Month: December 2014

How I learned not to believe everything I tell myself.

I’ve had an anger creeping over me for the last couple of days.  In truth, I’m starting to unravel.

It started the day after Christmas with a backache.  And obviously, a back ache = metastasis.  The cancer was now in my bones.  I mentioned this in passing to Josh  (You know, the way you would say, “We need milk.  I’m going to the store.”) and left for work, where I took care of a woman who was dying of breast cancer.

The next evening Josh and I got into a spectacular fight.  It was good, you guys.  Or really, really stupid.  And mostly my bad.

After the appropriate amount of cooling off time, Josh sat down next to me.

“I couldn’t understand why you were so mad at me, so I started to wonder if something else was bothering you.  Then, I remembered that you said your back hurt and that you must really be scared.  I’m sorry.”

Tears.

Just so many more tears than I’ve cried in a while.  An outpouring of everything I didn’t realize I had been bottling up since chemo ended.

I am scared, you guys.  Scared and angry.  As far as cancer goes, I know that I have it good.  I caught my cancer early — at stage 1a — and I got the appropriate treatment, but that doesn’t calm the fear as much as you might think.

Last Monday, I saw my smiley oncologist for the first time in three months.  The first time I met her, she giddily quoted my odds at 90 percent.  There is a ninety percent chance that I will still be alive in five years.  I vividly remember how happy she was to relay this information to me like it was just thebestnewsever!, but I was panic-stricken.  All I could think for months was that there is a one in ten chance that I am going to die in the next five years.  Those numbers kept me up at night.

“I would buy that lottery ticket,” I would say to myself.

When, in August, Dr. M told me that my cancer was more aggressive than she originally thought and my chances of recurrence were higher, I kept wondering what my new odds were, but I was too scared to ask.  I already knew what the “good numbers” were doing to me.

On Monday, I finally worked up the courage.

Looking from her face to her shoes to my wringing hands, I asked, “So…umm…when I first met you, you told me that my odds were ninety percent.  I was just wondering…umm…what they are now?”

She looked at me quizzically and tilted her head.  “Ninety percent.”

“But I mean.  Because you said that my cancer was…umm…more aggressive.”

::Blank stare::

“This summer.  You said it was more aggressive.  You said my risk of recurrence is higher.”

She looked puzzled and started shaking her head.  “Oh, no, I shouldn’t have said that.  Your odds are still ninety percent.  If not higher, really.”

“Oh.  Okay.  That’s good.  Thanks.”

I can’t tell you how stupid I felt for seriously fretting and wasting time making up what I thought my odds probably were (50/50) for months.  FOR MONTHS, I believed my own made up statistics.

To be honest, I need to learn to stop believing everything I tell myself.  I see signs of my imminent death everywhere.

  • Nemo’s mom dies at the beginning of Finding Nemo, and as I sit and watch with Penny, I’m sure it’s a sign that I’m going to leave her behind too.  My insides turn to ice.
  • I see a story about another young woman dying of breast cancer, and I feel like the universe is sending me a warning signal.  (Seriously, were there this many people dying of cancer before I had cancer?  Yes.  It’s yes, I know.)
  • A black cat is sitting in my driveway as I try to pull in.  He’s there to foreshadow my demise.  I just know it.
  • I go to see Gone Girl with my bff, and the mother in the movie dies of breast cancer.  I am positive that God keeps showing me these types of scenes to mentally prepare me for my own death.
  • One of my best friend’s dad dies, and among my grieving thoughts at the funeral are thoughts of my own funeral.

It’s exhausting.  I find these signs everywhere, and I was never much of a sign believer before.  I’ve never been particularly superstitious or overly eccentric.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me that she thought she had multiple sclerosis.  She had some mild but unusual symptoms.  She was worried and pretty scared.  She had already played out the whole diagnosis through death in her head without so much as a doctor’s visit.

“You don’t have MS!  You’re just fine.  You’ll see,” I said.

For days, I told her, in earnest, different variations of that until she said, “But Heather, it has to happen to someone.  What if I’m that someone?”

I skipped a beat but still said, “Noooo…you DON’T have MS!” while thinking, “She’s right.  I’m that someone.”

So I prayed for her for days until she texted me that her doctor confirmed that she did not have multiple sclerosis.

We had both started to believe the dangerous things we tell ourselves and let fear take over.  You just CANNOT believe everything you tell yourself.

That is what is happening to me, and I know it.  But when can a headache just be a headache again?  When can a patch of dry skin not be skin mets?  When can a backache be a sign of a hard night at work and not a death sentence?

I really don’t know, but I should probably work on telling myself better things.

 

P.S.  Thanks for continuing to vote for my blog!  You guys have me in third place and are awesome!

Taylor Hanson read my blog — The Update.

You guys, Taylor Hanson read my blog.

Maybe to you that sounds like, “OMG, Dustin Diamond read my blog!” or “Ahh, Tanya Harding read my blog!”  But no… you guys, TAYLOR HANSON read my blog!  If this were 1997, I might have died with the news.

A lot of you keep asking me if I’ve heard anything from Hanson after professing my undying love and making public my Make-A-Wish plea to them.  The answer was no until a couple of weeks ago.  Now, the answer is kind of.

At my “I Beat Cancer” party, my friend, Jeff, pulled me aside to tell me that there had been word from THan.  (When you’ve been “friends” as long as we have, you can use cute little nicknames like that. I like to imagine that he refers to me as “HLags” or “The real love of my life” or “Crazy Stalker Fan.”)  Jeff has been a solid bystander in this whole Hanson/Heather love affair, knows it’s actually serious business, and made this happen for me.

The short story is that Jeff happened to see a picture of his cousin and Taylor Hanson just hanging out and immediately went to work for me.  His cousin forwarded my blog post to the man himself, and HE ACTUALLY READ IT.

The first time I heard this news was at my party so I was super impressionable and emotional.  Jeff showed me a text from Taylor Hanson to his cousin ABOUT ME, and maybe I was a little cartoonish — jaw on the floor, hand on the heart –and maybe I said “Oh, my God!” roughly seventeen times.

The next day, I couldn’t remember anything about the exchange except for my own reaction and that Taylor Hanson had read my words.  So I saw Jeff again, who re-debriefed me, and I got mad.  Like, super mad.  Let me first show you the text from Taylor.  (I hope you don’t mind THan.)

“Ok.  That’s a really big deal.  She seems really sweet and that kind of relationship with fans is what’s made it possible for us to be here.  I wish I could grant that wish.  Let me think on it though.  Thanks for sharing.”

The text was from weeks earlier, and I suddenly felt like I had been stood up.  I spent a lot of time getting ready for this date — like seventeen years — and you pull a no-call, no-show.  I was pissed.  Now, I FULLY realize that Hanson owes me nothing, but at the time, I didn’t feel that way.  I felt like my friends weren’t really my friends, after all.

Oh, I was a little bit livid…and a lottabit dramatic.  I was mad at them in the special way you reserve for family and very close friends.  A special cocktail of love and anger.  (It’s been a hard year, yo.)  If anyone else tried to take a jab, umm, no.  It’s a fury that you know will dissipate back into nothing but love in a couple of days.  And it did.

I am currently cool with it.  I mean, I wish that THan could have granted that wish too (and, yes, I am super sweet, thankyouverymuch), but I get it.  You can’t just go throwing free all-inclusive island trips at everyone who asks, but it did get me wondering, especially in my case, why not.

 

Top 10 Reasons Why THan Can’t Grant My Wish

 

10.  Because it’s not 1997 anymore.

9.  He thinks cancer is contagious.

8.  There’s a hair length requirement to attend Hanson shows and mine just isn’t long enough right now.

7.  He’s afraid he’ll fall in love with me.  Duh.

6.  He was home schooled so he obviously can’t read.

5.  He’s busy washing his hair.

4.  He’s not sure where I fall on the well-adjusted female/serial killer scale.

3.  Isaac and Zac (the other two-thirds of Hanson) vetoed it.  They are so sick of always being overshadowed by Taylor and his fans!

2.  Even Taylor thought I was joking.  “She has cancer.  Wouldn’t she rather go to Disneyland?”

1.  He’s a boob man.

Also, if you have any ideas of why Hanson hasn’t granted my wish (I mean, we still have time.), feel free to add them to the list.  Smiling is my favorite.

The five stages of hair regrowth.

Everyone I run into seems to want a hair update — a peek under the ole wig — so here it is: My daughter pulled my hair yesterday.  You guys, she pulled my hair.  That means that I officially have enough hair to pull.  I mean, she does have tiny, sticky little fingers, but she managed it.  It’s slow going, but check out the progress.

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I’m kind of in love with my little cowlick.  I fully know that maybe it’s the kind of hairdo that only a mother can love, but I bet my mom would just love my cowlick too!  (My brother, who shaves his head on the regular, also has one.)  Anyway, I feel like it gives my “hairstyle” a little sass.

My Christmas wish this year is that I would have enough hair by Christmas that you couldn’t see my scalp, and I think Santa’s little follicle elves or maybe baby Jesus himself are working it out for me.  Speaking of Santa’s elves, we have the LAZIEST elf on the shelf ever.  She’s always “falling asleep” when we do and waking up in the same spot in the morning.  Half the time she doesn’t move until we are eating breakfast, and we’re not sure when she has the time to report back to the North Pole what with her narcolepsy and/or irresponsible nature.  She was much more on top of things last year.

Anyway, back to my hair because I know you are all of the edges of your seats waiting for more.  Can I just say that I expected this process to go a little faster?  Like, it’s been two and a half months since I’ve had the toxic poison in my veins and that’s all I’ve got.  I’m trying to make some breast cancer buddies, and when I see the hair of a couple of girls that are months ahead of me, I am disappointed.  (You girls are beautiful, but you know what I mean.  You are disappointed in the AGONIZINGLY slow way our hair is growing back too!)  I kind of thought that at a year out, it would be down to my shoulders or something ridiculous.  Yeah, no.

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I can’t believe that, under a year ago, I had so much hair I had to pin it back so it wouldn’t get in my face.  I used to have so much hair that, most days, I would put it in a messy bun.  That means I had so much hair that I could FOLD IT OVER ON ITSELF.  Oh, how I took it for granted.  The day I can pull off a ponytail again will be deemed an official holiday in the Lagemann household.  And do you know how pissed I’m going to be if the Sumbitch comes back and makes me start this hair process all over again?  (Umm…among being mad about its stupid death threats and what not.)

In other hair news, the rest of my body hair is forcing me into the five stages of grief.  I have been in straight DENIAL about the rest of my hair growing back.  I’ve been denying that I need to shave my legs and armpits.  I’ve been in denial that I need to clean-up my eyebrows.  I found a little whisker on my chin — straight denial.  My mustache is what snapped me out of the denial phase because I always told Josh that when my mustache came back, I would know that my hair was getting its shit back together.  Well, there it was looking me right in the face (??), and I quickly moved into ANGER.

I am now super angry that I have to deal with all this other unwanted hair again.  It was one of the only good things about cancer, and I don’t wanna!  Three minute showers are amazing, and presently, it only takes me fifteen minutes total to get ready in the morning.  I think I will continue to be angry about my mustache and forest of leg hair for a couple more days before I move on.  The last three stages are bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

So if you see me in a few days trying to cut a deal with God or Josh (Who do I bargain with to never shave my armpits again?), move along, I will soon be depressed, and you probably don’t want any part of that.  When I reach acceptance, it’ll probably be a good two hours in the bathroom with an assortment of new razors, wax kits, and maybe even a little Nair and bleach for fun.  I’m not there yet, but Josh will be so happy.

 

P.S.  Thanks to all of you who keep voting for me in Healthline’s blog contest.  I am currently in third place, and I owe it all to you.  I love you guys!

Rock the Vote, Cancer Style.

One of my new mottos is “Why the eff not me?”  I think my life shall forevermore be divided by cancer: pre-cancer and post-cancer.  Pre-cancer, I let myself believe that extraordinary things happen to other people; I am but a simple girl.  Post-cancer, the playing field somehow seems more even, and I feel like a Christmas tree that has just been lit up.  (My branches may be a little sparse and my star is slightly crooked, but I am shining.)

I’m not just telling you this to toot my own horn (because that would suck — and I really feel pretty awkward about that part).  I am telling you this because I am thinking bigger than I ever have, and even though I have asked for your help before, and it didn’t pan out, I need your help again.  I saw how you guys blew Hanson up for me.  Could you blow this up for me too?

You can either search for "Invasive Duct Tales" or find me in the top ten.
You can either search for “Invasive Duct Tales” or find me in the top ten.

It may seem silly to you and not that big for that matter — competing with IBS and menopause blogs — but two things.  It would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because who doesn’t love to win things?  And there’s a $1000 cash prize, and who doesn’t love a little extra money?

As it stands, the leader is only 405 votes ahead of me.  I know that I can close that gap and keep a steady hold.  Voting is EVERY DAY until January 15th.  I know that’s a lot to ask, and I feel like that needy friend that keeps coming to the party empty handed, but if you could so kindly add it to your daily routine, I would be so grateful.

You know — wake up, make some coffee, feed the goldfish, vote for Heather’s blog, brush your teeth, twerk to the shower, blow dry your hair…  It’s that easy.  But, like, *everyday*.  You can set an alarm.  Or I can text you a #selfie everyday to remind you.  But I have no selfie game.  You probably don’t want that.  My 12 year old cousin recently informed me that there are definite selfie rules.  Things like how pretty you are determines how much of your face can be in the picture.  And she said something about your eyebrows being “on point.”  I don’t think mine are “on point” right now.  I might need help with that too.

As an incentive to you, my dear readers (uhh, friends and family), I will even let you decide how I spend that grand if I win it.

  1. A romantic getaway, just Josh and me.
  2. Putting a slight dent in my mountain of medical bills.  (Cancer is expensive, yo.)
  3. Babysitters and possibly a cleaning lady so I can have time to write a book.
  4. Ecstasy and glow sticks.

So there you have it.  You can choose between being responsible, wanting to read some more things that I probably shouldn’t say, and voting for Josh and me to get it on.  Also, please don’t vote for the drugs.  You have no idea how many times I’ve had to say no to drugs since I’ve gotten cancer.

I’m going to be pretty annoying about this, you guys, because seriously, why the eff not me?

In Memoriam of my Boobs.

Although I had my reservations, this weekend one of my best friends and I celebrated our birthdays and also hosted an “I Beat Cancer” party.  The party had been in the works since before I even started chemo, but as it drew closer, my superstitious side came out, and I wondered if it would be some kind of bad karma to celebrate “beating” cancer when the sumbitch can certainly rear its ugly head again to spite me.  In the end, I went ahead with the party because, truly, that sumbitch is going to do whatever it’s going to do whether I party to its end or not.  I decided to throw all superstition out the window and from here on out, error on the side of fun.

And fun I did have.

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Brandy and I planned so much fun that there was a first (Girls Only) part and a second (All Welcome) part.  I am loosely sworn to secrecy about the first part, but I will say that everyone should celebrate the end of a really tough year with a room full of your best girlfriends and favorite lady family members AND a paid entertainer.  So yeah, that happened.  And I will admit; I may have had/needed a few glasses of wine.  (A few glasses of wine, after not being able to drink for the last, oh, two years due to pregnancy, nursing, surgery, chemo = a really happy Heather).

When we got to the all-inclusive party, among many inappropriate conversations (because I am nothing if not always treading that line), I think I tried desperately to hug my thanks into my loved ones.  Like almost a year’s worth of thank you’s in one hug.  It’s possible, you guys.  This is what it looks like.

PicMonkey Collage

I also ran into my very first ever boyfriend, Drew Long.  If it’s any indication of how seriously I took this relationship at 13, I had his name carved into my desk at home, and I still remember his birthday.

Among the obligatory greetings, Drew starts telling me that he has been reading my blog and that he’s happy to see that I’m okay.

“Ohmygosh!  DREW!  You were my firsteverboyfriend!”

“Hahaha.  Yeah.”

“And my first kiss!  Remember that?”

“Uh. Umm…”  and he laughs some more.

I get the impression that he does not, in fact, remember our first kiss so I relay the details — because did he not lay in bed for months after replaying the events of that night in his head?  Oh, just me.  Oh, well.

“I do remember that,” he laughs.

That’s maybe where I should have stopped, but I didn’t.  And I still don’t really regret it.

“And you FELT ME UP!”

Drew stammers, laughs, turns red.

“You did!  You felt me up!”

All of my friends are acutely tuned in now.

“You’re making me blush,” Drew says.

As if I can keep the memory of my breasts alive by making Drew reflect back on our 14 year old adventures of Under the Shirt, Over the Bra, I push further.  “You felt them!  They’re gone now, but you know what I’m talking about!”

I’m pretty sure that’s about where the conversation ended.  With Drew red-faced, shaking his head, and laughing. And that’s probably what I should have been (be?) doing too, but honestly, I think it’s hilarious.  Josh wasn’t quite as amused upon hearing this story.  Somewhere in the discussion, he asked me if I was going to call up all my ex-boyfriends for a recount.

And you know what?  That’s not a half bad idea.  I’m not really going to do it, but hear me out.

When you lose someone you love — or even a pet — it’s okay to talk freely of your loss, your grief.  People relay heartwarming, funny tales of your loved one to help you cope or to give you an extra little piece of that person to carry around with you.  And since you’re in such a grief-stricken state, sometimes, it’s all you talk about.  When my mom died, I only wanted to talk about her, and people listened.  They added to the conversation.

Well, I lost my boobs, and that’s pretty seriously sad to me.  I have actually spent a little time grieving them.  But noooo, I can’t post posthumous pics of them on facebook.  Some would say that’s inappropriate.  (Okay, it’s way over my line too.)  It’s not socially acceptable for me to whip out one of my best boob stories in the spirit of coping, and we are not going to sit around the campfire with beers and honor them by each telling a good story about them.  (Hey friends, can we actually do that? Just kidding.  Unless we can.)

Oh, hey there girls!
Oh, hey there girls!

If I really tried to compile memories as Josh jokingly suggested in a Chicken Soup for the Soul: Heather’s Lost Boobs kind of edition, it would really be more a pamphlet or even a flyer because, you guys, you had to be pretty special to get a peek, and there would be few calls to make.  But that’s not actually going to happen because I’m not really that weird.

So what am I left with? Harassing the first boy to ever (kind of) touch them?

Yeah, I guess.

Actually, I reran into Drew and his little brother later in the evening and had a more legit conversation that ended in a few tears.  When we were puppy loving in middle school, his mom had breast cancer, and when he was too cool to be my boyfriend anymore (or maybe it was because my brother trash canned him) at 16, the Sumbitch came back, and he lost his mom.  I told him that I have often thought of his mom over the last eight months, and I have.  I knew exactly three things about Mrs. Long:

1) She cared enough to chaperone our middle school dances.

2)  She didn’t like it when Drew and I would dance cheek to cheek, chest to chest and would often put a little space between us.

3) She packed him a well crafted lunch.  Where my mom threw in a ding dong, Drew’s mom peeled and cut up kiwis.

Basically, she was a good, caring mom, and cancer did not take that into consideration.  Even at my “I Beat Cancer” party, I am reminded that this is still really scary.  This may or may not be over.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep having fun and living life more alive than I’ve ever known.  So Travis Wolfe, watch out!  You’re next.  Just kidding.  For real.  Sometimes, I like to end things on an awkward note.