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Friday, October 17, 2014

Rain

The day my mom's results came back it was pouring rain.  I had even looked out the window that morning and become nervous because I was worried it was a bad omen.  It was going to be a sad day.  Of course, that's silly, because I've always loved a good rainy day.  So, after the good new, I had to think of a different way to look at the rain.  Rain makes the flowers grow.  It smells nice.  And then I found the thought I liked the best.  Rain cleans away the dust and the dirt.  I was going to look at this rainy day, not as a grey and dreary day, but rather a day that will wash away the past.  It's a rain that will allow everything to reset and restart.

It's amazing how much happier I've been in the past couple of days.  I'm not nearly as tired, and I'm far more motivated than I was.  To that extent, and in an effort to restart, I think it's time to organize the house.

As a wonderful birthday present, Mom decided to hire a professional organizer to come to our house.  We had our first meeting today, and I could not be happier with the service.  Kathy, the organizer, spent three hours with me going from room to room.  I told her things I loved and things I hated and things I just didn't know what to do with.  She told me different ideas for better storage and organization.  She came up with ideas to expand our kitchen space and ideas for better use of our laundry room.  Just figuring out those two rooms suddenly seemed to give me tons of ideas for other things I wasn't sure what to do with. 

I'm hoping that by having a more organized house, I can start to organize other aspects of my life.  I'm hoping that by having a great work station, I'll want to work more from home.  If I can have a nice, quiet space I may actually get work done.  And if work is getting done, then maybe I won't feel so overwhelmed.  And if I'm not so overwhelmed, maybe smaller projects will feel less intimidating.  And if I'm getting through smaller projects, maybe I'll have time for more fun things.  And If I'm doing more fun things, maybe I'll be a bit happier.  You can see where this is going.

So, after such a wonderful week, I'm ready for things to keep being wonderful.  I'm continuing to say that the rain was washing the bad away.  It's my fresh start, and I'm excited for it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The News

Mom had her CT scan yesterday.  This scan was going to tell us how chemo was affecting her cancer.  We wanted to be realistic about things, but we also wanted to stay positive.  So, our hope was simply that chemo had done its job and tumors were shrinking.  In my positive frame of mind, I expected to hear that everything was shrinking and chemo was going well.  In my more negative moments, I'd fear that chemo had had no affect and that tumors were still growing and the cancer had continued to metastasize.  This morning, we went to the doctor to hear the results. 

Meagan, the nurse practitioner entered the room.  She greeted us with a warm smile and said, "So the results from the scan are pretty fantastic."
"Fantastic on the scale of fantasticness," I said, "or just fantastic as in what we were hoping for?"
"No, they're pretty fantastic," She replied.

"If you remember, in July, you had three masses on your skull.  One large one on your left frontal lobe and two smaller ones in the back.  According to the scans, those are...gone."

My jaw dropped.  I looked at Mom and she looked back and smiled a huge smile.  Then we turned back to Meagan to hear more.

"You had a very large mass in your left lung and it was spreading to your lymph nodes.  In addition, you had many swollen lymph nodes.  According to the scans, that mass is gone and your lymph nodes are a normal size."

Mom and I sat slightly stunned.

"Your back had various spots and some compression fractures.  We did notice two new compression fractures, but that's probably because your spine was weakened by the tumors."

"So, what about the tumors?  Have they grown?"

"They're gone."

"Wait!  So, no tumors in her spine?  No dark masses?"

"Nope."

Another stunned moment.

"And then there was your liver.  In July, you had five masses in your liver."

Mom and I sat breathless, waiting to hear the bad news.  I was hoping Meagan would say there were only 2-3 left, but I was prepared to hear that they'd all grown.

"Of those five masses..."

My heart is racing and my hands are shaking.

"...none..."

None what?!  None have changed?!  None responded?!  What????

"...remain.  The liver is clear and appears to be of normal size and function."

I sat, completely silent and in awe.  I finally said, "I'm sorry.  I don't know what to say.  I'm in utter shock."

Then Mom asked the million dollar question, "So, is this considered remission?"

No, that can't possibly be.  It's only been three months.  That's more than I'd ever hoped for.  I waited for Meagan to respond.

"Yes. At this point, we would consider your cancer to be in complete remission.  Now, we just have to make sure it stays that way."

For the first time all morning, I could finally breathe.  Mom's doctor came in and we discussed plans for the future.  She'll continue with chemo so she has a full 6 rounds, and then we'll discuss prophylactic radiation.  She'll have scans every 3 months for I don't know how long, and we'll want to keep a close eye on things to make sure it doesn't come back.  Still, though, I can't believe how wonderful this news was.  Even the doctor was grinning from ear to ear.

So, this week so far has been amazing.  First, Monday was my birthday.  Woohoo!  Second, and also today, I was officially selected as one of the 40 people under 40 who continue to make a difference in the community (it's a pretty awesome honor, and the publication is very popular).  And lastly, this news.  I can't believe it.  I'm still in shock and disbelief.  This week, LIFE IS GOOD!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Motherhood: The Emotional Rollercoaster

I know a lot of mothers who will get angry at me for saying this.  I also know I'm very new to this game, and I'm probably being a bit cocky.  However, the first 4 months of motherhood really has not been hard.  Yes, Anna and I have had horrible days.  Yes, there was at least one week where I would have traded my arms if it meant I didn't have to carry her around any more.  However, for the most part I have a very easy child.

Anna sleeps through the night.  On average, she'll get 10 hours of sleep each night.  Even on the few nights where she's woken up, she's gone back to sleep easily.  Anna is a fairly stable, steady baby.  She's adorable when she smiles and laughs, and her cries break my heart, but for the most part she's pretty easy going.  She's often happy just sitting with me at my desk or riding around in a carrier on my chest.  Anna is growing stronger each day.  We had a huge moment yesterday where she rolled for the very first time, and she rolled 3 more times today.

In fact, if it weren't for Mom being sick, I'd say caring for Anna is almost easy.  Mom was supposed to care for Anna when I returned to work, so things have taken a bit more planning than anticipated, and I've stayed busy, but I can't really blame that on Anna.

But then there's the other side of things.  There's the side where I feel like my life has been taken away.  There's that side of me that just wants a break, that side that wants to go out for a hike by myself with the dogs.  There's the side of me that hates having to worry about a crying baby or pumping or planning around naps.

After much discussion, Hans and I decided to hire a mother's helper (like a nanny).  I am excited for the help.  I am excited to have a moment to myself.  I am...terrified.  What if Anna hates her?  Can I really trust her?  She has great references, but is she really good?  What if she hates us?  What if she's bored?  What if the whole thing ends up being more stressful?

So, as you can see, it's a bit of an up and down.  I love seeing all these moments of Anna's growth, but I'm exhausted.  Anna's not the most exhausting thing in my life, but I can't help but want a break from her.  I'm so grateful that Hans is so helpful when he's home, but I also can't help to occasionally get frustrated when he's not home or when he wants a break too.

Does anyone else feel this way?  So far, I feel like I only hear the extremes.  In fact, I tend to only hear from the mothers who aren't sleeping, whose babies are colicky or just fussy in general.  So, what about all the other mothers?  How are you feeling?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Confidence

Lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about things in my life.  Things I have done.  Things I haven't done.  And I've been thinking a lot about how confidence has affected those things. 

All my life, I have thought of myself as having very little confidence.  I've never known what to do or say in a party situation.  I've hated doing things on my own.  I always thought that I was lacking in some way, shape, or form.  I'd tell myself things like, "I'm not pretty enough to talk to them. They're not into the same things I am.  I'm not good enough to do that."  There's been a lot of "I can't" happening.  One of the things I keep reflecting on is how I didn't do a study abroad.  I can tell myself a lot of excuses, but really I was just too scared.  I was too scared to go without Hans.  I was too frightened that I wouldn't have any friends.  I simply couldn't imagine doing something on my own.

Over the past few years, though, that has changed. 

The first change came when I decided to go to dog training school.  I knew I could do it, because I wasn't actually alone.  I had Cody.  If I felt lonely or scared or out of place, I had Cody.  I was still extremely anti-social (I treasure my alone time), and I often felt like I didn't belong in the group, but I had Cody.  I could snuggle with Cody.  I could play with Cody.  I could take Cody for a walk.  I could practice training with Cody.  Somehow, Cody let me know I was on the right path.  That made starting a business in dog training seem somehow easy.

The next change came when I started running. I couldn't run with a group or at a time or place where others would see me.  I mean, I might look stupid and others might laugh.  However, I could take Cody out for some exercise 3 times a week, and I could join an online training plan (where my participation was completely optional), and I could set a low goal.

Somehow, those two things really helped to set things in motion.  Going to dog training school turned into running a successful business, which turned into opening a successful kennel.  Yes, there are times when I get nervous or I'm uncertain, but I know I'm doing OK.

Training for a 5k turned into training for a marathon, which turned into meeting some great running buddies.


And now I'm a mom.  You know, maybe it's because of my experience with the dogs, and maybe it's because I simply have such great support, but I've never been uncertain of my abilities as a mom.  I know my methods and my style and my choices might not be the same as other moms, but that doesn't seem to matter.  Somehow I know I'm OK.
 I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure if this post has a point.  I think I had one when I started, but not so much anymore.  I think I really just want everyone to know that not everything has come easily for me.  When I seem completely relaxed and confident, there's a good chance that my heart is racing and I'm in a mild panic.  Sometimes, many times, I'm just faking.

There is one other thing I noticed, though.  Cody has helped a lot.  Cody has been a bit of a life raft for me.  He has given me the strength and the courage to do things I never would have done on my own.  It's true that I've had tons of support from Hans and my family, but they couldn't always be right there with me.  Cody often was.  For that, I'm forever grateful.

There's probably a lot more I could say about all this.  I could probably type for hours, but it's hard to truly organize my thoughts on this.  It's hard to explain the anxiety I sometimes feel, and it's even harder to explain those few shining moments when I've overcome my anxiety and just done something.  Maybe someday I'll be able to eloquently express those emotions, but for now I can only say I'm grateful that things are a little different than they were a few years ago.  That's all I can ask for.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Visit To The Naturopath

When Mom was first diagnosed we decided that we would do and try almost anything to help her.  I started reading as much as possible, and I got Mom a lot of books that I thought might help as well.  I spoke with my chiropractor and my acupuncturist (two things we still need to start), and I started researching nutritionists.  I found a nutritionist, but then I also found someone else in the practice.  I found a naturopath.

There are apparently two types of people who call themselves naturopaths.  The first type studies natural medicine for about 6 weeks and calls themselves professionals.  The second type, the type we saw, is actually an M.D.  The doctor we saw had gone through 4 years of med school and residency and then went on to study natural medicine.  There are very few of those who exist, but I'm glad we found the one we did.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  I figured we'd chat a bit about nutrition and maybe go into some vitamins and odd concoctions.  I certainly did not expect all that we got.  I did not expect to discuss Mom's medical history since she was 11 months.  I did not expect to discuss my medical history or that of my maternal grandparents. I did not expect to discuss genetic tests and lab work, and I definitely did not expect to talk about traditional western medicine.

That, however, is exactly what we discussed.  We spent 2 1/2 hours discussing various illnesses in Mom's life, and how her immune system works.  We discussed how the way her body breaks down different compounds (a process called methylation) could affect her personality and the way she responds to different medicines.  We discussed different cancer markers and how that might tell us how she's responding to chemo.

One of my favorite moments came when, after talking a bit about how mom responds to different medications and alcohol, the naturopath said, "It sounds like you fit perfectly into this group of people.  I bet you're a very impatient person as well."  Mom said, "Not really," but I said, "Oh yes!"  It was perfect.

It was a great visit, and we have a follow up schedule in two weeks.  I can't wait!  I was so impressed with everything, and I truly believe that this, combined with chemo and other treatments, will truly help mom.  Here's to hoping!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Letter To My Daughter

My Dear Anna,

I can't believe you will be 15 weeks old tomorrow.  You have already grown so much.  It seems like just yesterday you were a tiny 6 lb 2 oz, yet you are now roughly 14 lb.  We have a doctor's appointment in a couple of weeks, and I'm terrified by what the scale will say.  How could you have grown so big so fast?

Life has not been fair to you so far.  What should be a fun, joyous time of us learning each other, has turned into a fairly hectic, somewhat stressed time overshadowed with illness.  You, my darling daughter, have been a trooper through it all.  While other babies only sleep for 40 minutes at a time, you sleep for a minimum of 7 hours each and every night.  You've had nights where your dad and I have had to keep you up late so we can accomplish tasks, yet you haven't complained.  You've had long days spent at the kennel with barking dogs all around you, yet you're generally quite happy about it.  Sure you've had your bad days, but what baby doesn't?  You're starting to teethe, and you sometimes have tummy troubles, but all in all you're wonderful.

My favorite times are those where you just want me, your Mommy.  Today was one of those days.  You just wanted to see me and be around me.  Daddy held you this morning, yet you cried until I was in your sight, talking to you.  Mary Beth, our groomer, held you this afternoon, and while she can usually make you smile and laugh, you cried until you were back in my arms.  I was greeted with giggles and snuggles, and they warmed my heart.

I want to apologize if I seem stressed.  I want to apologize for not being able to dedicate all my time to you.  I worry constantly that these stresses may affect you negatively in the long run.  I hate the days where I am so exhausted that all I can do is hand you off to your dad and say, "Take her.  I'm off duty."  It generally has little to do with you.  More often it's simply life that's leaving me so tired. 

Know that I have loved every moment with you.  Even the moments where you're screaming and I can't figure out why I tend to find humor in.  Even though for the first few weeks I was pretty sure you only knew me as Moo Cow.  Even though I've had exhausting days where it's all I can do to nurse and change you, I've loved every moment.  Thank you so much for being so wonderful.

Love,

Mom


Mom Update: Chemo Round 2

If you asked Mom about her experiences this round compared to last round, she'd tell you this round was much worse.  She'd say she's sicker and in more pain.  She'd tell you it's harder for her to catch her breath, and she seems more confused.  However, if you were to ask me or Hans, we'd have a far different story to tell.

Going into the first round of chemo was difficult.  She had that the week after her stint in the ER, and she had her port put in the day before chemo started.  She was easily confused, and her mental status was like that of a 4 year old (something which is usually a joke regarding my mom, but in this case was quite serious).  She cried due to the pain she was in, and I actually called her doctor, concerned that there was a leak in her port (there wasn't).  She begged to go back to the ER in the hopes they'd remove her port.  She felt a great deal of nausea, and while she never actually vomited she came awfully close.  And then, about a week after chemo, she started to feel better.

Suddenly, she was more of my mom.  What she said made sense.  The way she moved seemed easy (or at least easier).  She went out for lunch with guests and really seemed to do well.  We hit our first chemo speed bump (hair loss), but she seemed to take it in stride.  She got excited over some of the head wraps I got for her, and she just seemed to be happier.  Oh, and she was taking fewer pain meds.  Instead of the maximum dosage of Percoset, she started asking for very small doses of Tramadol.  These were all great signs.

And then we had to start chemo round 2.  Some things were the same as before.  She was beyond tired at the end of each day.  The excess fluids they gave her caused her to swell, and that caused some significant pain.  She definitely experienced nausea (this time with vomiting), but everything seemed to a lesser degree.  She never did need the highest dose of pain meds.  While she needed the nausea meds, she didn't have nearly as hard a time taking them, and she never stopped eating completely like she had before.  She could always stomach a smoothie or popsicle or something.

Now, she's almost back to her normal self.  She's eating regularly (and voraciously).  She's asking me to take short walks with her (great for recovery), and most importantly she's completely coherent.  In fact, she's even planning a girls night with a couple of her friends.  I'm excited for her.

In the mean time, Hans and I finally got her moved out of her apartment, and now we just have to find a spot for her stuff.  Life is busy, but better, so that's good.

Thank you to everyone for all your continued support.  It means so much!