is in the Details…and My Bed.  It is taking me a bit of time to respond to you all individually, but I promise to do this and will keep at it because everything you’ve said has helped me tremendously — and each comment means a great deal to me.  And I’m sure your words will continue to help me move in the right direction.  Thank you…

The Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is FRESH.  What came to mind was my little pot of fresh basil grown from seed.  You’ll find this tin pot of my favorite herb on my kitchen windowsill:

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And the “fresh” idea the boys hatched when I asked them to take my Mom’s dog and one of our dogs for a walk last night:

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This is virtually the same photograph, but my Mom’s dog is a bit more visible in the wagon in this shot so I felt compelled to include it:

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Until we meet again, thank you all…

Today is My 1st Birthday…My Blog’s 1st Birthday, That is!

The twins asked for matching Angry Bird birthday cakes, so I made 6 cakes in a matter of a week.  Two blue, three red, and one yellow Angry Bird.  This was my fave -- a lemon cake, even though I am a chocolate girl!

The twins asked for matching Angry Bird birthday cakes, so I made 6 cakes in a matter of a week. Two blue, three red, and one yellow Angry Bird. This was my fave — a lemon cake, even though I am a chocolate girl!

Yep, today is my first blogoversary!

It has been one year since I first entered the blogosphere.  One year since my very first post, Yep, I’m a Cancer Patient.  One year since I first sent my thoughts out into world for everyone to see.

The thing is, I never expected anyone to see them. I didn’t tell anyone about my blog or where to find it.  So I thought no one would.  I thought this blog would just be an online diary of sorts, a memoir for my kids.

And that’s it.

To this day there are only a handful of people in my offline life who know about it.  I almost said in my “real” life.  But that wouldn’t be fair to you or to my blog.  What you are seeing, what you are reading, is my “real life.” In fact, you, dear reader, have been privy to more of my experiences and thoughts than most people in my “life-life.”

With you I have shared my joys and my sadness. My valleys, my peaks.  The waiting.  The worrying.  The hope.  The FEAR.  The beautiful.  The ugly.  The pain.  The LOSS.

And so much more.

You’ve laughed with me and cried with me.

Your beautiful comments have helped me celebrate the good moments — and have lifted me up through the most difficult times.

Took this photo at the boys'  District Art Show.  The quote says:  "My life would not be complete without my friends and family. I don't know what I would do without them all."

Took this photo at the boys’ District Art Show. The quote says: “My life would not be complete without my friends and family. I don’t know what I would do without them all.”

So it is you who deserves a celebration on my blogoversary.  It is you who has spurred me along and encouraged me to write and to share, when I felt like it — and when I didn’t.

And it is you who deserves my gratitude.  Thank you for reading, liking (even when some of the content seemed unlikable!), commenting, following and sharing…

I feel like a VERY lucky girl!!  Well, aside from the cancer thing, of course!  😉

If this is your first visit, welcome — and click HERE for a good place to start.

First anniversary stats for those of you who like math:

-226 wonderful followers

-15,300 views

-1,100 (exactly!) comments

-95 posts

And cake, for those of you who prefer baked goods!

I asked the boys if I could share their cakes with you and they said, "Of course!"  They looked at me like I was nuts, but they were happy to give you all cake!

I asked the boys if I could share their cakes with you and they said, “Of course!” They looked at me like I was nuts, but they were happy to give you all cake!

THANK YOU!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting — “Not Enough Time”

I know my response to last week’s photo challenge was far from pretty.  But I appreciated the comments I received and I was grateful for everyone who encouraged me to continue to share the truth of my story.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of The Daily Post posed the theme “Fleeting” for the current Weekly Photo Challenge.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to the fleeting nature of life itself.  I got to thinking about how we are on this earth only briefly, and of how we have such a limited time before our bodies turn to dust and the memories we spent a lifetime making soon begin to fade.

So for the challenge this week I’ve decided to tackle the fleeting nature of life.  But to make it far less morose, I am going to focus on childhood and how quickly those precious years pass.  I say “far less” because I am still going to sprinkle a few cancer-y photos in the mix.

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As always, thank you for visiting.  And if you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click here.

I DO NOT LIKE WASHING MY HANDS!

FROM MY SON, M.  He thought this was important and needed to be shared with my readers:

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my mom is always telling me to eat my vegetables and wash my hands.

she said a  million times that ” I have a higher chance of getting cancer because my mom got it when she was so young.”  so I have to make healthy choice’s so I don’t get cancer.  That means I need to eat my vegetables and fruit.  I know I shud.  But I dont like to.  My Mom doesnt want me to get cancer when Im her age.  

AND

my mom makes me wash my hands a lot.  espeshally after i come home from school.  my mom makes me yous soap and hot water.

some times it gets annoying but I no why she she make me do these things.

i have to wash my hands because her white counts are really low.  and she gets infectshuns really easy.  and fevers easy.  she had to be in the hospital a long time for infectshuns.

So I wash my hands because i dont want her to be sick.  and i dont want her to go to the hospital.

i dont like to wash my hands or eat my vegetables but i love my mom!

Weekly Photo Challenge: In The Background

Taken from The Daily Post’s Challenge Page — “In the Background: The places that we pass through day after day, or even once in a lifetime, leave in their small way, echoes and traces of themselves upon us. But so often when taking self portraits or pictures of friends, the places themselves become a soft blurred mush of indistinct semi-nothingness, the limelight stolen by our smiling faces. In today’s challenge, let’s turn the tables.” 

For The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge this week, Pick asked that we take a photograph of ourselves or someone else as the lesser part of a scene, making the background or foreground the center of attention.

This may not have been exactly what he had in mind, but here are my photos:

The first image came about because I was taking a photo of the boys whilst sitting on a large rocking bench swing at the park yesterday.  My little mini doxie was positioned strategically in my lap.  Until she decided she wanted to be a part of the photo.  The original image captured just the top of her head and her eyebrows.  So I repositioned her (against her will!) to shoot this picture.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s dog miniature dachshund park

Nobody puts Ginger in the Corner

I told the boys I would take individual photos of them, so I was in the midst of photographing W (in the tie-dye shirt) when M decided it was his turn to be in the limelight.  So he jumped in front of the camera in what I think was a rapper pose?

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I’m calling this one “Yo Mama” because that’s what came out of my sweet little boy’s mouth when he popped up in front of the camera!

And this last one has nothing to do with the theme.  I just thought I would show you how silly my kids are.  They crack me up often.  Since I like to think I am hilariously funny, I can only assume they get their wit and comedic timing from me.   😉

I’m just going to call this photo “Yikes,” for obvious reasons.  I haven’t a clue as to where they’ve seen a pose like this before!  [Mental Note:  Fix the lock on my bedroom door!]

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Thanks for visiting!  If you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/weekly-photo-challenge-in-the-background/

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

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The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for this week asks participants to take a photo or photos from above.

Here are my selections, taken from a trip to Hawaii that feels as though it was a lifetime ago now!

I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed taking them…Okay, half as much (it was Hawaii, after all!)

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If you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click on the link below.

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

And, as always, thank you for visiting!

Pirate Treasure and Minecraft TNT

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Every year, my twin sons choose a something they’d each like me to capture in a cake.  This year, W chose a pirate treasure chest and M chose a block of TNT from Minecraft (a video game).

I’d love to share the cakes with you — along with just a handful of my favorite memories from their birthday parties (a kid party for 17 of their closest friends! and a family party)…

I’m hoping that a birthday party post will be coming soon?…

Until then, thanks for visiting!

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Travel Theme: Light

As you probably know, this has been a rough week. So in lieu of writing about everything that’s happened tonight, I’m going to keep it “light” — pun intended — and just do a couple of photo challenge posts.

This post marks my first response to Where’s My Backpack’s weekly travel challenges.  If you haven’t visited wheresmybackpack.com, I urge you to take a look.  Ailsa’s blog is a treat to visit.

Without further ado, here is my photo selection:
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These photos were taken in Puerto Rico on our last night — it was a night filled with happy memories of the kids, so I especially love these photos.
Thanks for visiting!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic for this week is “UP.”

These photos were taken during a Fall trip to visit my dear friend Jin.  We traveled through NYC on the way home — the perfect place for “UP” photos.
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If you’d like to take part in a challenge yourself, just click on one of the links below.

~Thanks for visiting!~

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/weekly-photo-challenge-up-2/

my suns blog

***

 
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[A Title & Post Written by My Son, M — all by himself!]

My mom has cancer.shes bin acting really tired.but I understand because she

has cancer.

I like watching movies with her and all that…

AND I love  going on vacation too.

my favorite place to go

 is florida.

sometimes I want my mom to play video games with me but she says shes to tired to play.I miss the old days.  🙂

And Tonight We Danced…

***

breast cancer thirties 30s 30's cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com dancing kids twins

Tonight we danced…
You and you and I…
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We danced in the living room, between chairs
and beneath shiny blue paper stars and an off-white sky
***
Some days I wonder when it will all end
Some nights I lie awake knowing it can’t last
And fearing the day when you will no longer have a Mom
***
But for now, for tonight,
You are mine
And I am yours
***
For tonight your giggles will echo as you step on my toes
And we will dance and twirl ’til our heart’s content
You and you and I…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s color weekly photo challenge daily post

I love The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme for this week — Color.

Though you’d never surmise it from my clothing (my wardrobe consists primarily of 3 hues (if you can call them that!) — brown, grey and black)), I love color.

I have a difficult time imagining a world without it.  I have often thought that of all the senses to lose, I would likely miss sight the most.  Of course losing the ability to taste during chemo made me question the theory I developed during my dismal ‘what if’ game.  But, in the end, I reverted to my original thought — that it would be more upsetting to live in a world without color.

Its presence lift our spirits.  Its absence brings us down.  It is powerful and beautiful.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s color weekly photo challenge daily post
As always, thank you for visiting.

If you would like to participate in this week’s photo challenge, please click on one of the links below:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenges

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

Though this wasn’t compiled in time for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge last week, I did pull together the images for this purpose, so I will post with this title:

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life — School Break

I hope you enjoy the photos.  And I hope those of you with children home on winter break are managing / enjoying the time!

Thanks for visiting, always!

Happy Easter and Happy Passover

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's Easter

I know I have been M.I.A. lately and I have a lot of catching up to do — replying to comments, visiting my favorite blogs, etc.  So I will say hello again by wishing you all a very happy Easter or Passover.  Warmest wishes to you and yours — and I will be visiting your blogs again soon!

I’ll leave you with some Easter photos…  You may remember the pink bunny cupcakes from one of my original posts: Pink Bunny Cupcakes and Good Samaritans.  And the new photos are of the boys hunting for Easter eggs in the living room this afternoon.

Cheers!

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's Easter egg hunt

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Easter Cupcakes 2012

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K & the Easter eggs

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge topic for this week is: Lost in the Details.

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s hydrangea flowers blue

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cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30's 30s corning museum of glass lost in the details young

To participate in this week’s photo challenge, please visit:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/weekly-photo-challenge-lost-in-the-details/

or

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

Thanks for visiting!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward — Boys at the Beach

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's beach kids forward

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's beach kids forward young

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s 30's beach kids forward young

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/forward/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

Thanks for visiting!

Happy Valentine’s Day

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com valentine's day breast cancer thirties 30's 30s young

I thought I would take a minute to wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day.

I was unable to eat and drink today because of a test I needed to fast for.  So when H and my sons came to pick me up from the hospital at 4 this afternoon (and I was cleared to eat & drink again), I was both hungry and thrilled.

I had big plans for the evening with my two Valentines (my twin sons).  But I was too tired to follow through.  I could barely keep my head up at the dinner table.  It wasn’t long before I needed to retreat to the coziness of the couch and my thick blanket and loyal dogs.

I thought my boys would be disappointed — they usually are when I need to lie down.  But they amazed me by understanding my exhaustion.  They thanked me for making their special Valentine cards (I stayed up all night last night crafting Valentines for them and for their teachers) and for the little gifts I made for them.

And then they brought me the gift they made for me.  They found an unused box and filled it with 2 new rolls of Scotch tape, a giraffe-shaped soap dispenser, and some special things from around the house (seashells, bits of coral, a photo of a sea turtle).  They then decorated sheets of copier paper and wrote “To Mom” and “Love, Us” on them.  They wrapped the box in their creations and topped it with an old Christmas bow.

They were grinning from ear to ear when they presented me with their box.  They were taking a rare reprieve from bickering with one another, so I knew this was important!

Struggling to keep my eyes open, and soaking wet and shivering from alternating hot flashes and night sweats that are really day sweats (thank you, radical hysterectomy and Tamoxifen!), I thought I was letting my kids down.  But when they presented me with that special box, I knew I was wrong.  They were happy to have me as their valentine, whatever my condition.  And I realized how lucky I was.

Their squabbling soon resumed and we had to get the homework show on the road, but I still felt like a lucky girl.

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Tonight I realized that I have two very special valentines.

I hope that you, too, have a special person/child/dog/cat/friend/goldfish in your life.  Good night & warmest wishes, dear readers…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge subject is:  Home

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/photo-challenge-home/

These images represent HOME for me…  Thank you for taking the time to visit…

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My Boys

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Fishing in the Living Room

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My Aunt & Cousin with My Boys & Our Miniature Schnauzer, Mattie

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My Mom & Aunt

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My Mom & Mattie & the Boys

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Mattie in the Window

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If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenges, click here:

Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Well, I have returned from my first adventure…but things have been far too hectic and I have been far too exhausted (and ill with cellulitis) to write about the experience yet.  But it is a post I am looking forward to sharing!  In the meantime, I thought I would return with a photo challenge post.  Thank you so much for all of the likes and comments on my last post — and for being there to cheer me on…

These may not be the greatest photos, but to me, they are wonderful representations of this week’s photo challenge topic, “love.”

There were many contenders, but I am far too tired to add them all (and I don’t want to bore you!), so here are just a few.  I may come back to add more at a later date…

Thank you for reading!

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It was Christmas and my littlest sister decided that after all of my chemo and surgeries, the best gift she could give me would be a little companion to help me weather the remainder of my cancer treatments.  So she chose this sweet little mini dachshund and presented her to me with a red ribbon around her furry little body.  Ginger has spent many hours snuggling with me and giving me comfort in the two years we have been together.  And she is a wonderful reminder of the special kind of love sisters sometimes share.

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Another Christmas photo…  I was sick and so tired.  And my sweet miniature schnauzer, Mattie, snuggled up next to me.  I had so much to do to get ready for a busy day of making our Christmas rounds that day, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to lay there with my special girl.  And I am so glad that I did because she died suddenly of cancer a couple of months later.   She loved me unconditionally and I miss her as much today as I did when she first died.

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And my boys…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/weekly-photo-challenge-love/

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

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cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

cancerinmythirites.wordpress.com breast cancer young 30s illumination daily photo challenge kids

The Daily Post: Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

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It was April 12, 2012.  It was the anniversary of terrible surprises.

I won’t name them all.  Just a few.

It was the anniversary of the day I was certain that my unborn babies and I would die in the hospital.  It was the day after Easter.  I had been hospitalized with preeclampsia since the week before when I had gone to my check-up and was told that I needed an emergency induction.  I was sent next door to the “best” hospital in our region.  The hospital with the Level III NICU.  The hospital that people traveled across counties and hundreds of miles for.  I had been in active, induced labor for 4 days by April 12, 2004.  By then, the preeclampsia had become severe.  I was so sick.  I was shaking.  I was bleeding (from a yet-to-be diagnosed placental abruption).  I was being pumped with high doses of pitocin to keep me in active labor — and competing doses of magnesium sulfate because my blood pressures were so dangerously high.  And I had gained an inconceivable almost 100 lbs in edema weight since my admission into the hospital.  My organs were shutting down.  I was hearing Christmas music when there was no sound.  I was dying.  And my babies were, too.

Fast forward to April 12, 2005.  One year later.  Two days before my babies’ 1st birthdays.  The day the woman who was like a second mother to me took her life… a woman who also had breast cancer young (but for her, her diagnosis came in her 40’s)… a woman who was also the mother of one of my two very best childhood friends.  I had known her for what felt like my whole life.  I had lived with her during a rough patch in my life.  And now she lived around the corner from me in a house matching mine.  And she had reached out to me and asked me to spend more time with her…but I was so wrapped up in my own traumas and exhaustion that I didn’t see her as much as I should have.  I thought there would be more time.  And then the call came on April 12 that I was too late.  We all were.

And fast forward ahead again to April 12, 2010.  This was the day before I learned for sure that I had breast cancer.  Nuff said.

But…

I had to put these difficult/horrible memories the back burner because April 12, 2012 was 2 days before my twin sons’ birthdays.  It was also their Spring Recess from elementary school.  So we wanted to do something special and make some happy memories for their birthdays.

We packed up the car the day before and set our sights on Philadelphia.  I never been there, but we had free passes for the nearby Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ.  Since it was “only” about an 8 hour drive and we had heard the aquarium was something special, we couldn’t pass the opportunity up.

April 12, 2012.  After a struggle with traffic and an almost unsuccessful quest to find cheap parking, we arrived at the aquarium much later than I had planned.

And I was already exhausted.  You see, only a couple of weeks before I was lying in an operating room while my gynecologic oncologist was performing a radical hysterectomy and oopherectomy on me.  I was 35 and wanted another baby.  But what all of the breast cancer crap would have made unwise and extremely difficult, large masses that we were all certain would come back as ovarian and pelvic metastasis, made perfectly impossible.

surprise the daily post weekly photo challenge cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer feeding the stingrays philadelphia camden, nj Adventure Aquarium thirties 30s mom motherhood family sting ray tank touch wadingDespite this, I entered the crowded aquarium in a wheelchair and with a twinkle in my eye.  I was planning to enjoy the day with my boys.

It was when I was handed a map at the admission desk that I first saw it.  There was something special going on today.  At precisely something-o’clock (I don’t remember when the something was!), a few lucky aquarium goers would be selected from the crowd for a special stingray encounter.  Now this wasn’t your average aquarium encounter.  This was an opportunity to wade into the large stingray pool to hand-feed the rays!

I was determined to be one of the lucky few.

But there were a few major issues with my plan.

  1. My plan wasn’t a plan.
  2. I generally don’t win things.
  3. The place was packed.  And I mean packed.  Everyone with kids on Spring Break clearly had the same idea as we did.  It seemed like the whole east coast was in the aquarium.  There was no way I would be able to get anywhere near the stingray tank, let alone in it.

Nevertheless, I told my husband and my boys that I would be in that tank that afternoon.  My husband told me to give it up.  There was no way.  So we visited the other exhibits and made our way through the aquarium.  We were looking at the hippos in a giant tank filled with hippos, fish and hippo poo when I said, “Oh no, it’s 5 minutes til something-o’clock!”

Unable to run because of the surgery and my post-chemo fatigue, I asked my husband to push me over to the exhibit, an exhibit located almost all the way over on the opposite side of the aquarium.  He told me that it was impossible to get there in 5 minutes and that even if I did, I would never get near the tank and I would certainly never be chosen.

No matter.  I called in all of my favors and groveled, something I never ever never do with him.  I was determined.  So we weaved in and out of the crowds and crowds of people and finally made our way around after what felt like an eternity.  When we arrived near the entrance of the giant stingray room and pool, I emerged from the wheelchair and we left it outside.  I walked into a densely packed room filled with children and adults alike.  It was chaos.

And we were late.  They were asking the audience 4 questions.  4 people who were given the opportunity to answer the questions and who answered correctly would be invited into the tank.   The selection process had already begun.  I had already missed question 1.

Question 2 came and at least 50 hands shot up in a crowd of many more than that.  The tank-keeper wouldn’t even see me.  She selected a child in front and, with the assistance of her dad, the girl gave the correct answer.  Question 2 came.  50 or 60 more hands.  She chose a teenager in front who also answered correctly.

The final question came.  “What kind of seastar is this?”  I knew the answer.  My hand shot up with about 1,000 others.  She asked a child.  Wrong answer.  She asked an adult.  Wrong answer.  I was so buried in the crowd that she would never see me.

But then she pointed in my direction.  “The young lady with the longish red-brown hair.”

“Oh, that’s not me,” I thought.  “I have ugly short not red-brown ‘I’ve had lots of chemo’ hair.”

But then I remembered that I was wearing my lovely wig.  It was me.  She was asking me.  “A chocolate chip seastar,” I shouted!

It was the right answer and I was invited to come out of the crowd to get ready for my encounter.

It was incredible.  I changed out of my winter boots and into the crocs they offered me and we walked up the ramp to be debriefed.  We would be given dead fish parts to hold between our fingers and the rays would glide across our hands and take the carcasses into their mouths.

I could barely contain my excitement.  I had never done anything like this before.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com thirties 30s stingrays sting ray weekly photo challenge surprise hysterectomy twins aquarium camden, nj philadelphia mom motherhood infertilitySo I waded into the tank and began feeding these beautiful creatures.  It was an incredible experience.  And I made a new friend, a giant ray who seemed to want to climb into my lap like one of my dogs.  He didn’t take the food from me, but let me pet him as he slid up my shins and splashed me.

When it was over and we were washing our feet off and changing our shoes in the little prep room, I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the experience that I felt the need to say something to the tank’s keeper.

I told her that I was surprised to have been chosen.  Shocked, actually.  I told her that this was such a special experience for me because for the past 2 years I had been battling breast cancer.  She told me that I was so young and she gave me a hug.  She said that she was a 10 year breast cancer survivor.  She said that though they caught hers early, she still looks over her shoulder, wondering if it will return.  But she said that it also makes her grateful for every day that she is here.

I thanked her with tears in my eyes and we parted.  She felt good about her choice.  And I felt grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to wade with the stingrays.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

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$50 Straws AND How Cancer Changes Everything

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A different day. A different place. In a less hospitally-looking reclining chair at the Cancer Center.

This will probably seem like an odd post, but I’m going to present a snippet of my afternoon from two different perspectives for no other reason than “just because.”  Thanks for indulging me.

Scenario 1:

Across the room, a girl sits in a recliner with a small table beside her.  She is sipping a large cup of tea.  The tea bag tag dangles gently over the edge of her cup. The girl stares off into the distance and a smile crosses her lips.  What is she thinking about?  Perhaps she is remembering a lover from her college days?  Maybe she is picturing a basket of puppies?

Wait… judging from a frame most would describe as thin and a belly that is unmistakably large and rounded, it’s clear that she must be pregnant — she must be thinking of the baby growing in her womb.  Yes.

Her eyes light up as she thinks of the “baby duckling yellow” paint color she and her husband chose for the baby’s room this morning.  “It’s not too masculine, not too feminine, and it will be easy to paint over if we decide to change it when the baby gets a bit older.”  She bites her lip as she wonders how she is going to wait for the next three months to meet her new baby.  She has slipped her calendar out of her purse and is making a list of baby names now.  It’s the same list she and her husband have been coming up with every night before bed.  But she thinks she might have a revelation and “the one” might pop into her head today.

She continues her list.

She is mostly alone as she relaxes in the large open room filled with beds and curtains and chairs just like hers.  Mostly.  She has a number of visitors over the course of the next hour.  Each one stops by to chat briefly with her.  She laughs and talks with them individually.  And then her visitors move on, one by one.

She continues to sip on her unusually large cup of hot tea. Her final visitor is dressed in white and bears the name of her grandmother.  Her hands are full, but with what?  It’s hard to say.  The visitor dressed in white sits across from the girl and then leans toward her for an unusually long time.  She holds what looks like a long, shiny pin or needle in her hand.  Odd.  But when she stands up to walk away, her hands are empty and she and the girl are both smiling.  She now has something pinned to her chest — a flower perhaps?

Just as her name is called she looks at her list.  She is clearly pleased with her accomplishment and is excited to share this new name with her husband.  It was her grandmother’s name.

She slides gracefully out of the chair (well, as gracefully as a pregnant woman can) to meet the woman who beckoned her.  They walk happily down the hall together and slip into a room nearby.  The door closes behind them.

When they emerge, they are smiling and walking again.  The girl is stroking her belly, as if to comfort the baby inside.  She returns to her chair as the lady in white brings her a cocktail with one of those cute little paper umbrellas poking out from the rim of the glass. She relaxes for a bit longer before rising from her comfy chair, bidding adieu to her friends and walking out to greet her waiting husband.

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Cartoon Credit: chibird.tumblr.com

Scenario 2:

I am sitting in a large, sterile room.  Across the way, I see a girl…or a woman, really.  She looks biologically young, but I can tell she has been weathered by experience.  Something tells me that she probably still thinks of herself as a girl in the quiet morning hours when everyone else is asleep.  So I will indulge her and call her “a girl.”  It’s the least I can do.

The woman, uh, girl, is sitting in a reclining hospital chair.  Beside her is a small table where alcohol swabs and some medical paraphernalia sit. She holds a large, lidded Styrofoam cup, the largest one I have ever seen, in her hands.  Dangling on the side of the cup I see a tea bag tag.  She looks at the bit of wisdom the tag has to dispense, rolls her eyes, and takes a sip from her straw.  Odd that she is drinking hot tea through a straw.  Maybe she’s one of those women who don’t want to stain their teeth so they drink their tea and coffee through straws?

Just then a nurse walks over to her and asks her to sign a form stating that she understands the risk of drinking this tea.  WTF?

Well, it’s not your average tea.  It’s tea that has been infused with a radiocontrast agent.  Is it radioactive tea?

The girl stares off into the distance and a smile crosses her lips.  She is thinking of a sandy beach in a warm place far away.  “If this is more cancer,” she thinks, “I am moving to that beach.”

She puts her hand on her protruding belly and secretly hopes one of the nurses will ask her if she is pregnant when she signs the next consent form.  It’s an odd thing to hope for, almost masochistic, really.  She pictures what she would say in response to the question.  “Of course I’m not pregnant.  I’ve been gutted.  Every part that makes me a woman (except the “V” one) has been stolen from me.  I am empty inside.  Dead inside.  And, oh, this?  It’s edema.  My belly is swollen with fluid.  No baby.  I’m here to see if it’s cancer in here, not a baby.  My fate was sealed at 33 when those lumps in my breast were written off as nothing.”

Of course no one asks her if she is pregnant.  They all know the answer.  They all know why she is here.

And she wouldn’t have the guts to say what’s on her mind, anyway.  She wouldn’t want to hurt or bewilder anyone.  She wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s day.  So she thinks about what she would really say.  “Nope, just fluid.”

She snaps out of her daydream when a second nurse asks to see the port in her chest.  They’ll need it later.

She slips her calendar out of her purse and tries to recall the appointments she has scheduled for next week.  Her fuzzy chemobrain has made it impossible for her to remember much these days.  She soon finds herself drawing seagulls and starfish in the margins.  “Oh, to have my toes in the sand right now and to be anywhere other than here,” she dreams.

She shifts gears and makes a list of everything she needs to do when she leaves.  Her 3rd graders — twin boys — will be waiting for her.  It will be dinnertime.

She is mostly alone as she sits in the large open hospital room filled with curtains on tracks and not rods, hospital beds and hospital reclining chairs just like hers.  Mostly alone.  A number of nurses stop over to check on her progress with “the drink” or to ask her to sign a form.  She smiles and makes small talk with each of them.  And then her visitors move on, one by one.  She continues to sip on her unusually large cup of hot tea.  Through a straw.   That’s probably so she doesn’t spill the giant cup of lukewarm possibly radioactive tea on herself.

Her final visitor is dressed in white and bears the name of her long deceased grandmother.  Nancy.  Her Nanna was one of her most favorite people in the world.  She watched her die a painful death from cancer when she was 8 through 9 years old. “My kids are 8, too,” she thinks.

The nurse sets up a tray with everything she needs to access the girl’s port.

She holds a long shiny needle and asks if the girl likes to hold her breath or if she applied the EMLA cream in advance to make it hurt less.

The girl laughs, “No, no need.  Just go ahead.”  She has been poked and cut so many times it’s not even funny.

The needle punctures her upper right chest skin and enters her port.  Now they will be able to push the intravenous radiocontrast agent through her chest.

The nurse dresses her port with a tegaderm and gauze.  With the little yellow butterfly clip sticking against the transparent tegaderm, it almost looks as though the girl has a flower pinned to her chest.  An ugly flower, but a flower nonetheless.

Just as her name is called, she looks at her list.  She is already tired, but smiles at the thought of being able to sit down with her kids when she is done.

She drags her body from the chair to meet the woman who beckoned her.  They walk quietly down the hall together and slip into a room nearby.  The door closes behind them.

When they emerge, they are smiling faint smiles and walking again.  The girl is doing that thing she does — looking dizzy and as though she is going to hit the deck.  She strokes her sore belly.  The nurse asks her to lie down until she feels better and says that people who receive the contrast through their ports need to wait 10 minutes for observation before they can leave anyway.  The nurse brings the girl a drink.  This time it’s plain cola.  Nothing added.  The nurse puts a bendy straw in the Coke.  The straw wrapper bears the name of a famous medical supplier.  “Yikes, a straw from a medical company!  It probably cost $50,” she thinks.

When her 10 minutes is up, she is so ready to leave that she walks out in her disposable drawstring hospital pants and stuffs her slacks in her bag.  It’s time to go home.

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So I was sitting in one of those recliner-type hospital chairs drinking oral contrast in preparation for my CT scan when I started thinking about perspective.  Of course the “girl” above is me…

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April 13, 2010 a.m. – Today is the Day

I have my appointment at the breast center this morning.

My sons’ birthdays are tomorrow.  (They are twins.)  I am thinking about a dear friend who died 2 days before the boys’ first birthdays, so five years ago yesterday.  She treated me as a daughter throughout my awkward younger years and until her death.  Her actual daughter was one of my two very best friends, so she often shuffled us from here to there and picked us up from school when we needed a ride.  This was almost every day for a time because her daughter and I ‘stayed after’ for numerous clubs and activities and sometimes just for a chance encounter with the boy we both liked.  [I am smiling as I recall this last bit and how silly we were!]  She never complained about having me in her home or minivan so often.  She said she enjoyed talking to me.  And I felt the same way.  She became close friends with my mother—they were the same age and both warmhearted gardening Englishwomen with gardening English mothers who were displaced from their homelands.  We remained very close.  I even lived with her for a year when I left college.  Oddly enough, the first house I bought was a side-split almost identical to hers–and just around the corner from her–and was a place where she planted some of the lovely lilies she bred.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40’s.  She was forever changed by it.  And not in the good way people sometimes talk about, but in a way that makes my heart ache for her.  It was painful and traumatic.  And at her young age, isolating, I’m sure.

We should have been celebrating together at my sons’ first birthday party as planned that Saturday five years ago.  Instead, I was at her funeral.

I glanced at some of the silk ribbons hanging on the closet door on my way downstairs this morning.  She had earned the awards for her prize-winning rabbits.  I could hear myself asking her to help me handle whatever happened today.

March 29, 2010 — I Wish “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”

For the past 6, 7, 8 months—I forget how long, exactly?—I’ve had this feeling that reminds me of when I breastfed my twins.  It is like the “let-down” feeling you experience when nursing.  I have been joking for months that I’m actually pregnant and just don’t know it and that I will end up on that show about women who are pregnant and don’t realize it until the babies pop out onto their shoe, or in their pants, or in the restroom at a fast food restaurant.  The breast feeling has been so consistent that I’ve actually taken multiple negative pregnancy tests.  But they have been negative for women on the show, too, so that’s no guarantee.

All kidding aside, I am becoming quite concerned about this unpleasant feeling.  In the past month or so (I’ve lost track of time, but I think it has been well over a month) it has become constant.  When you are nursing, you have a break from this tingly, consuming feeling.  But it is not letting up.  I feel it ALL of the time.  I think there is something wrong.  My gut tells me that giving birth to a surprise baby in my bathtub would be the best case scenario right now.

You may be asking why haven’t I been back to the doctor?  If you are, I applaud you.  This would be my first question to you.  It is a logical question and would have been my first step a couple of years ago.

So, why haven’t I been back to the doctor?

I don’t have health insurance.  After my husband was let go suddenly from the company he worked for for a decade, we lost the policy we had for years.  I was able to secure coverage for our 5 year old twins, but my husband and I have no coverage now.  I don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize our family financially, but I think it’s time for me to see a doctor…