Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Touchstone

Early December 1979, two newlyweds were walking through a mall in Norfolk VA.  They stopped in a Hallmark store and saw a beautiful display of Christmas ornaments.  This couple had nothing when they married.  He was a 3rd Class Petty Officer in the Navy and she had graduated from high school earlier that Spring.  They had a small 4 ft Christmas Tree, purchased from Sears along with a box of "all in one decorations" that included a string  of lights, a dozen glass bulbs of blue, green, gold and red.  It was a nondescript little tree, but it was theirs.  It was standing at that Hallmark store that a thought filled their hearts.  "Let's buy an ornament for every year together."  So they looked over the selection and chose an ornament to place on the tree that would remind them of this Christmas for the rest of their lives.  It would become a yearly tradition.  

We were the young couple.  We made rules for the "family Christmas tree" that must be observed yearly.

It must have colored lights.  White lights can go on other trees...but our family tree of memories is only lit with colored lights.

There will be an angel on top our tree.  My maiden name is SHEPHERD.  The Angels told the Shepherd's about the birth of Christ.  Having an Angel on my tree reminds me of my family and humble beginnings.  The Star brought the rich, wise men to the manger.

Over the years, the family Christmas tree would become a Touchstone of memories.  To decorate our tree, is to hold 33 years of marriage in our hands, our good times and our bad times.  It is emotional.  Sometimes it is painful...I pick up the ornament from that year and tears fill my eyes.  I pick up another and a giggle escapes.

It is with pride that I share with friends what each ornament represented and why it's on the tree.

Christmas Tree 2012
1987 - Cardinals Won the World Series!   Actually they just made it to the World Series, but lost to the Twins in 7.  But need I say more?

1989 - The year we learned how much FUN it is to be Mr. & Mrs. Santa!
(Our Son's second Christmas)
1984 - A year where LOVE was ALL we had.
1986 - The year we lost our first baby in pregnancy two weeks before Christmas.  My heart full of pain, my husband wanted me
to know I was always his Sweetheart.
2009 - The year I got an Ipod.  I amused my husband by "be-bopping" to the Newsboys while riding the mower.

 1985 - The year we moved to Mayport Base Florida with a Christmas so warm we grilled steaks for dinner.
2010 - Another one of THOSE years.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer while mom was dying from it.  One ornament
is hers, and one is mine.  She died Dec. 17th that year.
2006 - The year Mr. Rosey won the title "Grill Master".
(Awarded by Yours Truly)

Ah THAT Christmas... 2000.  The ornament is supposed to be the "Angel of Hope".  To us, it is an
Angel of Grief.  This year my father and my beloved aunt Doris both died of cancers.  She on Dec. 22nd and he on Dec. 25th.

2009 - The Year Amy Dent sent me a Starbucks GC and we found we COULD drink coffee...with lots of flavored creamers!
And THIS year 2012...
...a daughter in law has joined our family.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pink Ribbons - Captain Chemo!

One of my young buddies wrote a comic strip for me.  Captain chemo goes to battle against the Lob Monster.  It lightened my heart as I walked into the Chemo room.

We met with Dr. Joe and it was kind of routine.  He just went over the side effects and what to expect these next three weeks.  Then he declared me healthy enough to have chemo.  Well yay me.

Faces have been altered to shield identities
 August 20, 2010

Welcome to the Chemo Clinic.

The clinic isn't sterile looking but with all the IV poles and such, it's obvious this isn't a normal waiting The chairs are a kind of vinyl, not comforting in the least.  It does recline but there's nothing homey about the room. The room is divided in two sides with three bays.  In each bay there's about 7 of these recliners.

I'm really anxious.  I'm ready to get on with this, but there is apprehension and the fear of the unknown.  How bad is going to get?  How much support am I really going to get.  How is my husband going to be able to handle his job, the house and whatever I throw at him or throw UP at him.  sigh

The nurse told me to find a seat.  I immediately chose the chair with the chocolate IV.  Lord knows I might need some chocolate to get me through this.  With more thought, the idea of chocolate kind of makes me feel ill.  Maybe I should have chose the IV pole with the Jack Daniels bottle.

More quickly than I'm ready, the nurse is there to access my new tender port.  I didn't use the Emla Cream as I'd considered.  I told the nurse to please use the "freezie spray when she accessed the port. She sprays and has me accessed before I even flinch. I LOVE that spray!! They have a bag of saline, and they start with the med Aloxi and the Dexamethasone.  The Dex is a steroid.  It is used to lessen my risk of allergic reaction to the chemo and to increase urine output.  I have already been peeing like a cow from the oral steroids I started yesterday.  I should be all pruney with my output.  The Aloxi is a medication I'm very happy for...it's a long acting anti-emetic.  It's supposed to work for 5 days.

The nurse brings over my chemo bags and confirms my name and date of birth.  She hangs the Cytoxin and the Taxotere.  And it's on.

4 hours later, it's over.  I've had to pee about a half dozen times, but haven't had any complications.  Oddly enough, I'm hungry and my love wants to take me to Cracker Barrel.  I have been warned by the nurses not to go crazy with food....I think I'll stick to Chicken & Dumplings.

 The Day After

Still feeling okay, but my face is BRIGHT red and HOT.  My husband keep asking how I feel.  I obviously have the classic steroid "butterfly" rash.

This photo is from my second chemo infusion.
Showing the "steroid" rash.

Sunday evening.
Something's happening.    I don't feel well, I'm aching all over.  I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Well THAT Didn't Work!

Occasionally I roll through the blogs of my many blogger friends and I get to feeling overwhelmed and vaguely like I failed at motherhood.  I read these glowing stories about their successes and how their "littles" jump to obey their mother's wishes.

Okay that might be overstating because I KNOW these moms have days they are left cockeyed and bald headed.  They just don't blog those days.  *evil grin*

Not saying either that my son was the wonder kid nor was he a terror of the block.  Actually I was quite impressed with our handiwork creating this beautiful, talented, creative and delightful little fellow.  He was just a normal boy and we had our usual go around about how his bedroom was kept.

He was a boy, need I say more?  The last time his room looked tidy, it looked like this....

We had frequent and intense meetings of will when it came to his bedroom.  Most of the time I both won and lost these meetings.  

He was quite comfortable with his bedroom - the Lego volcano.  

I was not.  

Every grown person knows the lethal capabilities of the those tiny cubes of foot torture.  Legomen watch fervently in the middle of the night from the obscure safety under the toddler's bed.  Believing they protected the little toddler people who loved them, from the frighteningly tall parent-like creatures, they willingly sacrificed themselves by hurtling their rigid selves under the bare foot of adults.  These same adults who then hop and contort around a child's bedroom alternating between the intense desire to curse and the abject fear of awaking little toddler people.

My son's bedroom was one such battle ground.  I did learn after a season that after tucking him into his blankets, to use my feet to sweep a path through volcano Legoland littered with bodies of Batman and Sonic creatures.  Despite these efforts, little toddler boy would crawl out of his bed in the middle of the night to stage additional battles, leaving his "peoples" dying in the middle of my pathway.  For the first 6 years of his life I learned to shuffle through life to save myself from foot-stomping podiatry agony.

I also share with you that the Little Man has supurb negotiation skills.  I would send him to his room to clean his room and he would counter with "how about I clean HALF my room."  *roll my eyes*

One of these early days, we had multiple confrontations about his room.  I had stood my ground and insisted that the Legomen be evicted from the bedroom carpet and resettled into their new home...the toybox.  However insistent I was, Little Man was equally frustrated with me.  He did not want to spend a lovely day, putting his "lovies" into a toybox when he had every intention of pulling them right back out.

Little Man had been saving his pennies, his birthday monies, any tokens give as an allowance.  His goal was saving for the newest Batman set.   I thought I might be able to barter upon his desire.

Sternly I informed him..."You must pick up that room!  If I have to do it instead, I will charge you TEN WHOLE dollars!"

There!  I thought.  That will teach him, he doesn't want let go of his piggy bank.  His little face fell and he slouched his way through the house toward his bedroom.  There was only a bit of a twinge of regret as I watched his bowed little frame.

It was a bit of a stunner when in only a few moments, standing at the kitchen sink I felt a tug at my shirt tail.  Looking down into the bright eyes of my progeny, his smile beaming as he held tight in his fist...a $10 bill.  "Here Momma, YOU clean my bedroom. I PAY you!"



That's not the outcome I intended.  
Yet, I am the one who offered this option.

I cleaned his room.
Outsmarted by a 4 year old.

The moral to my story...don't threaten an action, you aren't 100% certain you WANT to follow through.  And always follow through on your threat.  Consistency is the oxygen of family life.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pink Ribbons - The Night Before Chemo

Pink Ribbons is a feature series I have started that is posted every Thursday.  I am a Pink Ribbon Warrior, having gone through the chemo, surgery, radiation, the year of waiting and recently stage 2 reconstruction...which I find is really the first of many little surgeries.  I am at a place in my life where I am willing to open my journal from that time and share with you my anger, fears, challenges and pain of finding out you have cancer.   These are not current events.  This is me sharing with you from the other side of breast cancer.

August 19, 2010
I feel weird! Almost high tonight. We think it might be the steroid. It made KJ hungry...like "clean out the kitchen" kind of hungry. Literally opening cans of veggies and eating them from the can. The kitchen looked like a bear had broke in! Another friend got violent. I'm just chatting myself hoarse.  Honesty, I really don't know what being high on speed is like but I'm crazy like that.  I can't relax, I can't sit.  The only thing we can think of is the steroid.  I need to sleep to prepare for my first chemo tomorrow.

I feel strangely calm.  I'm just ready to get on with it and start the process of ridding myself of cancer.   No big anxiety about what's going to happen.  I do think the calmness is from prayer. The truck broke down on KJ this am...radiator blew. So I was scrambling to find someone with vehicle to borrow or who could take us. No one returned my call. I was this [ ] far from calling and postponing the first treatment. A friend loaned us her truck tonight for the week. So that worry got cleared up and resolved.

I will be having chemo. I think some of this euphoria might be relief. The transportation issue is resolved. Starting the chemo means I'm finally DOING something about this cancer to battle it.  I' not longer just "standing by."

This morning, KJ gave me a gift.  With losing my hair, eventually my breasts, I felt like I was losing that essential part of myself.  Not just my hair but I am losing the DIVA in me.  So Mr. Rosey presented me with "little Rosey" so I don't forget the essential spirit of who I am.

This was actually designed these for Women's Heart people. But K said when he saw the red dress and the hat with all the roses...he knew it was meant for me. It makes me smile every time.

Whew. Starting to feel tired. The anti-nausea meds make me sleepy but no hang overs the next day. I'm thinking I will be taking a little compazine tonight. :)

Danica:   whoa she's beautiful!  that kj is a keeper~ :) i am glad you are feeling calm~i will continue to pray as the lord brings you to mind rosey!  love you! sleep well tonight friend!

Checking in before I leave for the Cancer center.  I'm ready to go into Battle!

I had waaaaayyyyy to much tea yesterday. I enjoy ice tea but I think its also what is making me feel high, too much caffeine. I fell asleep sometime after 4 am this morning. I should be able to rest well this afternoon.

she is beautiful!  And it made me smile to think that is how much your KJ loves you and thinks of you.  We don't have to wonder if your peace comes from our prayers, we know that it does!  There are some pretty powerful prayer warriors on this BB and I'm pretty sure that when we life one of us in prayer in unison God turns His head and hears.  What time is your chemo today?  Also, if someone else can fill me in or Rosey if you get a chance, I think I missed the reason for the hysterectomy.  I remember you went to get checked but with being on vacation I think I missed an update for that.  We will be praying, praying, praying today (and beyond)  

Oh Rosey, she's beautiful. And it is you!!! KJ did good!!!

I was confused as to what you were having done first.  Why aren't you having surgery first?  I think I missed some posts.  :(

Prayers are with you all day today!  I love you my friend and I pray that your nerves are calm and peaceful.  Find a prayer or sentence that you can recite to help you if you get scared.  This is what I do when I'm having anxiety issues and it seems to help

Because we already know I have cancer in 2 lymph nodes, they are starting with chemo to attempt to stop any further spread and to shrink the current growths.  I am having a hysterectomy for now two reasons. My ovarian cancer risk is too high now to leave them in. I didn't want to give cancer anywhere to rest. And ovarian ca is too hard to detect and grows so fast.

I'm at risk for colon cancer too. But I can get yearly checks to keep an eye on that.  So far I have a clean colon.

The other reason for the hysterectomy I learned yesterday. My breast cancer is estrogen fed. So removing all sources of estrogen is more important. I also learned it is the easiest type of cancer to treat. Which is why my chemo is four treatments instead of 6 or more if it was the other kinds. I also have to lose about 50 lbs in belly fat. It's a big source of estrogen too.

Oh, yes, that figurine is definitely you! Here's a direct link to it: http://www.hamiltoncollection.com/products/905725_thomas-kinkade-figurine.html

I can understand why you'd need to have the hysterectomy, though I"m sorry that you have so much surgery in your future. 

Fighting Cancer is easier when you have some tools.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Loss of a Dream Child - Grieving Your Miscarriage

December 12, 1986

My husband had been away on a Navy ship when I discovered that after 3 years of medical treatments and 7 years of marriage - we were having a baby.  All the stupid drugs and charts and scheduled sex had achieved it's goal.

In my excitement for this long anticipated pregnancy I began to crochet a baby sweater, cap and bootie set.  As my fingers worked the needle and thread, my heart dreamed of what this child would look like.  Did we have a boy or a girl?   What color was their hair going to be?  What would their talents be?  Would the child have my temperament or Mr. Rosey's?   No reality yet to accept, but my heart was weaving my dream child.

I decided that telling him by letter was not a good thing, so I waited those weeks alone.  Savoring the knowledge that I now carried life.  I planned different ways of how to tell him, "Honey, we're having a baby!"

The ship was scheduled to return on December 13th but I looked up on the 12th to see Mr. Rosey coming through the front door.  I was astonished and thrilled.  I ran to him, threw my arms around his neck and proceeded to weep with joy.  All the planned ways of telling him flew out my mind.

My tears alarmed him, so I told him to sit down and I gave him the news.  He was exuberant and joyful.  We decided to go celebrate.  We shopped through the baby departments at the mall, then went to dinner.

It was during dinner, that I suddenly felt ill.  I was sick to my stomach.  I asked to go home immediately.  On the drive, I started cramping.  5 minutes later, I moved to go to the door and felt a very WRONG sensation.

I hurried to the bathroom and confirmed my worst fears.  I yelled my anguished denial, which brought Mr. Rosey immediately to the door.  A shaky call to the doctor said there was nothing that could be done to prevent this now.  It was happening.

I laid on our bed, as our dream child was violently pushed away.  I sobbed through the contractions, the pain and all the blood.  My loving husband cradled me in his arms and sang to me through the hours.  

Alabama - There's No Way

In time, the tiny body of our baby was delivered and we wept together as we put in the specimen jar to be taken to the clinic on Monday.  I felt like my life had ended with the loss of that tiny baby.  It was going to be a lousy Christmas.  

It was made harder by friends and church members who treated our loss like it was nothing to be grieved about.  "It's God's will." I was told.  "God's way of getting rid of a defective child."  "God loved your baby so much, he wanted them back."   Rather than allow my grief they damaged my view of God and His goodness.  

I learned through the experience.   It's okay that we don't know why these things happen.  Don't try to defend God.  The reason "why" is immaterial, even though it's the first question we ask.  Accepting the loss and moving on is impertinent.   Don't fall to the need to fill the awkward silence of their grief with platitudes and hurtful concepts.   Allow the family to grieve their loss of the dream child.  Let them feel their pain and be there to hug them.  Show them you love and care and hurt for them in tangible, loving ways.   I gave the sweater set I'd crocheted to friend who had a baby.  If I had another  child, I would crochet their own sweater set.

Another baby was conceived 6 months later, and this child grew strong.  He is a young man with a new wife.  His life infused mine with joy and I cannot consider for a second not having him in our lives.

But it has been 26 years and I still remember the pain of losing that baby. The mother never forgets. She remembers and gives honor while she continues to love those around her and thank the Father for His blessings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mothering Moments - Breathless

Through the years,  I have held many titles, daughter, niece, honey, sweetie, wife, florist, nurse, secretary, friend, teacher.  But the title that has given me the most pleasure has been the simple one called "Mom".

No other position has so confounded, perplexed, or confused me while at the same time infused me with joy, pride, and MUCH laughter.  Nothing else has made my heart sing while it wept.  Never have I thought myself capable of such love, and I have yet to find another challenge that has been so worth the effort.

A brand new person enters the family and changes the dynamic forever.  You find that you have stretched your heart to include the presence of another.  In those first years, you're absorbed with the details of life.  Is the baby dry, fed, warm?  Should they be trying to stand before they can sit?  Where did they learn to do this?  Will they ever learn to talk, walk, eat without the need to slip cover the entire dining room?

Is is said that being a mother is like having your heart walk outside of your body.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone
Nothing ever prepares you for that swift surge of maternal emotion that grips you so tightly you struggle to breathe.   Those moments so unexpected and precious that take our breath away, but they become etched into the photo album of our hearts.  The way their lips pursed in their sleep.  The way their heads smelled after their evening bath.  The morning she slept through the night for the first time.  That first smile, the quiet time snuggle or the toothless grin coated with the remnants of lunch.  The long walk into the first day of school, the year they starred in the school play, watching them offer kindness to another.  It comes at such a sudden rate of speed that you blink and startle at the impact as it slams through your heart.

I assure you that despite the length and exhaustion of those first years, like everyone in your life has said, they are over in a blink of an eye.  I cannot impress upon you how important it is to cherish each stage of your children's lives.  Seemingly overnight, you will find yourself looking back.  You now have memories of the last time they nursed, the last Binky (we called it Pacie), the last diaper, the last time they crawled into your lap for a snuggle, the last time they asked to sleep in your bed.  And you will wish you had paid more attention to that last moment.

It is all to easy to get caught up in the business of today and forget that the business of mothering is just for a season.  You will be a mother for the rest of your life, regardless of the path your children walk.  Along the way, there will be multiples of moments that will take your breath away.  Stop and savor each one.

Your job along the way will change, your position will not.

You are "Mom."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Next Surgical Step - Fat Graph Transfer

Hello to my Blogger Breast Buddies!

I interrupt this week's Pink Ribbons release for an current event.  At the release of this blog update, I am preparing for my next surgery.  Many people, me included believe that reconstruction is one surgery and BOOM! 

New Boobs!!!  

Trust me in this, most of society believes that as well.  I have been "encouraged" by multiples of strange women wishing me well on the great and "free" boob job I would get in exchange for breast cancer.  "You're soooo lucky" they tell me.  Ha!  I'd like to show them my luck!

I'm not familiar with the details of other forms of reconstruction.  I refer to my reconstruction with implants.  If you are familiar with my story, you know I have breast cancer.  In 2010, I went through chemo, and then had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.  That's its own story.  I had immediate reconstruction with tissue expanders that stayed in a LONG time due to radiation.

Last July (2012) I had the surgical exchange of the tissue expanders to the implants.  The initial result looks nothing like a breast, but more like a biscuit or pancake.  It is a LONG process for implants to drop and fluff and start resembling breasts.  It was around week 13 that I said, wow...there's been a long of change; I'm fitting in a bra like a normal boob.  For anyone going through implants, I recommend photographing yourself each week to see your progress.

Most people think the implant is the end and perhaps if you are fortunate, it would be.  But most people have to have some kind of "Revisions" to fix things that didn't go as supposed.  I was recently asked "So why are you having more surgery ANYWAY?"  It was rather hurtful to have it phrased to me that way, as if I should just be done with it.  I am having surgery because we do not have a successful result yet.  One side is tolerable...not wonderful but I'm satisfied with how it fits in a bra.  But the right radiated side has not done well.

In my case, radiation caused excessive scarring that distorted the skin so severely, the implant could not position itself properly in the muscle pocket. This has caused pain, immobility and generally made me miserable.  This motivated me to name the implants.  Glinda (the good) sits on the left side and Maxine (the cranky) is the radiated side.  Click the link to see a shot of my distorted breast implant. 

 Revealing Size and Contour Discrepancy

The skin is so scarred that essentially it feels like there's a strap across the implant holding it tight against the rib cage.  The implant is unable to drop and expand.  Because it is held against the ribs, it won't fit into the bra properly and requires padding to even out the contour.    You can see this effect by clicking this link 

Friday (the 7th) I will be undergoing fat graph transfer surgery to attempt recover that skin with new stem cells harvested from my personal "fat farm" I have been cultivating around my middle.  The hoped for outcome is that injecting the harvested fat and stem cells will stimulate new fat growth with new SKIN cells to even out the contour and replace the damaged skin.  I am already aware it may take several of these surgeries generally more than 3 months apart to repair this kind of damage.

I have included a video of the surgery.  It is live surgery; please avoid it if you are unable to tolerate watching surgical procedures.

The actual transfer building and repairing the breast implant and skin repair in this second video.  

Again same warning as the previous.

This is the next step in breast reconstruction.  Just another page in the long process that I have begun to realize doesn't really end.  You just move from one process to another.

But it is another surgery.  I plan to strut into the clinic with my hospital gown and my pink Boa!  I'm not exactly looking forward to recovering from the liposuction part of this.  I have a wonderful husband who plans to pamper me through the weekend.  I expect to recover quickly from the few hundred punctures with those garden hose sized needles, along with the small incisions.  But I would appreciate your prayers for an uneventful recovery.  

Next week, I'll be back to the Pink Ribbons talking about the night before that first Chemo infusion.

Addendum - I am doing these fat graph revisions because the radiation damage is severe enough that my only other recourse is to undergo a completely different reconstruction.  The remaining option for me involves serious flap transfer surgeries that scare me a bit.  So I'm trying these lesser surgeries first and praying for good responses.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Family Baking Day 2012

2010 Family Baking Day (The First One)

This is the last photo I have of mom.  This was Dec  4th and if you look closely you can see the shadows of eternity in her eyes.  She left us to twirl on streets of gold just 13 days after this photo was taken.  Now that I recall WHEN this photo was taken, I would dare say this was taken nearly the same HOUR she left us just 13 days later.

I was going through chemo and this photo was taken of ME just 2 days before I underwent the most massive surgical procedure of my life.  I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.  My bigger fear was that mom would pass away while I was undergoing my surgery

Mom survived until I saw her again...in fact she waited until the first day I was recovered enough to make the ride out to see her...11 days after my surgery.  I got to sweep her into my arms...gently for both of our accounts.  She breathed my name.  She died that night while we were preparing dinner.

Family Baking Day came at my mom's request.  Death was not sneaking upon her unaware.  She knew the specter was stalking her.  Earlier that year she had me organize her Christmas decorations and divide them among my sisters.  My sister Becky could not stand the barrenness of the home, between she and other sisters they decorated mom's home in holiday fashion.  Mom had but one request.

"Do you think all you girls could gather in the kitchen and bake?  I would love it to smell and sound like Christmas."  We made sure everyone gathered.

In many ways for us that year, this day turned out to BE Christmas.  We teased and laughed, cried and hugged.  The house filled and swelled with scents of cinnamon, peppermint, chocolate and sugar.  The windows rattled with soft whispers of love and loud shouts of laughter.  The house was overly warm already because mom's body couldn't produce heat.  She was chilled.  I moved from a wig and hat to a hat, and finally to a plain pink scarf.   It was a lovely day.

Then I said good bye to my mother.  I never expected to see her again this side of eternity.  I dragged out the good bye until it was simply necessary.  I held back my sobs while I hugged and held my mother that time.  One look at my face and each of my three sisters lost it.  They were already teary.  But they knew my fears and what was in my heart.  I raised my head to see them hanging on to each other and shaking in their own grief.  They knew I was saying goodbye.

It had been a lovely day, but it was a lousy trip home.

Mom passed away on Dec. 17, 2010.  If they celebrate Christ's birth in Heaven, she was at the biggest party of her life.

We decided to make Family Baking Day, a tradition.

Family Baking Day 2011

Family Baking Day 2012

We teased, giggle, chortled and guffawed   We shared stories, memories and tears.  We listened to songs we remembered from our childhood.  We sweat from hot flashes spurred on by multiple ovens.  We took turns running to a bathroom to empty bladders weakened by laughter.  At one point, we stopped to imagine my mom, their mom, (both had died in December) watching our antics from Heaven.  We would see them pointing, laughing until their bladders weakened, and elbowing each other as they watched us.  We could see them suddenly turn to each other and exclaim.."Why didn't we do this while we were ALIVE!"

Over 300 cookies were baked, divided and sent home with each group.  It will be a week before we crash from the sugar high.

Here's to Family Baking Day...the sharing of memories and the making of new ones.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Wonder

Five Minute Friday

Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. Today the prompt is Wonder.


This time of year is difficult for me as it holds so many painful memories.  Deaths, devastating surgeries, tragedies...all have piled onto the month of December over the years of my marriage.  I saw the prompt for today's 5 Minute Friday and thought...oh joy.  More pressure to perform as immediate the concept...the WONDER of Christmas filled my mind.  I shook it away.  It hurts to think about it.

Today I'm preparing cookie batter for a Family Baking day.  My sisters will join together tomorrow in one of their churches (multiple ovens) and we will spend the day, baking.  We will also spend the day laughing and complaining about the need for poise pads now we've all born our children and looking the number 50 square in the face.

This morning, to help my mind prepare for this cookie extravaganza, I put on Spotify...the internet based, listener selected radio.  Young Miss Jackie Evancho began to sing O Come All Ye Faithful.  The pure tone of her voice drew me away from the kitchen like nectar draws a bee.  I found myself standing in front of my computer, which was silly as there's no graphics to the station.  But I closed my eyes and let her voice sweep over me.  Lifting me from the clutter of my family room into the throne room of God.  

Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

My hearts pounds, the gooseflesh rises on my arms and a tiny seed sprouts within me.  Wonder.

This month holds many memories of pain and I feel so UNCHRISTIAN to tell you how much I have come to dislike having to celebration of the birth of Christ in THIS month.  I want to feel something inside, something that I can celebrate.

The Wonder.  As her clear, uncomplicated tone sweeps over me, I am reminded that one day I will stand with others...and our voices will raise in celebration to our Father and to our Savior.  I will shed the pain of earth and life and be filled with wonder to stand before them and lift my voice with all who have gone before me. My voice will rise with the same beauty of Jackie, Patti, Charlotte, or Susan.

And this my dearheart, is a balm to this hurting heart.  


This week this little bit showed up on my facebook wall.  I love flash mobs anyway but this one brought tears to my eyes as they included a special guest who appears about 4.26.  There is a young man who responds at 4:41 in such a way that caught a sob in my throat.  I share this with you...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pink Ribbons ~ Discussing the "Girls"

Pink Ribbons is a feature series I have started that is posted every Thursday.  I am a Pink Ribbon Warrior, having gone through the chemo, surgery, radiation, the year of waiting and recently stage 2 reconstruction...which I find is really the first of many little surgeries.  I am at a place in my life where I am willing to open my journal from that time and share with you my anger, fears, challenges and pain of finding out you have cancer.   These are not current events.  This is me sharing with you from the other side of breast cancer.

August 2010

Well, we bought a recliner. I spent more than I thought was necessary but Mr. R was persistent. This puppy is soft and it is a Cadillac model as well. I mean it has massage and heat as well as a mini cooler. Okay the cooler is basically an insulated well with these ridged chillers. You freeze those and slip them in the well along with my protein shakes and the only reason to get out of it will be to use the toilet.

I balked a little at the price. But Mr. R is aware of my fears about bone pain. He sold me with "consider how that heat and massage will feel if your bones are hurting." And it was something to consider. K told me that I needed some comforts as well as a plain recliner. So it will arrive Friday morning before I leave for the chemo appointment.

It was bittersweet buying the recliner. I mean the salesmen wanted me to be excited. But it was hard when you are buying a recliner because the chemo center tells you a recliner works best for people coping with chemo.  I wasn't just buying a recliner for the world series. I'm getting this to help me recover through chemo and a half dozen horrendous scary surgeries. I'm glad to know I will be in the lap of comfort but I couldn't muster up the will to do a cartwheel for the sales crew. I finally told them I was getting this to help me recover and they quieted down about all the "Aren't you excited? My husband hasn't bought ME a recliner!"

My shoulder is in spasms again. There must also be a nerve very close to the port. With arm movement I get a zinger that moves from the port area down across the shoulder. I was ready to come home and rest again. I still feel like a wienie.

Got a letter from the insurance company. They graciously agreed to pay for the big expensive injections I'm getting. One to prevent nausea....that's $400 but they apparently cover at 100% under major medical. The other...the Neulasta is the bone marrow medicine that is supposed to cause the bone pain - its $1500 at retail. But apparently it too will be covered as major medical.  Thank the Lord for Insurance.

The nutrition stuff with chemo is a little overwhelming. They over stress the importance of protecting yourself from infection. I can't eat at buffets or salad bars. Where I might be able to fight a little bug from unwashed salad pieces or the tomatoes that didn't get washed well, on chemo I can't. So I have to buy processed salads not fresh deli. They suggest no deli at all in fact.

Eating out isn't even easy. I mean the guidelines say to insist that hot food is hot and cold is icy. No medium rare meats, no mayo or dairy based foods. This is gonna stink! I had another word in mind but in diffidence to those of you who don't like crude words...I'm avoiding it. But boy I'm thinking it. Something about this experience is bringing out the potty mouth in me.

Although I still feel modest. They said they will spray the port area down with a freeze spray and I'm thinking...they don't expect me to expose the girls do they? I mean yes... I am getting rid of them and building new ones but for right now...they are still mine.

I was reading a user manual on breasts and found interesting stuff.

The author hates self breast exams as promoted by breast cancer advocates. She says....it's a "fear promoting hunt for cancer" that every woman who does one, does it in self loathing. Instead, she believes women from puberty on should be taught simply to know their own set of breasts. It's okay to touch them without "hunting for cancer" and feeling sick that you might find something. I know I was that way...doing the exam almost haphazardly hoping I would find nothing.

The whole self exam was created by a doctor a couple centuries ago because women were taught it was "nasty" to touch down there...and "down there" meant anything under the chin. So they would finally go to a doctor so riddled with cancer they couldn't ignore it anymore. The doctor came up with the self exam as a way to satisfy the puritanical need to avoid sexuality by making it only a medical exam. It's okay to touch your breasts this way because it's medical....not sexual.

So she believes that our daughters should be taught to examine their breasts...not to look for cancer. From puberty they should be taught to understand what was normal for their breasts.  Then knowing what was normal they can identify changes that don't necessarily mean cancer....but that something changed and  it needs to get checked out.

It wouldn't make a difference to me. Although it does frustrate me that so much emphasis is placed on breast LUMPS. 20% of us have a cancer that doesn't grow lumps. I DO think its interesting that in the early spring or so that I noted to KJ that I wasn't aware my right breast was hanging so much lower than the left. Had it always been that way? He didn't know. Now I find out there's cancer in that one and I can't help but wonder....was that realization a recognition that something had changed?  But I did not know this change in appearance was a sign of lobular cancer.

So what do you plan to teach your daughters about their breasts?

Meeshia:   I am being honest here (don't throw anything at me), but I very rarely have ever done a breast exam.  I guess it is because no one in my family has had breast cancer (lots of other cancers) but not BC.  So, I do it whenever I remember.  So maybe this will be a good time for all of us girls in my house to take some time to really get to know their bodies.

Rosey:  According to my book 70 - 82% of breast cancer diagnoses are those with no family history. It's truly sporadic as to who gets it and when. The other group of women know they are at risk and look for signs. Thus they are more likely to find them earlier than someone like yourself, who mistakenly believes they aren't at a high risk to develop cancer.

My only question for those like yourself or other moms with young daughters, would be how to explain what is a "normal breast". I couldn't recommend this book...Dr. Susan Love Breast book. Mainly because while it does talk of what is normal the majority of the book is about the abnormal. Which as a teenager it would have been ripe data for an overactive mind. I would have read ahead and scared myself. But not all girls would have been as bad as I am.

I've never done an "official" self exam because my breasts are lumpy and it freaks me out. HOWEVER, I do know what is normal for me and what is not.  The left one has always been bigger, etc etc. I do believe I'd know if something was "off". I got to know the girls very well while nursing. I had a lot of infections and plugged ducts and was feeling up myself a lot back then   My ob/gyn actually advocates what you do~knowing your breasts enough to know if something is wrong, but not necessarily doing an official "exam".

I don't know how I would teach a dd how to "know her breasts". Mine have always been nobby and when you press in on the tissue you feel all those nobs and bumps.

Did you know once a woman has breast fed a child she is capable of producing milk at any other point in her life? Once we have breast fed we continue to have circulating prolactin. If you squeeze or suckle the nipple, we release oxytocin which will increase the prolactin production. If you increase it enough you can continue to lactate for years. I knew that but don't think I realized it was so easy. Dang, I could have put K to work.....make me lactate and use up those ice cream calories! bwa ha ha...wouldn't that startle our dh's!  Not to mention some companies out there pays good money for breast milk to sell for sick premies.  Or you can donate directly to a NICU after you are tested.

Abeybabymama:  That must be how they had wet nurses back in the olden times. That seems so odd now to think of someone else nursing your baby.