Monday, August 30, 2010

A welcome mini vaycay - Brenham TX

To put it mildly, my kids have had a shitty summer, a pretty shitty year for that matter with their stepmom fighting breast cancer, and their grandpa almost dying all right before my stuff.
But the summer is supposed to be fun right? We had plans to go on another road trip like last year's one to Atlanta. This time we were going to go to The Oz Museum in Wamego Kansas - we are Wizard of Oz fanatics.  The kids were also going to maybe to a camp or two, theater camp, horse riding, funnish stuff. Of course none of that happened.
The trip for obvious reasons. The camps for financial. They spent a majority of the summer at their dad's house. Which of course isn't terrible, but it's not me. They misssed me, they missed me on top of the worry & fear. They were so good.
They did have one thing to look forward to though - Camp Kessem - a FREE week long sleepaway camp for kids who's parents have cancer, they weren't into it at first but grew to excitement level - welllll that was cancelled 2 days before it was to start. I'm not going to to diss the program, i don't fully understand the red tape circumstances involved, and i hope they can go next year.  Then i'll write good stuff about it. but yeah, that sucked a lot, so much dissapointment, so unstable. so shitty.

But here's where i get to the good stuff, first, it really is good that they got to spend a week with me solid before school, AND it was the "good" feeling week in between chemos.

They needed that. So i decided to take advantage of feeling good (and still having hair so looking good) and take them on a mini trip. My parents encouraged this also, we all felt so sorry for them.
It needed to be close-ish, and not too hard for me, like amusement park, or big city maneuvering - we came up with Brenham Texas, home of Blue Bell Ice Cream!
Just under 2 hours away...check
Small town low key low $ entertainment....check
Reasonable hotels...check

We stayed at a Comfort Suites that the kids literally did cartweels in, cos they could, it was that big. Kitchenette, two rooms with a wall divider, mini sofa bed, 2 flat screen TVs, free breakfast with Texas shaped Waffles (is there any other state that can do that???)
I searched the internet and this is what we did over 3 days & 2 nights

The Jersey Barnyard
Also known as Frerichs Dairy, this is actually in nearby La Grange. Kids met Cisco the donkey, fed chickens, roosters, rabits & calves, went on a hayride & milked a cow. Family owned, unbelieveably nice people, we were the only ones there.
we called this chicken Bellina after Dorothy's pet in Wizard of Oz


Blue Bell Creameries
We went early for the first tour, saw the factory how the ice cream is made & packaged and you get free ice cream at the end!

Monastery of St. Clare Miniature Horse Farm
Miniature horses are cute. Kids love them. beautiful setting. happy kids

Chappell Hill Lavender Farm
This place was so gorgeous and the kids loved picking their own lavender. It was slim pickins due the Lavender festival being the weekend before but we found some

We ate at Must Be Heaven - which has an old timey ice cream parlour and walked around the cute old downtown, there's also a Starbucks & a bunch of other good & easy places to eat.

So really what this post is is about is a reminder that life does not stop, you can still do fun stuff while undergoing treatment (if you actually can physically, i know it's different for everyone)

AND take advantage of the times you feel good, between the chemos. Do something you want to do! 

PS. I also have been working while I feel good, showing houses, held an Open House, studying the MLS, blogging on  it helps me to feel real and more like ME.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

misplaced obsessions

sometimes it's easier to focus on other stuff than cancer & recovery & pain & surgeries & chemo - i call them missplaced obsessions

at first right after surgery it was ocd house clean stuff which if you know me is really odd. but because i was unable to do anything for myself, i was really stubborn at controlling how others put stuff away, washed dishes, every wayward paper or dish had to be picked up, tons of petty things like that. I hated it, and i purposefully made myself get over it, i really did appreciate all the help and wanted to ACT like i did. now my silverware is stored in a totally different order and i get a kick out of seing it every day -  the standard "let it go" lesson.

sometimes my focus is being perfect mom, i'm determined to start cooking family meals, scrapbook with my son, paint my daughter's nails, and that after this is over it's gonna be all different and better and i'm gonna start now.....and see?? i'm amazing, i can do all this and fight cancer, of course i know this is ridiculous  - the standard "i can't do it all" lesson combined with the standards "i am doing the best i can" lesson

currently my missplaced concern is weight gain. I know that is so trivial and not relevant in regards to my health. but i read constantly about how some people gain weight during chemo, i think about actually "dieting" during it, when a friend tells me how the steroids made them gain weight, i think to myself, "oh that won't be me"
everyone tells me not to think about it, focus on being healthy, but when i think about losing my hair, or the current size of my chest, i feel like dammit, i gotta look good somewhere.  it's like insult to injury.
and then i feel guilty for being so concerned with something so trivial. it's hard when i just don't look or feel like my normal self - the standard "i'm beautiful no matter what" (bleagghhhh) lesson and "just focus on my health" lesson

errrgg contsant struggle with my brain to balance gratitude, fear, bravery & exhaustion

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chemo Round 1

I am soooo due for an actual update!
Had my first chemo session August 10th - at Texas Oncology. i wasn't nervous, just more apprehensive and strangely looking forward to it, to get it going, and to have an excuse to sit for 4 hours and veg.
I was however nervous about them accessing my port for the first time - turns out it was hard for the first nurse to get a line, and it hurt a little, then another nurse came in and got it  right away, this was for blood draw initialy, then for the chemo IVs.

Then a chat with my lovely dear sweet oncologist, i adore him. then off to the infusion room. As i didn't go to the "chemo class" it was all kinda new to me, it was a bit more clinical than i thought, and seeing all the other patients sitting with IVs was a little sad.
My nurse explained how the scene was gonna go down, first this drip, then that drug, then this blah blah blah.

i really don't know why i look surprised - these chairs are superlazyboys, nice

My friend Kati took me and stayed with me the whole time, AND Jennifer came to visit for a while as she had a follow up appointment anyway.

me and kati

I took an ativan before going so i was really relaxed, i read mags, tweeted/texted/emailed on my bb, dozed, and chatted, it was really kinda nice.  I guess i'm lucky that the drugs i get do not effect me as they go in, so all in all it was a pleasant experience - weird huh...

I blame the ativan and vicodin for this pic
so.... side effects: I didn't start feeling bad till the third day - and i can only describe it as like a bad hangover maybe, just generaly feeling like crap, heavy, zero appetite, tired, draggy. then for a couple of days i felt ok in the day to work showing houses a bit, but the evening, i would get bad stomach pain and bone aches, so much so that i had to get in bed and take something for the pain. Pair this with the fact that i had my kids back, AND their free camp for kids who's parents have cancer was cancelled. But they were good, sweet, and let me rest. There were moments where i felt so down that i was scared and angry and sad that i had to feel this way because of a stupid disease and an evil drug that i need. And i felt dread at the thought of the other sessions. I know they are supposed to get worse each time. and i won't have hair next time

THEN after a week, i felt great, super good energy, NORMAL :)  so much that i took my poor kids on a mini trip (blog post later)
Ok - so that's round 1, i hope round 2 on August 31st is the same, i can handle that.....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

hair - redux

yeah, today i feel the first signs of the hair falling out - i'm on the verge of tears constantly, even though of course i was expecting this, and i was even expecting to feel this way, i still feel unprepared to cope.

I have scarves galore, i have an appointment with the American Cancer Society for my 2 free wigs, i have confidence somewhere inside me, but i still want to cry, and i still don't want it to happen.

i also have a beautiful silk pillow case that my friend Christina from My Soul to Keep gave me, supposed to be good for all this

PS did you know the Amercian Cancer Society will give cancer patients 2 free wigs with a fitting and everything? AND they also offer Look Good, Feel Better program which includs a free makeup kit, to help with makeup & stuff durinig treatemt? Look it up, it's awesome


I cut my hair super short in prep for chemo hair loss....i LOVE it, now i'm even more bummed it's gonna fall out as i wanna rock this do for a while, but then if it hadn't been for impending chemo, i would not have had the guts to cut it.
Thanks to the artistry of Elizabeth Giddens for the sexy do

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Scarf Party

Inspired by  the hotness of my friend who wore sassy scarves when she lost her hair, my friends and i decided to have a scarf party!
the idea being to bring a scarf for me to use, and then have fun trying them on, learning to tie them ect... you tube has some fun videos showing how..
well we didn't end up trying them on and playing, BUT i did amass more scarves than i can probably wear during my no hair time and we did have a blast, with bloody mary's, vegan cupcakes and other vegan goodies and of course the best thing, my girlfriends all around!

Here are some pics from the shindig:
my son sportin a hot look

words words words

I really do believe that the words you say to yourself, your inner tapes, are incredibly powerful. It's not a new mega insightful revelation, positive affirmations have always been touted for creating good things in one's life, negative self messages are well known to eat away and damage self estem and confidence.

So when i remember, i do try to think and talk positively about this cancer, you know, everyone says the positive attitude is what gets you's true i know i know, but i'm also realistic with myself and i cuss and cry and tell it all to fuck off now and then.

BUT the other day i had a super powerful experience around words, and changing them, and my attitude.
I was talking with a fellow warrior, she is further along than i and was talking about how even tho the Doc says it's fine, she feels worried & unconfortable laying on her stomach during yoga class.  I totally could relate and said  "well we've been through so much - i mean our chest area has been brutally..." and she seemlesly finished my sentance with "....mutilated"
Such strong and violent words, yet when we were talking they made me feel powerful, like yeah, heck yeah, that's what we'e been through, it sucks, it's hard, we're dealing. despite what's been done to us. power.

BUT a few minutes later i was doing some gentle yoga on my mat at home. I like to speak mantras to myself with my breath in passive poses, and i've been working alot with chest/heart opening poses, to physically counter the weeks of sitting on my couch and the effects of surgury, and to mentally open my heart to love & life. So as i stood in mountain, meditating, opening, the words came back to me, "brutally mutilated" and they just didn't feel right in my loving yoga practice.

SO i decided to reword it, change the experience. What came to me was "i was lovingly cared for and tended to by my doctors who worked on me with love and the desire to save my life and make me beautiful" (yeah, kinda long and not as impact-y as the original version)  - the result was more powerful. The feeling of gratitude overcame me.

it feels so much better to not feel like a VICTIM of all this - (even though it's still not fair)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I Race - Komen Austin newsletter

I wrote my story for the Komen Austin Race for the Cure newsletter and it was released August 2010 - you can see it on the website HERE  but i also copied it here - it was inspiring and emotional to write - i hope some of you will join my Komen team The Glitter Dropz

I race because of this huge, loving, inspiring club of fellow survivors!

In 2009, I participated in the Susan G. Komen Austin Race for the Cure to honor my children’s stepmother who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. Her diagnosis was shocking and felt tragic to us, driving home the concept that it can happen to anyone. It inspired me to get health insurance, which as a self- employed person is not the easiest thing to do. But at least I didn’t have cancer.

Six months later, I felt something in my breast and had a strange feeling. No, there was no way I could have breast cancer, not me! I also had breast pain, googled it, and self-diagnosed a hormonal cystic fibroid. Whew! Nevertheless, at 42 years old I had never had a mammogram, so I scheduled a regular check up and was sent for a mammogram.

After viewing the mammogram the doctor sent me for a biopsy that day! It was a Friday and I had to wait over the weekend for the results. I remember thinking that I didn’t want my life to change, but it did when the phone call came. Getting the call that I had breast cancer was a call I will never forget. It is impossible news. What about my kids, my plans, my breasts, my money, my happiness? What was going to happen to all of that?

I found that inside of us there is an amazing strength to do what we need to do when life throws us challenges. I told my family and friends, I made my appointments; I put on pretty clothes and makeup. I took action. Taking action is a powerful tool.

Due to various circumstances, what was originally planned as a lumpectomy became a bilateral mastectomy. I started chemotherapy on August 10th. I am amazed daily how happy I am. What originally felt like a tragedy has actually helped me be happier than I have ever been. The gifts I received since my diagnosis are immeasurable. Words from strangers on my blog, casual acquaintances offering help, reuniting with old friends I haven’t seen in a long time, phone calls from survivors I have never met, and of course the huge love and support from those close to me. Generosity is abundant and it makes me happy and strong, and I cannot wait to pass it on.

I thought I was a tough and strong, but now I KNOW I am tough and strong. Yet I have also learned to yield, ask for help and accept help. That has been my biggest lesson; strength does not mean that I have to do it all by myself.

Breast cancer sucks, and the frequency of its diagnosis is shocking. It’s physically and emotionally challenging, but in some odd way we are lucky. We are part of a huge, loving, and inspiring club. I am thrilled to be able to race at the 2010 Austin Race for the Cure, along with my fellow warriors, those that are survivors, and those that support us all.

Nanette Labastida
3 ½ month survivor

Friday, August 6, 2010

Highway 71 revisited...

this past thursday i attended my 7th Bob Dylan concert at the new Backyard....! My first was when i was 12. I'm 42.
I've talked Dylan in this blog before, and anyone who knows me well knows i'm a diehard fan. love him with a passion.
I bought tickets for this show, back when i knew i had breast cancer, but i had NO idea where i would be in the treatment of it. I just bought them and hoped.

my last post i updated that my final drains were finally removed, well since then i have steadily been feeling better & better, gaining strength and feeling more "me". I have started taking little walks in my neighborhood & doing some gentle yoga so by the time the Dylan show date came i felt like i was ready to handle it.
It was perfect.  We didn't park far, we got an excellent spacious spot with a great view of stage, and it was miraculously not too hot.

It was one of the best Dylan shows i've seen. He is sounding goooood, the band was amazing, the SOUND at the new Backyard was perfect, the setting ideal, the company loving, and i was there....i made it, and i felt good & happy throughout.

It feels special & right that my first post surgery night out was at Dylan, in the hill country with my best people. I am lucky.

Oh...and he played Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again...ohhh mamaaa