My Glass Case of Emotion.

I feel like people are getting tired of me having cancer.  Like as tired as every little girl’s mom is of the Frozen soundtrack.  But, you know, it’s on non-stop repeat around here, and that may be too much for people to handle.  It’s too much for me to handle, really.  I wish I could mute it, but I can’t.  So instead, I’m trying to learn how to truly Let It Go without going cah-razy.

I mean, I get it.  I really do.  This stuff is heavy.  Five months and going is a long time to be so emotionally invested.  Heavy burdens and stuff.  Buuuut, I only have one more chemo left  (after I make it through this next week or so of yucks)!  And this bad boy below and those sweet smiles are keeping me going.

CountdownCollage

Josh and I NEEDED a visual representation that this would end.  I also NEEDED something to keep the kids busy on an afternoon when I wasn’t feeling so great.  Double score.  Seriously, you guys, this pink posterboard countdown is doing its part in keeping me sane.  With such irrational JOY, I cross off another day.  And although Penny really wants to draw the “X” at bedtime, I’m a mean mommy.  This fight is definitely all for the family, but those little pink boxes are mine.

Anyway, Monday was chemo 5 of 6, and I always think it will be just fine if I go it alone.  I mean, it’s just a little blood work, doctor’s appointment, and infusion.  However, my standard answer to, “How are you feeling?” right now is “Physically, I feel like an 82 year old, and emotionally, I’m 14,” so I should always know that Josh needs to be there.  I tell him not to miss work, but he knows better.  I mean, you don’t let a 14 year old go to the doctor alone, right?

Usually, before I see my oncologist, a resident or an NP assesses me, and last time, I saw the resident.  Upon seeing some fresh bruises, he told me that my blood counts are low (duh!) and to try not to hit my head on anything (mmmkthanks,duh!).

I smirk.  “That’s kind of how I live my life anyway.  You know, not hitting my head.”

He half smiled, half looked at me like I was an idiot.

For real though.  Do I really need instructions not to hit my head?  I’m pretty sure I’ve always tried to avoid concussions, subdural hematomas, and brain bleeds in general.  I’m a nurse, you know.  And my GPA has always been higher than most.  I’m not an idiot.

Except, after three weeks, I HAVE taken greater care not to hit my head.  Who am I?  And why was there room to improve my head protection abilities?  I am now questioning my whole life (because the cancer wasn’t enough to spur this new train of though.  jk. jk.)  Just, wow, is all.

Anway, THIS time going into my appointment, I silently prayed that I would see the nurse practitioner.  You see, I’ve been, uhh, emotional lately, and I knew that Mary was the only one I would actually discuss this with.  I’d guess she’s about the same age as me.  She has two daughters the same age as mine.  She feels a little like a girlfriend at the doctor’s office.  Her background is nursing, and I can feel it.  She’s much more organized and listens to my concerns.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, she sees me.

When Mary walked in, I immediately felt more cared for.  For the first five minutes, we didn’t even discuss my health or the cancer.  We talked about our kids and caught up.  That’s as long as my oncologist is usually in the room.  When she finally asked, “Well, how are you doing?” I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m crazy.”

“I’m crazy.  Or I feel like I’m going crazy, you know?  I’m not usually like this.  I’m emotional,” and tears form as if on cue, “irritable, moody.  Sometimes, I get a lot of anxiety about the future.  Fear.  I just feel so emotional and crazy right now.”

She tilts her head.  “I don’t know if this will make you feel any better or not, but I have had this same conversation probably ten times today.  This really is normal.  It’s not only your hormones but also chemo does a lot to your body.”

This conversation came an hour after an echocardiogram (ultrasound of my heart) that I cried through because the lady had to use contrast dye.  In all fairness, at the beginning she noted that she was happy that my port was accessed in case she did, in fact, need to use contrast dye.  When I said, “Well, that wouldn’t be good.  Let’s hope not,” she agreed.  Thirty minutes later, she looked at me shirtless and in the dark and said, “It looks like we do need a little contrast, honey.”

Glass-Case-of-Emotion

It turned out fine, but geez, I don’t like being this girl.  And I’m pretty sure I know how Josh feels about my “mood swings.”  It’s not all day every day, but it’s enough to drive me crazy.

Mary and I talked all about it, and she ultimately suggested an anti-depressant, which makes me feel weird.  My doctor then came in and pretty much threw a script at me, no questions asked.

I haven’t started it yet.  I just never saw myself headed here.  I probably will, but I’m just not sure.  I don’t feel depressed.  Just unstable.  lololololol.  For the most part, I am happy.  Punctuated with moments of extreme sorrow, anxiety, fear, annoyance.  And those hot flashes.

That’s probably pretty much an ad for an anti-depressant, right?  Well, I am all for sharing with you guys, and I don’t want to sugarcoat this journey too much.  So this is probably happening.

On another note, I bet you didn’t know this happens at chemo.

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Yeah, those jerks (just kidding, lovely nurses!) ice my fingers and toes during one of the hour long meds so my nails don’t turn black and fall off and stuff.  Blah, blah, blah.  In turn, I get to feel like Olaf while trying out my Elsa powers.  Tooooo muuuuch Diiiiiisney.

Also of note, I am trying to figure out what to be for Halloween.  I think it would be fun to incorporate my bald head.  Like, I could be Britney Spears, circa 2007, which would also accurately represent my mental state AND make me laugh a lot.  Or Dr. Evil.  I’ve had suggestions of Charlie Brown, Daddy Warbucks, Mr. Clean, GI Jane.  What do you guys think?

So that’s about it.  Chemo countdown.  My craziness.  Heather Ice Hands.  Frighteningly similar to Brit Brit.  Yeah.

Just don’t unpack and live there.

You guys, the other day I was taking care of business (business = my kids) with daytime tv on in the background, and a commercial came on that caught my ear.  You know the kind.  If you’re currently experiencing restless legs, blurred vision, the appetite of a high school football player, vampire fangs, and an uncontrollable urge to twerk — IDK — ask your doctor for THIS medicine so we can make a buttload of money.  Except I was like YESSS!  to all symptoms.  I looked up to see who was reading my mind, and it was a very nice looking grey haired woman speaking.  For a menopause medication.  Yeah, so that’s where my life is right now.

I must also note, the idea of a hot flash is kind of hilarious, but hot flashes are NO joke.  I have always been the cold type, but I am freezing my family out right now.  I should probably put hats and mittens on Alice while I lounge around bald and in my underwear.  Summertime is not the ideal time to go through this.  Wigs, sharing a bed with anyone, and babies with fevers who want to lay on me all Labor Day long are not my favorite things right now.

In keeping it real news, after I told you guys about needing radiation a couple of weeks ago, I let myself go to a bad place.  I stayed there for about a week, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the word “aggressive.”  It was a terrible place to be, and I couldn’t stop my mind from going down a lot of roads that left me partially paralyzed and on the brink of depression.  I felt really guilty and knew that I needed to pull myself out of it.  Then I talked to my dad who put some things into perspective for me.  He simply said, “Heather, it’s okay to feel that way, even healthy.  You can visit.  Just don’t unpack and live there.”  As much as I don’t like that place, I can visit; It’s probably necessary.  I just won’t unpack and live there.  Thanks, dad.

I figured a week is as long a vacation as anyone takes, and this was one of the worst places I had ever visited so I got back to my life.  It has been refreshing and fun.  So that’s what I’m going to focus on this time.  My life.

Like, I have had dinner with friends twice and Josh once (ALONE!  Holla! <— Wait, people don’t say that anymore, do they?  My cool speak has a different definition now and includes phrases like “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”  Maybe someone can debrief me on some hip phrases.  You know, like Darryl did for Michael on The Office??)

Penny started preschool, but is definitely too cool for me.

PreschoolPenny

The girls and I have been able to make it the last two story times at the library, and Uncle Paul even accompanied us to one.  I’m pretty sure he was traumatized.  Kids were everywhere — throwing fits, refusing to sit on “the rug,” crying, trying to escape, hitting each other.  Per ushe.  And there were two types of moms.  The dejected mom and the mom who is so excited to see other adults that she talks the whole time.  I am definitely among them. I get it.  (Upon relaying my brother’s surprise that we talked during story time to another mom, she was all, “We’ll talk through a eulogy.  And a presidential address.”  We get hard up for adult convo, yo.)

After the library, Uncle Paul did help plan and photograph an important moment in Penny’s life.  Her wedding to “Old Teddy.”  This day has been a long time coming.

TeddyWeddingCollageWe also celebrated Alice’s 1st and Penny’s 4th birthdays last weekend with a princess party!  Sidebar: If you have styrofoam swords and wands as party favors, maybe give them out at the end of the party if you don’t want an absolute brawl to break out.  The kids LOVED them (I’m pretty sure it made the party.), but I was sure that my mother-in-law was going to kill me since the party was at her house.  She did not.  Nary a word.  Sometimes this cancer thing works to my advantage.

Also, I almost had a pinterest fail to show you guys.  Midway through this castle cake, it looked like a lost cause.  For serious.  I literally said, “Well, we can serve this alongside a picture of what it was supposed to look like so people can get a good laugh.”  But Josh took over and saved. the. day.  It’s not perfect, but we all loved it.  I did not think the end result was possible.  Josh has mad piping skills.  I have mad put some princesses on the cake to hide some stuff skills.

PicMonkey Collage

After the party, I went to a benefit for an old friend of mine’s son, Sam.  A few weeks before me, he was diagnosed with cancer AT FIVE YEARS OLD.  I just don’t even know how that happens, and it seems so unfair.  But this little dude is now done with his treatment, and I had the sweetest little conversation with him that, really, I can’t stop thinking about.

His mom brought him over because he noticed my pink hair.  She said they had a conversation about it, and he wanted to ask me a question.

In the sweetest little voice that melted my mom heart, “Do you have cancer too?”

“I do.  Yes.”

“Do you have a port too?”

“Yeah.  Like you.”  And I pulled my shirt back to show him.

He smiled and showed me his port too.  All the cool kids have ports, you know.  (What’s up, Garrett!)

That was it.  But, man.

This world is wonderful and scary and sad and confusing and full of joy.  And what I’ve learned the most from this experience is that life is meant for connecting with other people.  So that’s what I’m working on right now.  Not unpacking my bags in some weird, worried place in my mind and just getting out there and living and connecting with people.  Also, keeping cool.  And babying my eyelashes.

“Hi, I’m Josh. And that’s my girlfriend.”

When Penny was born at 3 lbs 3 ounces, she was swept away to the NICU, and I was drugged and confused.  To be honest, it wasn’t a great day.  Alice’s birthday, on the other hand, is one of my all-time favorite days, but Penny’s birth was scary and full of unknowns.  After the surgery itself, the first thing I really remember is being in a hospital room full of my family, who told me that my blood pressure was too high, and I broke down.

“Heather, why are you crying?” someone asked.

“They didn’t even let me hold my baby.  I haven’t even seen her or gotten to hold her yet.  They just took her away.”

My brother or cousin, I’m not sure who, then brought over a camera and showed me a picture of me holding Penny.

When I think about it now — now that my beautiful baby girl is almost four and healthy — it’s funny.  Sometimes, I even tell that story and laugh.  But at the time, doctors were warning Josh and me of a possible guarded future for our newborn.  They told us they didn’t know how she would function neurologically.  They said she might be a little “slow.”  It was a wait and see.

NICEPenny

In all honesty, it took me a couple of weeks to really bond with her.  I was hurting physically, scared for this little girl, and unsure of our future.  But not Josh.  Josh fell in love with her that very first night.  He couldn’t stand her being out of our sight.  I could barely move, but he constantly left to check on her.  The first time he didn’t come back (for an hour and a half!), I thought something was seriously wrong and he’d come back bearing bad news.  I braced myself.  Instead, he came back with a smile on his face and a pep in his step.

“What’s wrong?  Why were you gone so long?”

“I just couldn’t leave her there.  I’m sorry.  Were you worried?”

Uhh, yeah.

“They said I could hold her!  So I took my shirt off and held her skin to skin.”

He beamed as he told me all about how she felt against his chest and the little songs he sang to her, and I knew he was hooked.  I knew that he would take care of this little girl better than anyone in the world.  I knew that she would always be safe in his arms.  I knew that no matter what happened, he was the perfect dad for her.  Because that’s who Josh is.  He is full of love.

I tell you this because, as we go through this hard time, I find myself feeling so sorry for Josh.  I find myself thinking that he just can’t take all of this.  Or shouldn’t have to.  There’s so much pressure on him right now.  It feels like I am falling apart, and he’s not allowed to.  His workload is incredible and time for himself is non-existent.  He is so tired.  I can see it in his face.  I can hear it in his voice.  But he tells me it’s okay.  He tells me that we will get through this and move on.

I guess I just wanted you guys to know that he, too, is struggling.  And that he is pretty amazing.  The way he loves Penny is the way he loves Alice is the way he loves me is the way he loves his twin brother is the way he loves his mom.  He’s the guy that wouldn’t take no for an answer.  (I canceled, like, three dates before going out with him.)  He’s the guy who, after only a date or two, showed up at my work with a winter coat because he didn’t think mine was heavy enough.  My girlfriends and I weren’t sure whether he was suuuper creepy or just that nice.  He’s just that nice.

Unless you hit on me right in front of him.  One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was Josh putting one of my older brother’s friends right in his place with absolutely no qualms.

After a few catcalls and in jest, but lewd comments, Josh walked right up to the guy, looked him straight in the eye, and extended his hand for a shake,

“Hi.  I’m Josh.”  He points to me.  “And that’s my girlfriend.”

He turned around and walked back over to me without even waiting for a response, and the poker table they were all seated at erupted in laughter, along with my girlfriend and me.

Early on, though, I didn’t think he was the “right” guy for me so I tried breaking up with him once or twice.  He talked me out of it.  He had so much faith in us that, after only a few weeks of dating, he bought us concert tickets for EIGHT MONTHS LATER.

Whoa there, dude.  Calm down.  You’re freaking me out, and is it hot in here?  I can’t even commit to these shoes for the next eight months.  Let’s just slow this train down.

But yeah, we went to that concert.  And during a time when I don’t know what’s up or down and I can barely hold myself together, I’m glad that Josh is always so sure.

Wedding

Permasmiles and crowd surfing.

I sipped on that sweet chemotherapy cocktail all afternoon yesterday, and now I’m just waiting for that weekend hangover.  Last cycle was my worst, possibly because I fasted as some preliminary research shows it to be helpful in reducing side effects and identifying cancer cells.  Whether it was a result of fasting or not, I felt sick sooner and for longer.  Honestly, I don’t think I came out of the fast properly, but this time I ate my little heart out, as I’m accustomed to doing.  Fasting and I are just not friends.  I’m definitely a Ron Weasley when I don’t eat.  And this cancer is pretty much a horcrux.  Does anyone have a basilisk’s fang hanging around?  Or, like, a super fancy sword made by goblins?

Chemo days are actually some of my favorites.  I kick my feet up, watch this tv, and flirt with the old men while someone else takes care of my kids.
Chemo days are actually some of my favorites. I kick my feet up, watch this tv, and flirt with the old men while someone else takes care of my kids.

So anyway, I kind of got the wind taken out of my sails yesterday as my doctor gave me some unexpected news.  First, let me just say that my oncologist is a very smart, accomplished, and sweet woman.  She just smiles so dang much!  The first time I met with her, it was rather offensive to me.  She rocked her permasmile as she talked me through my treatment plan and odds.  My odds.  Yeah, she smiled through that scary little nugget.  She even gave pointed little giggles before responding to my questions.  I left her office after that first meeting not really sure if my doctor understood the severity of my situation.  I am ALL for a laugh, but this stuff: not funny…unless I make it funny.  Then, it’s funny.

For my third treatment three weeks ago, one of my bffs, Christen, accompanied me.  I warned her of this smiling phenomenon, stripped down to put on a gown, and waited for the doc.  As we waited, we did what all best friends do.  She felt me up, of course. You know, then we had a pillow fight in our jammies.  jk. jk.  Kind of.  I don’t think it counts if the boob isn’t attached to me, right?  See, what had happened was…I took my boobs off and handed her one.  We’re pretty much like sisters, and I showed her my scars too.  She’s the first person besides Josh and my daughters (oh, and a million medical professionals) that I have shown so it felt kind of like another step toward acceptance.

Christen, preparing to be my maid of honor, even in kindergarten.  She never could handle her "juicebox."
Christen, preparing to be my maid of honor, even in kindergarten. She never could handle her “juicebox.”

Aaaaand I’m off track.  The point is that today, when Dr. M walked into the exam room, she wasn’t smiling quite as brightly.  Instead, she informed me that she took my case to the tumor board for the third time at my insistence (I just know that doctors love nurses as patients!), and they decided that I did, indeed, need radiation.  I was not expecting that.  She explained that they reviewed the original biopsy results and basically concluded that, although my two tumors were small, I had an aggressive form of cancer.  My odds of recurrence are higher, and I’m young.  Youth is not an advantage in the case of breast cancer.  Hormones and such.  Dr. M literally told me that they were just going to throw everything they had at me.  Fun.

Except, not really.  Not even remotely what I wanted to hear.  I guess that, now, I am not halfway there.  I don’t know.  We don’t have a radiation plan yet.

I realize that this really doesn’t change anything…just what I know.  I realize that getting radiation is a good thing.  I realize that my God is a big God, and I realize that fear will only stop me in my tracks and rob me of the now.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t head straight to the bathroom and break down.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t walk into the chemo waiting area looking a hot mess.  Think Britney Spears, circa 2007.  Then, the kindness of the other cancer patients was more than I could take.

I sat down next to Josh and tried to hold myself together, but hot tears escaped one by one of their own volition.  People looked over sympathetically.  People gave me my space.

Then the middle aged woman sitting across from me wheeled away.  No big deal.  I was trying haaard to shut myself down, stuff it back inside, so her movements barely registered with me.  Until she came back bearing tissues for me.

She looked me in the eye, “Here.”

That was too much for me.

I started sobbing into the tissues she just handed me.  More people looked.  I buried my head into Josh’s arm.

“Everyone’s looking at me.”

“That’s okay.”

One final sob.  Then, lock down.

When I was called back into the infusion center a couple of minutes later, all I could do was look at the woman in the pink hat and mutter, “Thanks.”

I know she knew what it meant.

Thanks for acknowledging me.  Thanks for supporting me.  Thanks for knowing that sometimes we just can’t hold it in.  Thanks for understanding this pain.  This fear.  This loss of control.  Thanks for seeing me.  Thanks for being my friend.  And I will call that woman, who I will probably never see again and who I only exchanged two words with, a friend always.

This whole thing is bananas, really.

I mean, in other news, my eyes have become the place where eyelashes go to die.  I can’t yet tell that any are missing, but I can sure feel them practicing their cannon balls one by annoying little one into the pool of my eye.  On the bright side, my brother-in-law pointed out that I have a lot of wishes coming my way.  Score.

Also, I had to have a conversation with Penny last week about why my hair will grow back but not my breasts.  The answer is easy enough if you have a brief moment to prepare, but my initial response to her question contained a lot of “uhs” and “umms.”  I found my way through though.  And I will find my way through this too.  With the help of friends and family.  You guys are rocking it.  And I just can’t keep up with all of the thank yous right now.  I feel like, one by one, you are all carrying me.  Sort of like crowd surfing.  Each meal, each letter, each dollar donated, each ridiculous beard shaved in the name of more donations or promises to run the marathon portion of a legit Ironman race in a prom dress.  A mowed lawn.  Childcare.  A care package in the mail.  A shoulder for me to cry on.  A tissue passed my way.  They are all hands, and you just keep holding me up…until I make it to my brother, Paul.  Then I fall.  True story.

I was once crowd surfing and was dropped hard.  I look up from the floor, and it was my very own brother that dropped the ball…err, me.  Maybe he was tired of seeing so many dudes trying to cop a feel.  Or maybe he’s just short.  But then he hoisted me back up because, you know, I had already lost a shoe.

Yeah, this is totally like crowd surfing.  My loved ones are holding me up, that shoe probably represents my mind, and I’ve been groped more times than I count.

Livin’ on a Prayer.

Real talk: I am a mess.  I  am overwhelmed.  I am drained.  I am struggling.

BUT I am also halfway done.  If I count surgery, and you bet your ass I do, I am MORE than halfway done.  While I am definitely happy to be here, chemo is getting harder so I have my reservations about throwing a halfway done party (mostly because I don’t want to get off the couch).

A few weeks ago, I went to my first young women’s breast cancer group meeting for women in their 20’s and 30’s.  I threw on my pink wig, some cute shoes and hoped that I wouldn’t cry on this first date of sorts.  (I didn’t.)  I went looking for someone who understands, a friend in cancer, if you will.  I have certainly met other women who have been through what I am going through (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime), but each time, I feel like they don’t really understand because they are older.  I’m only 32.  I have two very young children.  Wah, wah, wah.

What I found at the meeting humbled me.  The women there certainly did understand.  It was funny how, at first and for most of the time, even we spoke of hair loss (instead of what’s REALLY bothering us).  We also talked about chemo, surgery, our boobs.  Then the talk switched to children.  There were only six of us, and four of the women hadn’t had children prior to diagnosis.  When those women discussed embryo freezer fees, the risks of pregnancy, the uncertainty, and life plans altered, my heart broke for them, and I felt grateful.  So very grateful for my little girls.

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because having cancer AND being a mommy is hard, but those women really reminded me of how much I have.  It sucked to have to stop breastfeeding (which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, truly) on cancer’s terms, but at least, I had that experience.  For three weeks after surgery, I couldn’t hold my baby, but at least, I have my babies.  And on and on and on.

Let me be clear — I’m not saying that I’m rocking motherhood right now.  Quite the opposite, my friends.  Also real talk: this household is out of control.  Seriously, you guys.  I try to remind myself to cut me a little slack, but when I am laying on the couch (again) and my kids are swarming around me and Netflix is churning out one show after another, I feel guilty.  Our old routines are out the window, for sure.  They are being fed, yes.  They are being stimulated, eh?

Poor Alice doesn’t seem to know any different.  At her age, Penny was being read ten books every two hours, took two walks a day, was practicing her colors, numbers, animal noises, penmanship, multiplication tables, and going to day camp for cello lessons.  Or it felt like it.  I was definitely in her face.  The point is that I was mad trying with that kid.  At this point, I wouldn’t hire me to be their babysitter.  If I saw me on the nanny cam cleverly hidden in the belly of a stuffed giraffe, I would fire me.

“You rarely got up from the couch.  You let the baby play with a roll of toilet paper rather than read to her or sing ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ for the 26th time.  You let my three year old watch two and a half hours of tv, gave in to all of her fits just to quiet her, and when she begged you to play dolls with her, you told her that her daddy would when he got home.”

A roll of toilet paper is a good babysitter, yo.

We may have been a little too lax with teeth brushing lately.
We may have been a little too lax with teeth brushing lately.

But really, I am having all sorts of anxiety and mommy guilt.  I am also having all sorts of stomach pain and exhaustion.  It’s a losing battle.  Except the one against cancer.  That one I plan on winning.

I guess what I’m saying with is threefold.

1.  If you are stumbling around this blog because you are going through something similar, I feel you.  This is not all pink ribbons and sisterhood.

2.  If you see me out with my kids and my almost four year old is acting a fool and not listening one bit (as is the norm lately), cut us some slack.  I am too tired to be doing this the right way, and Penny’s world has also been turned upside down.

3.  I couldn’t be more aware of how lucky I am to have this little family.

One of the girls from the group meeting recently finished her chemo and messaged me some encouraging words about reaching the halfway point.  She said that she adopted this as her halfway there anthem.  I love it.  I am totally livin’ on a prayer (but it does make a difference if we make it or not).  Plus, Bon Jovi’s hair makes me feel okay about being bald right now.

My Great Escape.

Okay, you guys, chemo #3 was last Monday and its nasties are well underway.  Plus, I fasted for three days.  You did not want to be my husband for any of those days.  I may or may not have tried to get everyone around me to describe every meal they were eating.  But I will get to all of that super fun stuff next time.

Right now, I am on a mission. I’ve been going back and forth about this, but I really only plan on having cancer this once.  (Let’s just pretend it was in the plans.  In which case, do not come to me for any life coaching.  Uh, duh.)  You see, I try to keep positive, but truthfully, I could really use something to look forward to.  So I’m MAKING A WISH!  For real, you guys.  And I need your help.  First, I’ll lay it on you.

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Boom!  Many of you are not surprised, I know.  Those of you near and dear to me know of my undying love for Hanson and the immeasurable joy they have brought to my life over the last 17! years.  (Wow, our relationship can almost vote, or get a tattoo, or, like, pawn stuff at a pawn shop while buying a lottery ticket and opening a call for jury duty.)  For you others, I will try to explain – something I’m not actually sure that I can do.

When it comes right down to it, Hanson is home to me.  I know you may only know of “Mmmbop,” but they didn’t stop there and neither did I.  I feel like we have grown up together.  There have been the highest of highs — like the time I saw them play in the middle of the Atlantic ocean under the moon and stars until 3 AM — and some pretty funny lows — like the time I left in the middle of a show because the set list was making me mad and I was so hungry I was “seeing” cheeseburgers.

Also, I'm not a creepy fan at all.  It's totally normal to take your picture with someone who doesn't know it's happening, right?
Also, I’m not a creepy fan at all. It’s totally normal to take your picture with someone who doesn’t know it’s happening, right?

There are songs that immediately make me feel 16 and just so happy (Hello, “Minute Without You!”), and there are those that have helped me through some pretty tough stuff.  Like when I didn’t know how to deal in high school, or when my mom died.  There is a song that my daughter is named after (along with “Penny Lane”), and there are even songs that I don’t like.  There are songs that I’ll never forget hearing for the first time and some that I will always jumble their lyrics.

And the shows.  Around 40 shows in the last seventeen years.  With my mom, with my best friend, friends I don’t see anymore, my husband, my brother…  It’s like stepping into an old friend’s home and picking up where you left off.  And you just know it’s going to give you what you need.  And make you smile (and dance).  And reconnect you to a part of yourself that is only for you.   Maybe it’s the Cardinals for you.  Or hunting.  Or crafting.  Or a certain movie or video game.  Or maybe you understand because you feel the same way about The Cure.  I don’t know.

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What I do know is that these guys make me straight up happy, and on this journey, having something to look forward to after each chemo session has made such a difference.  Whether it has been a family birthday party, dinner with friends, fireworks at my in-laws’, or a trivia night with my best friends, it’s what I look forward to when I’m not feeling so hot and, honestly, feeling a little left out of the world.  And let’s face it, in the last year, my husband and I have brought another new life into this house (cue the Lion King music) AND are fighting this crazy cancer battle together.  We could use a little refresh (with Taylor Hanson on my other arm, of course).

So here’s what I have been dreaming about.  It’s five days and four nights worth of sun and ocean and Hanson performing at night.  I want it bad, you guys.  Picture me smiling through the rest of my chemo.  Picture me throwing wigs in the air and flashing prosthetic boobs and chest bumping my husband.  I need this.

So I’m not really sure how to make this thing happen so let’s just try to get this thing into the hands of my boys.  Or any of your ideas are welcome!

https://twitter.com/hansonmusic

www.facebook.com/hansonmusic  <—I can’t figure out how to post something to their page though.

Share the crap out of it.  On your page.  On their page.  Everywhere!  It would seriously make my day.  Get your dogsitter’s aunt’s best friend’s mailman to share it.  Get your first grade teacher and your favorite barista to share it.  I think I’ll going to go ask my grandpa to open a twitter account so he can share it.  Let’s just somehow make this happen because, in my book, cancer sucks and Hanson is awesome.

Ladies first.

 

Do you remember being, like, twelve and just willing your boobs to grow, grow, GROW?  Or if you’re a guy, maybe you willed every girl in your sixth grade class’ boobs to grow.  Do guys do that?  Maybe you just wanted hair on your chest?  IDK.  I just know that, after years of watching my beautiful mother, and by the time middle school rolled around, I wanted my very own boobs and now!  (I wonder if people are searching naughty things and finding this well-intentioned blog because of such frequent boob talk.  Hey there, pervs, and sorry to disappoint.)  Anyway, it takes time – puberty and such.

Well, you guys, Christmas came early, AND I defied the laws of puberty.  My boobs are in.  BAM!  Just like that.  All I had to do was drive to the Galleria and pick them up.  (Twelve year old me is reeling.)  It is the ultimate in bra stuffing, and I love having them back more than I thought I would.  Plus, now Josh can get to second base again, and I don’t even have to be in the same room.

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They don’t look exactly like mine did.  I got confused and thought that I was getting two pair of prosthetics so I went into the fitting with the plan of getting a “church pair” and a “going out pair.”  You know, so they could fit my mood and situation.  But alas, I only got the one pair.  After briefly thinking about going bigger, I decided to stick with my size.  When the fitters asked me what size I previously wore, I told them a 34B.  After much measuring and (shirtless) discussion, they told me that I had been wearing the wrong bra size and that I had been a 32D.

First of all, I assured them that I was not a D cup, but secondly, how could you know that without my boobs being here?  They assured me that so many people are wearing the wrong size.  So I went with it.

These falsies are a tad bigger and wider (or more spread out?) on my chest, so yeah, I don’t think I was a 32D.  Ah well, I think I got a little too braggy to my husband anyway, and more than once, I wished that my mom had been here to laugh about the possibility of either of us being a D cup.

Boob placement is hard, yo.
Boob placement is hard, yo.

On a more serious note, I had a lot of good reasons (for me) that I decided against reconstruction, but my life was harder/sadder (I’m not really sure of the right word here.) without, at least, prosthetics.  I definitely felt like a nine year old boy in my clothes.  Plus, I wasn’t aware that boobs balance out even the tiniest pooch bellies until I didn’t have any.  So I started to wear my husband’s tee shirts more and more, and well, I didn’t want to see where this slippery slope was headed.  I did start to notice a decline in general niceties thrown my way.  Things that, for my entire life, I have just taken for granted.  You know, things like opening doors, hellos, big smiles, letting me cut in in traffic, eye contact and such.  And it was ALL about having boobs (and natural hair helps too).  Boobs = power.  Let me tell you how I know.

My husband and I went to the mall to pick up my girly parts, and as I had developed a small bond with the girl who fitted me (re: I cried within ten minutes of meeting her), I asked her if I could “wear them out” — like they were new shoes and I wanted to stroll the mall in them.  She obliged, and I did.  Lunchtime Josh, then, had to restrain me from entering Sephora and pull me out of Lush, and we made our way to the food court.  Josh was very hungry so he was a few steps ahead of me and made his way to the free samples guy first.  He got his sample, and then the guy spotted me as I made my way over to his delicious tray of bite sized sandwiches.

“Oh, hey!” he said and looks to Josh and back to me.  “Ladies first.  Girl, you can have two to make up for it.”  Huge grin.

Now, on a normal pre-cancer day, I would just smile back, take my extra free sample, and be on my way.  People are nice.

But no one (that I don’t know) had been this nice to me in months!  It was such a weird feeling.  I got my boobs back, and ten minutes later, I’m a worthy person again.  People are looking me in the eye and saying, “Giiiirl.”  I wanted to just say, “Men!” and be done with it, but I know it goes deeper than that.  It’s kind of rocking my world.  In a good way.  So yeah, in its simplest form, boobs = power.

Also, Katie (from the fittings) helped me to find a swimsuit that would accommodate my stuffies, and I’m excited to get back in the pool with the girls.  I was not, however, excited to swimsuit shop with so many mirrors around and a stage-like pedestal centered among them.  I would show you the cute coral colored one-piece that we picked out, but my thighs are begging me not to.  It has been a hard four years on my body.  Three pregnancies, two births, two surgeries, two surgical procedures, and chemo.  Yikes.  Before Penny, I hadn’t stayed a night in the hospital since I was born.

Aaaand to the gym I have been going.  Between the cancer and the mirrors, I finally found the motivation, and I keep having the same thought.  What took me so long?  Daily babysitting for $50 a month!  Sign. Me Up.  And why didn’t you other mothers tell me about the miracle that is gym provided childcare?  Unless you didn’t know.  I have been working out, but if I wanted to, I could just go there and shower in peace for once!  I could drop my kids off, sit in the lobby, and watch Big Brother while eating Cheetos if I wanted to.  I’ve even figured out a way to have a date night with Josh at the gym.  We could take a walk together (on side by side treadmills), hit up the vending machines, watch a movie in the lobby…hey, they even have a hot tub.  We are set.  Any girlfriends want to meet up for a coffee date and actually swap fun stories sans all the interruptions and bathroom breaks?  I’ve got the perfect place.  I’ll even wear my boobs.

The Bald and the Beautiful.

Ladies, you know what’s better than taking your bra off at the end of a long day?  Taking your wig off the moment you walk through the door.

I’m just going to let that be a paragraph all on its own.  I’m not sure what else to say about it because I know you’re feeling me, right?  Instead, I’ll tell you a little story of hair loss.  (Oh yes, get excited!)  Actually, it’s a pretty short story.  It goes like this.  Chemo started making me lose my hair.  It happened gradually but steadily until, one day, I decided to take a shower.  I knew that I was losing a lot of my, at that point, very short hair when I had to clean the drain four times just to get water through.  It wasn’t until I stepped out of the shower and saw my poor (loving, ridiculous, empathetic, mouth agaping, maybe should be working on his poker face–I’m not really sure what you want here) husband that I realized it was time.  I foolishly looked into the mirror.  Uhh yeah, it’s time.

“No big deal,” I said to myself.  “I’ve known this day was coming for almost three months.”

So I casually texted my hairstylist aka Aunt Toni and set a time to shave it the next morning at her shop.  “I got this.”

Except I didn’t got this.

I put on a hat, and I’m going to say that I was “pretty cranky” for a few hours until I called my aunt at 8 o’clock in tears asking her to come over asap, stat, right now! to shave it.  Of course, she did.  We even let Penny in on the action.  I wish I could say it was to make it less traumatic for her, but the truth is that it was because she was awake, there, and thought it would be fun. (Please excuse the mess that is my house.  Ain’t nobody got time to clean right now.)

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There you have it.  Until the next night, when my other cousin, Michelle (we have a talented hair family), came over and razored it because my head looked a little more like a globe with continents of hair, and I didn’t want Christopher Columbus discovering anything on my head.  IDK, just go with it.

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Things I’ve learned thus far about being bald:

It is a cold world out there, and I have to wear a hat at night.

Showers only really take three minutes.

It’s super fun to sneak up on your husband and pretend to be Gollum, precious!

People really do want to touch a bald head, but it feels just as awkward as it did when they rubbed my pregnant belly a year ago.

People really do look at you like you have cancer now.  (<—which is blowing my mind because, theoretically, the cancer was removed with surgery.  When I really did have cancer, I didn’t know it and looked just as healthy as the next guy.)

My husband reported that everything I say sounds/looks just a little meaner.

My kids don’t care one bit.

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As hard as this is to go through with two very little girls, my daughters continually put things into perspective for me.  They really, really didn’t and don’t care.  I thought it would take some adjusting to, especially for Alice, but it just didn’t.  She looked at my bald head for two seconds, and then locked into my eyes like she could see into my soul.  That sounds super dramatic, I know, and my brother, Paul, is probably shaking his head at the screen right about now and my other brother, Josh, is totally feeling me.  Still, I felt like no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, she and I were meant to be together.  And she knew it.  Penny too.  She just doesn’t care.

On a lighter note, here are some things that I am playing around with.  I’m not so sure about the scarves.  They kind of scream “sick” to me (and apparently, I can’t even look at the camera in one).  I think my favorite look is the pink wig, and I’m thinking about getting a blue or teal one.  And I’m definitely on the hunt for some cute beanie caps.  Also, so sorry for the awkwardness on display.  I think I am just over the age limit for feeling comfortable taking a bajillion (or even four) selfies on the daily.

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Girl Talk.

Chemo #2 is in the bag, and I have been weird.  Like, crying all the time weird.  Sometimes with reason.  Sometimes without.  At first, I thought I was just really emotional because I’m bald now.  (Yeah, that happened.)  But then, I was just weepy, and I am not a weepy girl.  My three-year-old kept trying to cheer me up when she would catch me crying, which always worked but made me feel like I wasn’t doing my job.  You guys, it has been a barrel of fun around here.  Just ask my husband.  I’ve been a peach.  Anyway, then I realized something–and please avert your eyes if you don’t like “girl talk”–I think I’m going through chemotherapy induced menopause.  Gasp!  The change!  At the ripe old age of 32.  Fantastic.  So if you see me maniacally fanning myself  at the park or barely able to hold myself together at church, be kind, friends.  In a decade or two, this will be you.

Enough of that nonsense!  Round two went much smoother than round one due to the fact that I knew what to expect.  There was the little hiccup during my pre-chemo left armpit ultrasound where the doctor asked me if I was “all finished breastfeeding.”

“I see that you were nursing when you found the lump.”

“Yeah.”

“How old is your baby?”

“She’s eleven months.”

“Oh, okay.  So are you all finished breastfeeding then?”

Umm…what?!  You are a doctor, right?  Yeah, I’d say I’m “all finished.”  I mean unless there’s a way to do it without breasts.  Or did they send them home with my daughter after they were removed?  Does she have them in her closet in some kind of cooler system that I’m not aware of?  Or maybe you think I’m still trying?  Yeah, I mean, I have been.  We’ve been having a hard time with the latch lately though.  It’s just not going well.

I did not actually have those thoughts until later.  As I said, I’ve been weepy.  At the time, I just muttered a meek, “Yeah,” and avoided eye contact.

She did the ultrasound, and I kept thinking about how many ultrasounds I had with Penny and Alice.  Even though they were because I was high risk, I loved watching my babies on the screen.  Now, I didn’t dare look at the screen.  I was worried those images would move me from a stage 1 to a stage 3 just by existing.  They didn’t.

The doctor finished up, caught her mistake, apologized, gave me the all clear, and left the room.  And I cried for the good news.  I’m telling you, I’m a mess.  I’m currently avoiding all Sarah McLachlan commercials, handwritten notes, pictures of my babies when they were newborns, pictures of your babies when they were newborns, the little puppy on the toilet paper package, and songs that remind me of a middle school dance.  I think, instead, I will fill my life with WWE, Chris Farley movies, going to the shooting range, PBRs with grandpa, and video games.  I will NOT watch My Girl on Netflix again.  Big mistake.  BIG mistake.

It has been just over a week since my treatment so I’m on the upswing, and I can say that I am one third of the way done!  This time was much like the last (no fun) except that I’m now bald.  I’ll get to that next time.  I’ve been trying out different head covering situations for when I go out.  I have a hat, some scarves, and two wigs–one of which is pink, at Penny’s request.  So I’ll leave you with a picture of her modeling it because it actually is my favorite…and she’s, like, the cutest cutie ever.  Great, now I’m crying again.  Just kidding.

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Pixies and thermometers.

Hair, hair everywhere!  I mean, I still have it but it’s falling fast.  Like, if I was your lunch lady, you might want me to wear three hair nets OR just step away from your rectangle pizza and fruit medley altogether.  I did go ahead with the pixie cut because Alice kept pulling fistfuls from the left side while I fed her bottles.  I felt like that wasn’t a normal mother-daughter bonding type behavior so I had my awesome cousin chop it off.

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Aaaand I’m not a fan.  Rachael did excellent work, but I ultimately feel like I look a little more Daniel Radcliffe than Emma Watson if you know what I mean.  (If you don’t know what I mean, I might look like Harry Potter’s lesbian sister.)  It’s just not for me.  Maybe if I hadn’t felt forced to do it, I could be a little more accepting.  Let me tell you though, it is hard walking out into the world without my hair and boobs.  I didn’t realize how much of my femininity was wrapped up in them, but I don’t feel like myself.  Then add ten pounds. (Still eating to nurse a baby, stress, chemo steroids?)  Ugh.  It is definitely a lesson in vanity and pride, but the upside is that it’s forcing me to gain a better sense of self.

We did go to a fourth of July party at Josh’s parents house, and everyone was very nice about it.  I got a lot of compliments and such.  I just don’t know if I can trust them.  Haha.  I feel like I would dole the compliments out to me too.  Like who is going to tell the girl with cancer who was forced to cut her hair because it is falling out all over the place that her new haircut sucks?  Not me.  I’d be all, “Oh, it looks great!  You are just so cute with that cut.  It fits your face perfectly!  And those shoes!”  Insert huge smile and possible hug.  All the while, my mother-in-law was suspiciously quiet.  She cannot falsely praise and girlfriend keeps it real…but she knows I’m having a hard time.

More hair pics, you say?  This is what I did the night of the cut after the girls went to sleep.  Fun!  I kind of liked how moldy and fun my hair was.  At one point, Josh got freaked out because I slicked it back, and he said that I looked just like my dad.  A fine looking fellow.  I don’t know what my husband’s problem was.  Anyway, I have further thinned, and it’s not quite as fun to style these days. (Uhh, half a week later.)  On the plus side, lint rolling your head is super fun too.

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Well, it really has been a whole lot of hair woes lately.  For that, I owe you a funny story that I remembered a few days ago while taking my daughter’s temperature.  Besides, now that I have a blog, it is the perfect place to publicly humiliate the people that I love, right?

Last winter, Alice was sick so I took her temperature rectally and set the thermometer on the sink to be sanitized a few minutes later.  My husband, Josh, is a huge hypochondriac.  If someone is sick, so is he.  After my double mastectomy, the guy complained TO ME for a week straight about a burn on his arm that he got from work.  When we took Alice to the doctor last week, he had the doctor check him out too.  I think you can see where this is going.  He saw the thermometer on the sink and took his temperature orally.  I didn’t know he was doing it until he walked out of the bathroom.

“Well, I don’t have a fever.  Yet.”

“Uh, Josh, did you just use that thermometer on the sink?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

I barely got it out.  “It was just in Alice’s BUTT!”

I couldn’t breathe for the next five minutes.  I cry-laughed so hard.  I was literally ROFL.  Maybe you had to be there.  Maybe I have the sense of humor (and hair) of a thirteen-year-old boy.  All I know is that Josh didn’t think it was as funny as I did.