Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Holidays ....

were absolutely fabulous. First, we were just so happy to be together. Because there were a few moments we weren't so sure that would happen. But I was home, and we were together. And thanks to the surgery, I was not only home, but able to get out of bed (which hadn't happened much the week or two before Christmas!).

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And of course, the kids were adequately spoiled. Which, frankly, this year, I think is great. They earned it. The best part of course is they were very thankful for all they were blessed with.

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Eric and I were also spoiled this year. Our entire family was shown a lot of kindness and generosity, from so many places. It just really deeply touched us. Some of this kindness came to us from complete strangers and again, I keep saying it, but the love we are receiving is just overwhelming.

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I'm so thankful we had such a lovely Christmas. I'm so thankful to each person who helped make this Christmas so lovely too - our families, friends, strangers, doctors, everyone who sent out a prayer and a good thought for us.

And now Christmas is over. And a new year is almost upon on (just 6 hours away as I type this!). I can't lie. I have no sadness seeing 2011 end. I don't know what 2012 has in store for us, but I am hoping that 2012 is much less boring, requires many fewer doctor's visits, and is a year in which our family can continue to grow stronger and closer.

I really hope all of you had fabulous holidays as well. And I pray that 2012 is a year filled with wonderful things!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Howdy all!

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season this year. Christmas at our yesterday was so fabulous. Mostly, we were all just so excited to be together, and the presents weren't bad either. We were all, once again, very spoiled and feel very blessed by all that we received.

But truly, for Eric and I, me being home and able to participate is what really made yesterday special. Because on Friday as we were heading to the ER, neither of us was sure what was going to happen at all. And we just kept going to worst case scenario .... I was trying to tell him all my part of the Christmas giving. He was trying to calm me down. We both were trying to figure out how we'd spend Christmas apart and mostly how could we ease that for our kids. Needless to say, it wasn't the most fun drive to the hospital.

So let me back up a bit. I know Eric filled you in some. But right before Thanksgiving I started having some soreness in my right chest/arm area. But of course, I was still undergoing radiation, so a lot of it made sense. But we ruled out a blood clot and started PT, thinking I could be in the beginning stages of lymphedema. And then after Thanksgiving the pain intensified and was spreading. But at the same time, I was diagnosed with bronchitis, so mostly the coughing was blamed. But things kept getting worse. And then we thought maybe my nerves were over-active because of all the trauma I had been through. But the pain got worse. And late last week, I pretty much headed to bed and didn't move unless absolutely necessary. And things just kept getting worse.

Last week on Tuesday it was so bad I called my plastic surgeon (not really knowing who else to call, but knowing they had been good about it in the past and feeling like no one else was really helping) and asked for stronger painkillers than what I had at home because they just weren't touching the pain anymore. Wednesday I went in to see the doctor. He checked me over and mentioned I might have an infection so he prescribed some antibiotics (and also? An even stronger pain killer than the day before because that one wasn't helping either).

Somewhere in the midst of all of this I began to run some fevers. And Wednesday night it jumped up to roughly 104 degrees. Eric was worried, but frankly I was beyond the point of caring. {At this point, the 3 kids were all with my mom}. We got it lower, but it stayed around. Thursday Eric and my doctor had talked a few times. Eric came home from work Thursday, supposed to have picked up our kids but only bringing home the oldest. He told me the two younger kids were going to stay with my mom and he was taking our oldest to her friend's. So they got her all ready to go and Eric took her to her friends.

When he got home he dropped the big bomb on me. Doctor was worried the infection was below the skin in which case surgery to remove the expander would be happening tomorrow. {Hence, him finding care for the kids instead of keeping them home}. At this point, I won't lie. I lost it. I was just a wreck of tears, pain killers, antibiotics, fever. Because while I'm not an extremely vain person, I still didn't want to lose my boob. We've spent most of the last year figuring out how to keep them both as normal looking as we can during all of this.

Anyway, Friday morning came. And things weren't better. And so off we went to the ER (we coordinated with my plastic surgeon and went to the hospital he was at). And that's the point Eric stepped in and let you all know what was going on.

The good news in all of this, the pain issues? Are gone. I'm sore from surgery for sure and having discomfort for sure. But the pain issues that have been plaguing me for a month now were gone when I woke up from surgery. So we did the right thing. And it will turn out okay in the end. Truthfully though? I feel like I have a lot of emotional baggage to sort through. But I'll wait to unpack all of that after the holidays have passed. Right now I just want to enjoy time with the family and let my body finally start healing.    

Friday, December 23, 2011

Post Surgery update

Hello all, it is the husband again.

Brandie is done with surgery.  This was the right call.  The surgeon found a problem and corrected it.  One of her temporary implants had to be removed.  She is not happy about this part, but certainly will be glad to be feeling better.

It was such good news to hear from the doctor.  Especially given the fact that just a few hours ago there was still uncertainty and that we knew this action once done would result in yet another setback to her reconstruction.  As her husband, it is hard to see someone you love so much in so much pain.  She was stuck for so many days, struggling to control the pain, while trying being a mother, teacher, wife, etc. 

She needs some time to recover, but the next post you see should be from her and hopefully it will be further good news.  Thanks everyone!

Eric

Update on Brandie

Hello everyone,

This is the husband.  You've probably wondered where Brandie has been at the past couple of weeks. 

During the 2nd to last week of November she started dealing with a lot of pain in the area of radiation.  Initially dismissed as side effects that pain has persisted.  It reached a point where this pain has dominated her life and has kept her from functioning.  Including updating this blog.

So keeping things short and G - rated, the doctors believe she has an infection.  We are at the hospital now.  She will be undergoing surgery in about an hour.  If all goes well she will be back home for Christmas.  Even more hopeful is that this surgery will end the pain that Brandie has been in the past couple of weeks.

Please keep her in your thoughts & prayers.
Thank you,
Eric

Friday, December 09, 2011

So, um, now what?

I've been asked that several times since yesterday's wonderful news. Well the truth is I'm not 100% sure because I haven't discussed long term with all my doctors, but I do have a general idea of what will happen.

I will continue to get herceptin every 3 weeks. Every other visit (so every 6 weeks) I will meet with the oncologist. We'll talk about how I'm doing. He'll continue to monitor me. This will last until roughly Julyish. At that point I think for one year I will see him every 3 months, then every 6 months, until one point we hit yearly visits. He also started me on tamoxifen this week. I will stay on that (just a pill) for a minimum of 5 years. {Note if my ovaries come out during this 5 year period, I will stop tamoxifen and switch to a different medicine that does that same thing in women without ovaries}

I will visit with my breast specialist (the doctor who originally diagnosed me) every 6 months for a clinical exam. Which is a fancy of way saying the doctor will feel around to check how things are going. This is because I do not get mammograms anymore. Since I no longer have breasts (yes, this is how I look at it: I will blog more, but for now know that I call what I have foobs = fake boobs).

I have a follow-up visit with the radiologist. At this time, I do not know if anymore follow-ups take place.

I am still being watched by my plastic surgeon. We are watching to see how the skin heals and I am eager for him to tell me I am ready for what should be final plastic surgery. Hopefully in 3-6 months from now I will go in and have the tissue expanders replaces and permanent implants put in. I'm told this is a billion times easier than my surgery in May. After I heal from that we will do the finishing touches of making the foobs look more real (a tattooed areola and adding nipples).

I am starting physical therapy this week. I will go weekly for at least a month. We are on watch for lymphodema. And also, during radiation I lost some of my range of motion in my right arm and I've lost quite a bit of strength. So it's time to start healing and working on getting back to where I was.

During this entire time, I will also be watched extra by my gynecologist. More specifically, she will be watching my ovaries. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer is closely linked. I will not be allowed to keep my ovaries past the age of 40. My doc will be ultrasounding them (probably) every year and she already warned me, if the tiniest thing looks off, they are coming out. So you know sometime between now and 8 years from now.

I realize this post sounds a bit clinical doesn't it? It's because there's a reality behind all of this that I didn't talk about yesterday - but probably will a lot in the future. You may have noticed I did not use the word cure yesterday. Because I am not cured. In some doctors won't use the language "all clear" (although I did). Because here is the full meaning of what I posted yesterday: There is no detectable cancer in my body at the moment.

Just stop and think about that for a minute. Now, in a perfect world this would mean the cancer will never come back. And in a perfect world it would mean there is absolutely no cancer in my body right now. The truth is we don't know that. No one can assure me of that. No one can make those sorts of statements to me. Because breast cancer is a fickle bitch and can strike again at any time .... 6 months from now, 2 years from now, 7 years from now .... well, you get the idea.

And don't get me wrong, I am THRILLED with yesterday's news - beyond thrilled even. But I won't lie to you. There will always be a part of that thinks my thumb hurts - is the cancer back? or I have the worst headache - is the cancer back? or I feel a lump - is the cancer back?

For now? For today? I'm sort of ignoring all of that and focusing on the good news. And going to focus on getting stronger and healthier and really recovering from the beating my body has taken this year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Popping in quickly ....

Just a quick note - and you are going to want to read until the end my friends.

So I kept getting sick and landed myself in the ER Monday morning. They checked me in and held me overnight and I came home yesterday afternoon.

While I was in the ER, the oncologist came to visit me and I asked him if he could give me the bone scan results I had last week. He pulled them up and let me know they were "inconclusive" and we'd need to check the spot that was on both the original and this scan. I can not tell you how much this news frustrated me. But since I was already in the hospital he ordered an x-ray of the leg and told me if that didn't show what was going on, we'd do more exploration of the area. I felt crushed.

Anyway, I had an appointment with him today and kept it. And today he let me know, the spot on my leg that was popping up on the bone scan? It was benign! Nothing to be worried about! So, it's official, I AM ALL CLEAR!!!! There is at this point and time no detectable cancer in my body anywhere. I still can't believe it. I'm so relieved, so happy, so just completely over-joyed.

And now I'm going to go because I feel like I need to celebrate and also? Still rest as I'm still not all clear of the bronchitis that sent me to the hospital. But? At the same time I'm feeling absolutely fabulous and just so grateful to get such wonderful news today! =)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did you miss me?

Well, I'm sorry I was MIA for a while. I've been sick, tired, worn out, busy, going places, seeing people, enjoying Thanksgiving, being very sore from radiation and most likely the start of lymphedema, without internet and helping one very excited 5 year old boy work on his science fair project.

Phew. Did that wear you out? It wore me out that's for sure!

Anyway, on a good note ... I've been out a few times in the last few weeks. It's still pretty exhausting and I need what feels like a few days to recover from getting out. But, there have been so many moments I didn't want to leave the house in the past, so this feels like a major win!

Also, tomorrow is my last day of radiation. Oh yes. The last day. Can we all just cheer together? On the count of 3. 1 .... 2 ... 3 ... Yay!!!

Okay, now that that is out of the way, I'm saying good night now. Because some virus is going around and of course it got me. So I'll be resting and relaxing for a few more days.

xoxo,
Brandie

Friday, November 11, 2011

Actual crafting

Once upon a time, there was a girl who started a blog to share some of the crafty projects she was making. She wrote about knitting, sewing, and other crafty things she made. Sometimes, she strayed and wrote about reading or her children or other various things, but for the most part she wrote about crafting.

But then one day, her lovely little blog was taken over by an evil monster: breast cancer. And where once she wrote about knitting and sewing, she now wrote about side effects and exhaustion. Where she once shared pictures of her projects, she now shared pictures of her bald head.

But the brave blogger fought back. She knew she would not allow cancer to take over the blog forever. And so today she is here to show you a new project she is working on!

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 Last week, I went to Hobby Lobby to pick some stuff up. My five-year-old saw this needlepoint project and begged me to get it to make it for him. So naturally, I bought the kit and began work on it. This isn't the easiest project for me to work on right now because my fingers are still bothering me. But, it's also not that bad and it's given me a lovely new project to do.

Some of my long-term readers might remember that I like to start new projects at the beginning of things, like the start of the new year or a big vacation we are taking. So, while I'm technically not done with treatment yet, I'd like to consider this a new project for starting life after treatment. And not only is this a new project, but it's a new craft for me. I've never done needlepoint before. So far I'm enjoying it and can't wait to see the finished product hanging in my son's bedroom.

For now, I'll just show you a picture here or there as I get more work done on it. And just because I can, I won't tell you what the picture is yet. Instead, I'll let you have some fun by trying to figure out what I'm making!

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall Fun!

On Sunday, we were blessed with beautiful weather – that is as beautiful as weather can be in the Chicago area in November. So, we all went outside for some fall fun.

My creation

There was raking to be done, piles of leaves to be made, and of course lots of jumping!

 My creation

 It was so fun to be outside with the whole family. Everyone had a blast jumping and leaves. Yes, even the husband and I played in leaves!the kids jumped in, dove in, and somersaulted in the leaves.

My creation   My creation   My creation

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

2/365

2/365

I haz hair

Exciting news at our household .... last Tuesday I was at my mom's and we noticed nothing. The next day, the husband noticed my hair was growing back in. {I didn't}. The next day my kids noticed. {I could sort of tell, but it was only in the back I needed two mirrors to see it}. Then, I could tell, but the hair was so small that a camera couldn't pick it up. Now, a camera can pick it up ... so look ... I have hair again!

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I know. It's not much. But you can see it {can you also see how thin my eyebrows are? On a funny note, my eyebrows started losing falling out (along with my eyelashes) a few weeks ago ... several weeks after my last chemo! So strange!}. It's coming in very dark. But it was dark before, so this isn't a huge surprise. Still, if had come back lighter, I wouldn't have complained. Oh well. I'm taking what I'm getting.

I know, I know. On one hand it's just hair. But really? It's so much more. To me it's a sign. My body is healing. Things are trying to get back to normal. It's almost like that first bloom in the springtime. You know spring isn't over yet and snow could still fall, but it's a sign summer will come again. Just when you feel like winter will never end. And that's what this is for me ... and I'm so excited! =)

Monday, November 07, 2011

1/365

So, I'm beginning a 365 project. Basically it's to take 1 picture every day for an entire year. I figure now is as good as time as any! {I may change this to 315 - which would be 6 days per week. And also, most will be self-portraits!}

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Radiation!

So, every day, Monday through Friday, I have the pleasure of driving to the hospital and going for my radiation treatment. I have already had 15 treatments and will go today for my 16th (this puts me at about the halfway point).

The good news is, the radiation department has such a great set up. There is hardly any wait and I am in and out very quickly. The first thing I do when I get there, is swipe my card.This is how I check in. After I swipe my card, I go into the woman's changing area. There are cubbies there, one for each patient, where we keep our hospital gowns.

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This way we don't need a new gown each time we come since we are there daily and only wear them for about 10 to 15 min. it seems wasteful to use our new gown each time. I get into my down and wait for the nurses to come get me. (I don't think I've ever waited more than 5 min. which is really nice)

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Me rocking my gown from Annie and Isabel and my arm warmers (because I'm always freezing there)

The nurse walks me to the actual radiation room. I lay down on a table and they line everything up just so. I have four tiny tattoos that they use to line me up in a very specific positions. I get two doses of radiation that target the lymph node area (one from the top and one from the side.

Then the nurse comes back in and covers my right breast with a bolus. The bolus is this rubber-like thing that helps concentrate the radiation on my skin instead of allowing it to go deeper - which it would do if the bolus were not there. I get an additional four doses of radiation – two from the p and two from the side. Each radiation dose last from 4 seconds to 12 seconds (at least in my head when I'm counting one-one thousand two-one thousand etc. those are the numbers I come up with). And then, I go get dressed and make my way home.

I'm usually there for about 15 to 20 min., so not too long. Every five days they also take pictures to make sure that I'm still being lined up in the correct position to get radiation. And on Wednesdays I stay and meet with the doctor. He checks my skin to see how it's holding up, goes over any side effects I'm having, and just make sure that things are running smoothly.

Everyone there is great – the nurses, the Dr., all the other staff. And they run the place very efficiently. But, I can't lie. I will be so grateful when I get that last radiation treatment and don't need to be there every single day!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I probably should have posted this yesterday, but you know what they say? Better late than never.

Halloween 2011

We had a lovely Halloween. The 12-year-old was Oscar the grouch. The nine-year-old was a witch. And the five-year-old was Darth maul. I was most surprised by the five-year-old, as when he left to go get his costume he told me he was going to be a firefighter!

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We trick or treated in our neighborhood with some of our friends. Came home had a simple pasta dinner and then headed to another friends house where the kids went trick-or-treating again. I was able to rest during this time and hang out with my friend. The kids got a ton of candy. I don't even know were going to do with all of it!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Monday as well.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hello!

Greetings everyone!

Today I am typing courtesy of the Dragon software. It is pretty cool to use this. Although, it is a bit strange because I feel like I'm sitting here talking to myself. However, my fingers certainly appreciate it. I should note though that they are actually feeling better these days. Of course, had we not purchased Dragon sure they would still be hurting a lot right now.

I know I've been missing lately and I'll try to catch you up. I started radiation treatments about two weeks ago. Today I will go in for my 13th treatment (out of a total of 28 or 33 treatments). Radiation isn't too difficult – nothing close to how chemotherapy was. It does however, suck the energy out of me. I'm starting to think that I will never feel not tired again! The hardest part about radiation is that I have to go every single day. Okay, okay, I do get the weekends off and that's nice but still going to the hospital everyday? Not exactly my idea of fun. The good news his the appointments are brief – I'm there for a total of 15 min. each day. And the first appointment after lunch so I never have to wait which I also appreciate very much.

Things are so much better now than they were over the summer. And and while I'm grateful things are better, they are still not normal. I still struggle with those days where it all just feels like too much, where it's hard for me to believe this really is happening, and where I just can't wait for it to all be over. Those days come less often now, but they still come. Things are better. But they're not great.

And yet, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon enough, most of this will be behind me. My energy will come back, my hair will start to grow, my fingers will lose their tingle, my skin will start to heal from the damage, things will be normal. Not the normal they were before all of this, no, I know this has changed everything. We can't go back to where we were. Scars have been left, both scars you can see and ones you can't. But we will find a new normal, a place where our old normal in this new reality will meet.

For today, we will get dressed up, we will eat too much candy, we will hang out with friends, and  enjoy Halloween. I will take too many pictures and the kids will beg to go to just a few more houses. And it will be a great day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

6 Months

It may be hard to believe, but it was 6 months ago today that I received that fateful call from the doctor. It's a bit strange in that in some ways I can't believe 6 months has flown by and in other ways I'm pretty sure it's been 6 months.

I do have more to say about this. I've had a lot to say recently, but you haven't heard much from me. That's because I'm having issues with my fingers and typing has become at best hard to do and at it's worst, it's painful.

But I'll be back again soon. Promise! =)

Monday, October 17, 2011

WIWOMH 10/17

So today I am wearing this cute hat



This hat was made for me by grannie. Grannie is LouCeeL's mom. Grannie was the first person to knit me a hat and has given my quite a few of them. And then Lou kindly delivers them to me. My 9yo also loves grannie's hats and tries to steal mine all the time! {Also, Lou has a lovely picture of me modeling another hat grannie made for me here}

Anyway, in very cool news, last week Grannie opened an etsy shop! She has a lovely purple scarf in there now and I hope she'll add more things. And that you'll go check out her shop. Because she is very nice and her knitting is wonderful! =)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness

Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. So over on twitter, I am sharing a tweet about MBC every 15 minutes. This was a great idea started by a friend from twitter (who also is responsible for compiling this list of information!). Over here, I'm just listing all the tweets/links I and others will be sharing over on twitter. I hope you'll take the time to learn more about MBC. Women are suffering from this, and I've learned recently that so many people are unaware!

Sink the pink, start to think! Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Learn
about BC METS today! http://ow.ly/6V3w4

Learn more about Metastatic breast cancer from @ccchronicles. Read & RT http://
cancerculturenow.blogspot.com/2011/05/mbc-needs-you.html

Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body: bones, liver,
lungs and brain. http://ow.ly/6V3Mi

An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer.
MBC accounts for ~40,000 deaths annually in U.S.

Public service announcement on metastatic breast cancer from the Metastatic Breast
Cancer Network http://ow.ly/6V4ya Watch it and RT

Learn about Metastatic Breast Cancer today! http://ow.ly/6V4Qx Time to talk about
this devastating disease. #BCSM #MBC

Make a difference in the #MBC community. Donate to MBCN.ORG in honor of
Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness day: http://ow.ly/6V5pf

155,000 people are living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States. Learn
more: http://ow.ly/6V5Ea

Learn more about Metastatic Breast Cancer from BMJ: http://ow.ly/6V5Qi

Check out www.metavivor.org for more information on Metastatic Breast Cancer.
It's time to make a difference!

Put your pink $ to better use this Oct! Donate to Metavivor & make a REAL
contribution to the breast cancer cause: http://ow.ly/6V68V

Great resource from Willow breast Cancer Support in Canada on #MBC http://
www.willow.org/metastatic

Median survival after diagnosis of #MBC is 3 yrs. There has been no statistically
significant improvement in the past 20 years - ASCO

Watch the Faces of Metastatic Breast Cancer 2011 video from MBCN.org http://
ow.ly/6VaAo Learn more about MBC Pass it on

Median survival after diagnosis of #MBC is 3 yrs. There has been no statistically
significant improvement in the past 20 years - ASCO

Want to make a difference in the Metastatic Breast Cancer Community? Register now
for 2011 MBCN Conference: http://ow.ly/6Vbrf #BCSM #MBC

Check out @facesofMBC Learn more about #MBC today: http://
www.facesofmbc.org

Genetech will donate $1 to #MBC initiatives for every view of @facesofMBC videos
TODAY Let's get them to $20K http://ow.ly/6VeL1

YSC is partnering w/ CSC for special webinar for young women diagnosed with
metastatic breast cancer. Tonight 7 pm!http://ow.ly/6Vf42

What is metastatic Breast Cancer? Learn about it here: http://ow.ly/6VhAt from
www.advancedBC.org Change the pink conversation

Amazing women in the @faceofMBC video -highlighted here: http://ow.ly/6Vh3y Be
inspired to do something today!

Round up of excellent Metastactic breast cancer awareness resources: http://ow.ly/
6VhZp from advancedbc.org

Information on 2011 Clinical trials for Metastatic Breast Cancer. #MBC NEEDs
MORE TRIALS! http://ow.ly/6Viad Let's make a difference!

Excellent support community from @teaminspire for Metastatic Breast Cancer
survivors. http://ow.ly/6Vip2  Pass it on!

Time to refocus the breast cancer conversations on Metastatic Breast
Cancer. http://ow.ly/6ViS8 Read more from our friend whymommy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WIWOMH 10/12

Today I'm wearing a new scarf I bought at Target the other day


It's kind of silly looking I know, but with a bit of fall in the air, not only is my head getting cold, but so is my neck (which is also used to having hair on it!). So I pick my bigger scarves and wrap them over my head and my neck.

Friday, October 07, 2011

More facts

About 20% of women diagnosed with Breast Cancer, regardless of initial stage of diagnosis (so whether they were stage I, II, or III from the beginning) will go on to have metastatic breast cancer (which is stage IV). About 6% present with metastatic breast cancer from the initial diagnosis.
What does this mean? That early detection is NOT the cure for breast cancer. That early detection will NOT save all lives. So what do we do with this? Well, we still advocate for early detection because it does help. But we also need to do more. Research more. Study more. We need to learn about metastatic breast cancer if we really want to eliminate breast cancer deaths.

If we only look at early stage breast cancer (stage 1) 18-20% will have a recurrence of breast cancer within 10 years. An in 70% of those, the cancer will have spread to their bones. {Of the remaining 30% I am not sure what is or isn't metastatic breast cancer. It's hard to get concrete numbers on some of this}

Edited to add this:

I found this and it does a beautiful job (I think) of explaining why early detection does not prevent spreading of all breast cancer


"For decades, women have heard that the best hope of curing breast cancer is finding it early. To that end, doctors have taught women about the importance of three breast cancer screening techniques: breast self-exam, clinical breast exam (a breast exam done by a health professional), and mammography. This emphasis on breast cancer screening has perpetuated the belief that all breast cancers can be cured if they are found early. It also leads people to believe that all women who survive breast cancer do so because their cancer was found early.

The latest research, however, indicates that neither of these beliefs appears to be true. It now looks like there are about six different types of breast cancer that vary in how aggressive they are. Some of them are so "good" that they will never metastasize (spread throughout the body). And that means it doesn't matter when you find them. They just don't have the ability to cause someone to die of breast cancer. Others are very "bad" and so aggressive that no matter when you find them—which means even if you find them when they are still very small—they have already begun to wreak havoc. These are the types of cancers that cause women to die of this disease. Still others, probably about 30 percent, have the potential to become "bad" if not stopped early. These are the cancers whose outcomes are affected by breast cancer screening programs and early detection. These are also the cancers mammography is best at finding.

So is the concept of "early detection" a total falsehood? Not really. There are some cancers that we truly can detect early. What is misleading is the idea that every cancer has the potential to be found early by our current techniques. Right now, unfortunately, we are limited by both our techniques and our understanding of breast cancer. Screening is still our best tool for changing the mortality rate of breast cancer. We need to take full advantage of it while working very hard to find something better."


From here



Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sad Truths ...

In 1991, an average of 119 women died each day of breast cancer. This year? an average of 110/111 will die each day of breast cancer. While part of this can be explained by higher numbers of women being diagnosed and we have awareness, the truth is most money raised for breast cancer goes to education and early detection (and early detection is not a guarantee that everything will turn out okay). And very little goes to research. I'll talk more about this through out the month.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Breast Cancer: My story and a giveaway

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month I thought I would kick it off with a summary of the last almost 5.5 months that I wrote for some friends recently.

How I'm (really) doing ....
It's up and down. One day is the good. The next day is so bad.


Surgery was hard. I didn't do well with it. I didn't do well with the pain medicine. I didn't know how often you use your chest muscles every. single. day. I didn't know how jarring and sad it would be to see my body for the first time after it. I didn't know how excited I would be the first time I could wash my hair all by myself again - learning to lift my arms again was hard work! But I also didn't realize how fast I get over it. How soon it would seem normal and how I quickly I would fall in love with my new boobs!


Chemo? The first medicine they gave me? Let me tell you - there were days I could barely get out of bed just to get to the bathroom. There were moments where I wondered if I could just quit and stop it. There were days I was pretty sure the cancer would have been better than chemo. Sometimes I just cried and cried. Other days I was so absolutely pissed off and just angry. So angry. There were moments where I just couldn't get over the unfairness of it all. There were moments where I was terrified that this might be the last summer I get with my family, where I wondered if the next Christmas would be the last.


I still have those moments. They come much less often. I'm mostly to the point where I've accepted it all. It sucks. It is unfair. It is hard. But it is what it is. And we'll get through it. I made it through the tough medicine {the medicine is so tough that even if my cancer were to ever come back, I will never get it again. It's so hard on your body it has a lifetime limit on it}. And we moved on to easier chemo (no, not easy chemo, just easier). But I am regaining normal. I am getting strong. Energy is coming back. Sickness is leaving.


I still have radiation to go. It will start at the beginning of October. 5 days a week for 7 weeks. Herceptin (a protein that is literally a life saver for women with my specific type of cancer and for which I will be forever grateful for) I will get every 3 weeks for one year, starting a few weeks from now. Final plastic surgery sometime in the new year. I will take tamoxifin for at least 5 years. My ovaries will come out before I turn 40. Sooner if they suspect even the tiniest thing going on with them. Follow-up scans and tests.


This isn't over yet. It won't be over, well, I don't know if I will ever feel it's over. But I really firmly believe the hardest part is over.


And really? All the love, and support, and kindness ... has been amazing. Even through it all, we have been so amazingly blessed. I feel like I've been just completely surrounded with love and understanding every. single. step. of the way. And that? That has trumped and been more powerful than every bad, negative, scary, side effect and treatment along the way. 

And a giveaway:
One lucky commenter on THIS post will win a gift basket from P&G for leaving a story about how breast cancer has affected you. I know we all have connections and ties to breast cancer. I also know that sometimes these stories can be hard to share, but we are all here for you. Winner will be chosen on Oct. 10! I'm extending this to Monday, October 17!


In addition during the month of October, P&G has several programs going on:
- Save while you give. On Sunday, October 2, and Sunday, October 16, a GIVE Hope brandSAVER will be distributed in newspapers across the country, with discounts for P&G products, including Olay, Pantene, Crest and many more. For each GIVE Hope brandSAVER coupon redeemed, P&G will donate two cents to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) – allowing people to give back, while saving money.

- Share with friends. “Like” P&G Beauty on Facebook.  For every “like” at http://www.facebook.com/PGUnitedWeBeautify, P&G will donate 10 cents to NBCF to further support their mission of saving lives through early detection.  The P&G Beauty Facebook page will also feature stories from female employees who have been impacted by this disease.

- Buy, give and get.  During the month of October, consumers will receive a $10 rebate ( http://www.pgpinkrebate.com/pink_rebate.pdf ) and will also trigger a $10 donation to NBCF with the purchase of $50 worth of P&G Beauty products, including Venus, Olay, Secret, CoverGirl, Nice ‘n Easy, Pantene, Safeguard and Ivory.

Disclosure information: I am working with The Motherhood and P&G and being compensated for my time. However, all opinions are my very own! 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Knitting

Despite the fact that this blog was originally set up to share mostly crafting type things with the world, it has not been used for that lately. Instead, cancer took over this blog and became the most talked about topic around here. For good reason too. There is a lot there to talk about and although sometimes I will complain that I'm tired of talking about cancer, at the same time, it is SO amazingly helpful to get it all out. So I come. I write. I feel better. I move on.

And as helpful as blogging has been to me, so to recently has knitting. Actually knitting has always been helpful to me. One of the first things I did upon getting my diagnosis was to ask my mom to take me to the local knitting store. It just made sense. I found out I had cancer. I found out I was going to be bald. Clearly I needed some hats to wear upon my head. Alright, alright, I get it. Not every single person goes from cancer to bald to hats to knitting store. But I did.

And I knit a lot in those days between diagnosis and surgery. I knit in waiting rooms. I knit at home. I made some hats for myself. I made some for my mom. It was a good way to keep busy. It was a good way for me to work off anxiety - for the most part knitting is the same motion over and over. The repetition is lovely. And if you have the right pattern? There is a rhythm there and you can just keep working without needing to put too much thought into it. And I needed that then.

Then surgery came. And for a while I couldn't knit. I couldn't do much of anything actually. My arms might as well have just been gone for as much as I could use them at first. But true to form, I started knitting as soon as I could. I was so excited that first day I could pick up my knitting. It didn't last long. I think I managed a row of the shawl I was working on. But darn it, it felt SO good to get that row done. And so slowly, I began to knit more and more.

Then came chemo from hell. And let me tell you - one of the ways we knew it was affecting me so much - I stopped knitting. Even the husband commented on it once or twice. And believe me you, I wanted to be knitting. But I couldn't. That first group of medicines I was on was just so harsh for me. It left me barely able to do the things I needed to do (i.e. eat, get up and go to the bathroom, etc) and certainly didn't leave me any room to do much of the things I loved to do or wanted to do. But, thankfully, even that medicine's time came to an end. And as that medicine left my system, I was able to start knitting again.

Of course it came back slowly. I had to find my rhythm again. I had to find the projects calling out to me. (Yes, it may seem strange, but it is true. I believe for the most part, projects find me and tell me when it's time to knit them). And then the new medicine started to show it's lovely side effects. It attacked, more and more with each dose, my joints and mostly in my hips and knees. There were days were walking any more than necessary was just going to be an option. But oh, I could pick up those needles and knit through most of those times. Not always, the new medicine also attacked my hands and made knitting impossible some days, but thank goodness it hit my hands with less intensity.

There have been several days where at the end of the day all I can say I've done is knit and watch tv that day. And thank goodness for knitting. Because I really believe through all of this knitting has been a lifeline to me. I may not be able to whip up a 5 course meal these days, but darn-it, I can whip up a shawl. I can't always walk my son to the bus stop, but I can make him a vest he can wear proudly to school. I can't repay my mom all the kindness she's shown me - not just this summer but my entire life - but I can knit her some socks. I can make beautiful things. I can show my family I love them through my knitting. And the knitting has helped me feel connected to my family through it all.

Not only that, but it's another way to honor who I am. I was knitter before all of this. And while I may not be able to knit every single day, cancer did not take that part of my life away from me. I am still me. Cancer has changed me - it has changed me in some pretty big ways. But at the end of the day, I am still me. Cancer can change me, but it didn't take everything away from me. And having my knitting? Every stitch I make? It's a reminder to myself that I'm still me. My appearance may have changed. I may have some life experience I never really wanted, but I'm still Brandie. And knitting is still important to me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ha ha - the joke's on you!

Well, not on you. On me.

You see, the end of chemo came. And went. And it was wonderful and lovely.

And now? The side effects are kicking my butt. I mean beyond kicking my butt.

I knew this going in. I knew the side effects didn't' stop with the medicine drip. I knew that it would take time for the medicine to leave my system. I knew my body would keep fighting and working. However, what I'm learning is knowing something and going through something are two completely different things. And um, yeah, I guess I keep learning that over and over with this cancer things. You can 100 people tell how things will work, and there are just too many times in life that it doesn't matter what they say - you can't fully prepare for it until you are there.

I also think there's a big component to this that is emotional. Emotionally I'm ready to be done. I'm ready to move on. I'm ready for side effects to be gone. I'm ready to start returning to life as normal.

But my body? It's not ready. It still needs time. It still needs healing. It still needs me to be gentle to myself. And that right there may be the crux of the problem. I still need to be gentle to myself. I still need to let others to take care of me. And let me tell you, as nice as it is to have everyone wanting to take care of you? It's also not so great. Because it's my job to take care of them. I'm the wife. I'm the mom. My parents are in a busy season. I want to be in my son's classroom. I want to be the one helping. Not the one in need of the helping.

Yet. Here we are. And I can wish upon a million stars for things to be different. But here is where I am. And this is what I need to accept. And this is what I need to come to terms with. Because while I know things will get better, they won't be getting better tomorrow or even the next day. So I guess I'll have lots of time practicing giving myself more time. And grace. And patience.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Updates

Here is an e-mail I recently sent out. While I try to get it to everyone, I'm sharing here just in case I've accidentally forgotten anyone!

Dear Friends and Family,

It's been some time since we sent out an e-mail update. First let me begin by thank you all again for all the love, kindness, and support you have showered us with this summer. I'm not sure we could have made it this far without it all.

Last week was a big week in our house. On Friday I received my last chemotherapy treatment - which was a very happy day for sure. Sadly, the side effects don't end with the last dose. The medicine will remain in my system for at least a month. And while I still have more treatment to go, being finished with chemo feels like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So what's next? In October I will begin radiation. Radiation will last for 7 weeks. I will also continue to get Herceptin (although not a chemo drug, I do get it through the oncologist) every 3 weeks for an entire year. I have already been on the herceptin for 8 weeks now and it leaves me with some side effects. We are hoping the chemo is complicating the side effects and that the farther we get away from chemo, the less side effects there will be.  And through all of this, at some point I will begin to take tamoxifin - just a daily pill that is side effect free for most women. Which is good, because I'll need to be on it for at least 5 years!

Anyway, that's where things stand for right now. As always I try to keep the blog semi-updated (and thank you for those who head over there to read and comment. I don't respond to all comments, but they always make me smile!)


Much love,
Brandie

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy Fall ...

So Friday marked the first day of fall. And don't get me wrong - I love fall. Applesauce, apple cider, pumpkins, fall festivals, pulling out sweaters, fires in the fireplace. It is all lovely and wonderful.

But this year, the start of fall means something completely different to me. This year the start of fall marks the end of the summer I feel that cancer stole from me. And we can sugarcoat this summer as much as we want to, but the truth of the matter is that cancer did in fact steal my summer. Not only from me but from my family. All the places I would have taken the kids. All the days we would have gone to the pool, or on bike rides, or hung out at the park with friends. All the times my mom had to be over here when she could have been doing a million other things. All the work my husband had to miss. All the vacation time he took that wasn't spent on anything remotely near a vacation. I could go on and on with these examples.

I also know that not a single one of those people affected by my cancer would complain about it. At least not to me. What I call their sacrifices is what they call being part of a family. And while I appreciate that is how their attitude is about it, still, in my heart they all made big sacrifices. Our summer was stolen. And I feel jaded by this. I am hoping as time passes, this will sting a little less. Or that next summer will bring a redemption to this summer. Or heck, even as we head into winter, and life gets back to "normal" (whatever the heck normal can be at this point) that things will start to feel better to me.

And this isn't to say that I only see the missing parts. I don't. There was also so much love and support and help this summer. I haven't forgotten any of that. There is so much beauty to find in this past summer too. I know that and recognize that. It's just with summer now at an end, the unfairness of it all seems to weigh on me more heavily than it did before. Because I can't go backwards at this point. I can't make up for all we missed. I can only move forward. And summer is now behind us.

But summer isn't the only thing behind us right now. Chemotherapy - which was grueling and so much harder than I could have ever anticipated, is also behind us. The shock of diagnosis? Also behind us. Hopefully all the worst parts are behind us. And hopefully things will begin to get easier. We aren't to easy yet, but we are to easier. And that is a truly wonderful thing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poll

If you look over there ----->
you'll see a poll. Take a moment to click an answer. And I promise I'll be back soon to give you an update. Just today I'm tired and run down. Side effects don't end with last chemo treatment unfortunately!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update ...

Chemo for today was canceled. My white blood cell counts were just to low to get another round of chemo.

I can't lie. This feels absolutely crushing to me. I was just so ready to be done. And put this behind me.

The new plan is: a shot today, a shot tomorrow (to boost the WBC), and then hopefully chemo on Friday. That all presumes the blood counts are good though. Which they should be. My oncologist said that he's never had this plan fail yet, so I'm counting on it.

And also. This too shall pass. A last chemo treatment will happen, even if it's not today. 

Milestone Day

Today is a big milestone day.

Today I go for my very last chemo treatment. Can you believe it? I almost can't. There were moments it felt like this day would never come. But it's here. And I'm SO excited. And also as I mentioned in my last post still feeling a bit fearful. But mostly? Today I am just joyful. Happy tears keep pouring out of my eyes because I just can't believe I survived chemo. When this first started I wasn't sure I could survive it. I wasn't sure I could be strong enough. And oh there were moments I wanted to quit. Where I thought about just not going to chemo this time.

But darn-it, I pushed through because at the end of the day I wanted to be here (to annoy you all ha ha!) for a long time yet. And I knew I had to just keep going - just one foot in front of the other.

And so today here we are. At the end of chemo. And I am celebrating it today. And so I leave you with some music. A beautiful song. For you my dear family and friends; my supporters and shoulders to cry on; my biggest cheerleader and biggest source of encouragement.

xoxoxoxo,
Brandie

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fear ....

On Wednesday I go in for what will be my last chemo treatment. This truly fills me with joy and happiness. Chemo is not fun. Even the "easier" chemo - sure it's easier than the hard chemo, but you know what? It's still not easy. So I am thrilled to be done with chemo. If I could, I'd have a HUGE party Wednesday and invite everyone to come over and help me celebrate the end of chemo. I'm that excited about it.

And yet, there is this other half of me that has start to completely. freak. out. Chemo is ending. But what if I need more? What if the cancer isn't all gone? What if it comes back? Maybe I should get a few more treatments. Just in case. Because let me just tell you all right now, I do not ever want to go through this again. Ever.

So chemo coming to an end is sort of a double edged sword for me. For as much happiness as I feel for chemo coming to an end, I also feel a lot of fear. And truthfully? This is the most fear I've felt through this whole process. Just a few days ago I was crying to my husband because I don't want this cancer to kill me. Because I want to see my kids grow up and get to hold my grandbabies.

I know logically I shouldn't be filled with this fear and this worry. I know that the doctor's didn't just put a bunch of numbers in a hat and draw one out and go alright, she gets 4 treatments of this medicine. There isn't anything random about my treatment. It's based on the too many women who were treated before me.

I know that worry will get me no where. That it's not good for me. I should kick it to the curb and focus on being happy that chemo is coming to an end. I'm trying. I am. But this fear is there. I have a feeling this fear will be a nagging presence in my life for a while. And I think that makes sense too.

But now I have to find that line ... that line where I keep control of the fear and not allow the fear to take control of me. I think actually getting to the end of chemo, and getting the chemo out of my system once and for all will help tremendously. And having all my awesome support (including you my lovely readers) around me and being there to listen to me will help a lot.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

WIWOMH 9/17

Today I wore a little hat I picked up a few days ago at Target. We were there to get things for the kids and I spotted this little hat and decided I needed to have it. My 9yo was with me and she loved it too and begged me to get her one. Seeing as the hat was all of 2.00 I decided she could get one too! So now we match =)




We also both got a new pair of Paul Frank pajamas. No, it's no Missoni, but let me tell you, my family really enjoys Paul Frank and so all the girls were treated to a new pair of jammies =)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WIWOMH 9/15

Two days in a row people ... don't get used to it though! LOL!

Anyway, today on my head is this lovely hat, knitted by my friend Catherine. It should also be noted that I had a doctor's appointment and my doctor said (and I quote) "You looked so cute sitting in the waiting room with your blue hat on!" So, there you go. Although I think I look cute in all my various head gears, I just don't usually leave the house to get other people's compliments on them!





And just like yesterday's brown hat, it is perfect for this cooler weather we've been having. My head is very happy. And my heart is so blessed to be wearing these items made for me!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WIWOMH 9/14

Um, yeah, I know, it's been almost 2 months since I last told you about what I'm wearing on my head. But, well, a) I'm really bad at remembering to do things every single day. And b) I have cancer so I've been a bit busy with that. {That's right people. I just pulled the cancer card. LOL!} So, anyway, I'll try to share at least once a week. I mean that should be a good goal for me.

So today I am wearing this lovely hat. It was knit for me by my friend Home's Jewels. It's nice and soft. Today it was chilly {it's like fall or something is getting ready to come to the Chicago area}.




=) Hope you all are having a great day!

Monday, September 12, 2011

School days

So we've been doing school for about a month at our lovely little home school.

When we started a few weeks ago, we started with basics: math, reading, writing. Every day. We have slowly been expanding. This is all new, crazy, fun to us, as until now we haven't used textbooks or done worksheets, or even done "school" every day. My girls are rock stars though and we have done 6 days of school pretty much every week so far.

The 11yo just finished reading the Mockingjay trilogy. I can tell she enjoyed it because she read the last two books in just 3 days! A book report is coming in later this week so we'll see what she tells me about in that. She also just finished a rough draft of a report of England. Writing is not her favorite subject and we sometimes butt heads when it's time to write, but we are getting through it. She did write one report last spring, and I have to say, for her first report? I don't think she did bad at all! We also just invested in a writing book for her that along with just more writing reports in general, will help to strengthen her writing even more. She is about half-way through her grammar book {and she's getting through it so fast I already ordered the next book because we will be in sooner than we think!} and she is doing some sentence diagrams.

{This brings me back to my 7th grade English class, where I learned about diagramming sentences. I don't remember my English teacher's name, but she looked like ET and we all called her that when not in class. One day she told us ET was one of her favorite movies when somehow we were talking about Drew Barrymore in class. I now wonder if she knew what we called her and said it just to get our reaction!}

Math right now is multiplication. Yes, just multiplication. She is learning it quickly, but remember we've never done textbooks before, so if it sounds like she's behind, the truth is, she is, however, it's not from lack of understanding! We are also doing major work on fractions right now. I do not think her book is teaching fractions well enough so we are actually supplementing with another workbook that also includes decimals and percents and how to go back and forth {I should note, this could be because fractions come in the next book, which we won't be using, so I need to supplement}.  She is about 1/3rd of the way through her math book. When she finishes, we will actually skip the next book in the curriculum and jump ahead 2 books. This may be confusing or not make sense, but it does make sense for our goals and will work based on the preview I've seen of both texts!

The (brand new as of yesterday) 9 year old is also ticking along. She is rocking her math book so far! The suggestion is 1 week per lesson. She's getting through her lessons in 2 days right now. In about 10 lessons I predict we'll slow it down and get more towards the week per lesson, but it's nice to see that so far is easy for her. {Truly, we could do a lesson a day, however, each lesson comes with 4 worksheets and I think 2 is more than enough each day!} Right now she is half-way through her math book. Good thing I already have the other book here for her to work from!

She just finished reading Arthur Makes the Team and is now on Stanley, Flat Again {for school}. It is awesome to have her reading books to me. This child struggled so hard to learn to read. She tried. And tried. And never gave up, but reading just clicked for her in the spring. So this reading thing is a BIG thing. On her own she is reading a bunch of the Amber Brown books. Her. Picking up books. On her own. And reading them? Just amazing!!

She is also working through a writing, grammar, and spelling book (from the same company as Miss A}. We just started this with her last week. I am loving this series of books so far. They are perfect for her. However, writing, and especially spelling is definitely her weak area. But we are working through it and most days she jumps in full steam ahead and just works. Seriously, if effort and desire was all it took, this kid would be a better writer and speller than me!

She also does geography (just a mini-lesson) each day and we've discovered she LOVES it. I think definitely science/math/geography are her strong suits and definitely where she shines.

Coming down the pipeline: As soon as treatment for me has slowed down, I want to add in science and history. Also, at the start of the new year (which isn't all that far away!), the girls will be taking their first standardized tests. Can you believe it? They've never filled in bubbles before or done a scantron or anything like that! So today I purchased some test prep books for them. Here's where I add, in general, I'm not at all about teaching to the test or putting much pressure on test prep at this age. However, given they've never taken a standardized test, I think it's important that we do practice ... not for content, but just on taking tests in general. But oh my, I really struggled to buy those books today! I just kept thinking we homeschooled so we wouldn't HAVE to do this test prep stuff! LOL! But really, it's all good and it will all work out in the end!

Anyway, that's where the homeschooling stands. I'm glad it's going so well. I won't lie. We struggled over whether to keep them home this year {mostly wondering would I be up to teaching, would I be healthy enough, would they cooperate enough and be okay with this transition from informal to formal learning, etc, etc}. So far though? It's going very well. We have the occasional not wanting to do work because "my favorite tv show is on!" or "I want to play" but really? I feel that way some days too LOL! =)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Misc. questions ...

Readers, today I will be answering more questions from you!

Nan | WrathOfMom said...
What was your wedding like? Big or small? Were you engaged for a long while, or less than a few months? Do you still like the dress you wore? Are you in contact with your bridesmaids or groomsmen?

My wedding was very small. We had 18 people there - husband & I; my mom, dad, 2 sisters; husband's dad, stepmom and brother; husband's mom and stepdad; my 2 grandmas and grandpa, and husband's grandma and grandpa, the minister and his wife.

100_2184 (my daddy walking me down the aisle)

We weren't engaged for very long. We were married a few days before what would have been the 1-year anniversary of our first real date. We were pretty young - I was 20, he was 23. I was also 20 weeks pregnant when we were married. So you could say it was a shotgun wedding, however, even though we were on the fast track, we didn't jump in head first either.

100_2189 (I'm now at the point where yes, I do think we look like babies in our wedding photos!)

I do like the dress I wore, although it was very traditional. We got married at my husband's parents house in a lovely backyard ceremony and then went to a local restaurant to have some good food. A few months later we threw a reception at my parents house - a very casual affair, but we did want to celebrate with everyone even though we didn't have everyone at the wedding itself.

100_2185

I can't lie, I loved my wedding day. It was beautiful and perfect and lovely. Every so often though I wish we had done the big church wedding, the rehearsal dinner, had a best man and bridesmaids and all that jazz. And yet, when I see the stress people go through planning the big wedding? I'm very grateful we didn't have all that stress. There wasn't much pressure for everything to be perfect, it was just a nice, simple, lovely affair. And we were so in love (and still are) and you can't beat that on your wedding day can you? I walked down the aisle without a doubt in my heart that I was doing exactly the right thing!

100_2188



J. said...
If you could live in any time period (besides the current one), which would it be?

Every so often I long to live during the prairie days - the days of Laura Ingalls. It seems so romantic. Of course, life was hard back then. And I know that. But it's what I'd pick if I could. {Of course I would absolutely miss the internet SO VERY much}. The big draw is living off the land and life seemed simpler. It was harder, but simpler. And often times I think that in this day and age we are too busy, too rushed, always running around. Even kids today have very little down time. That makes me sad :( We need more time to just be. And that is probably what draws me to that time period the most.

Of course we won't mention should I have lived back then and should I have gotten cancer, well, yeah, I will miss today's medical knowledge, medicines and technology again. But we'll pretend that if I lived back then, cancer (or you know, childbirth for that matter) would have killed me!

FrankandMary said...
I'd love to read about what you think your 3 best qualities are.~Mary

Yikes! This is hard to answer! I don't know what I think my 3 best qualities are. I think I'm an awesome friend. I've got your back. Sometimes I can be rough around the edges and put my foot in my mouth, and yet, if you need me to have your back, I will be there for you. No one messes with my friends. And I'm pretty darn good at giving hugs. {Sometimes though I need a reminder to just listen.}

I like my craftiness abilities. I think it's pretty cool to have the time, desire, and know how to make things - from knitting to baking some cookies. The truth is almost everyone loves getting something homemade. And I love being able to give people homemade things. While making things is not for everyone, I love that I've found it in my life.

What else? I'm pretty giving. Well, my husband and I are giving together. I think my husband is definitely the most giving of the two of us, but if I can give you something or do something to help you out? I will. Need a ride? Need someone to pick up your kids because you are running late? I'm there. Need some groceries? I will bring them to you. I often wish I could do even more. Someday I will - I'd love to be able to give more time.


Alright, I think that answers most of the non-cancer questions you all left for me (which I loved! I love getting your questions! I might have to ask for them again =) ) I will get to the rest. I will talk more about the cancer, it's just some days even I need a break from it LOL!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Parenting with Cancer .... part 1

Many times I've been asked how are the kids doing with all of this. I've been hesitant to share too much on here because, well, I always feel like that should be their story to tell. {And yes, my kids are 5, 8 and 11 and I'm secretly hoping that they actually won't remember much of this and so they won't have much of a story to tell someday}. I mean I like talking about my kids and all, but on the blog it's harder for me to share things that aren't just so cute or so funny that I have to share.

But cancer has not been cute or funny. And I'm sure you can imagine, but it's been hard on every. single. one. of us. So I will share some of those struggles with you and how we've tried to work through them. {Also, this will be long and wordy. I apologize in advance}

First, let me share with you that my kids knew what was going on every step of the way - from the first visit with the breast specialist, to the mammogram, biopsy and then discovery the cancer. I do not regret keeping them in the loop the entire time. First of all, we homeschool, so for those appointments they either went with me or stayed with dad or grandma. It's not like I could do all this while they were at school so they wouldn't know. The fact is, they knew something was up even without me talking about it. Although we kept it light at first ... the mammogram was just a precaution because grandma had cancer and there was nothing to worry about {which I honestly thought was the case at the time}. So when I shared with them that the biopsy came back with cancer, it wasn't out of the blue. However, I don't think it made it any easier. We all thought the first mammogram was precautionary, a baseline really. We were told the biopsy was precautionary ... that what they were testing was nothing 80% of the time, and only something the other 20, and cancer was only one of the couple of somethings it could be. {I also want to add here, although it was right for my family to be included every step of the way, for other families it is right to withhold all information until the bad news comes. Because each situation and family is different and I am absolutely a firm believer that in all of this there is no one right way to do thing}

Now, telling my kids was the hardest part of all of this so far. It was horrible. I was home alone with them. My mom was on her way over. Husband was trying to get out of work early. I knew I had to tell them before anyone got here, before they figured it out on their own. I wanted them to learn it from me. I wanted to be able to answer their questions, and not leave anything to their imaginations because often their imaginations can think of things that are far worse than the actually situation. But let me tell you, it was also hard. I could have let my husband or my mom tell them I suppose, but for me, I needed to be the one.

Anyway, I called them all to my bed and told them. We all hugged and cried. After 30 seconds, Mister Man (5yo) asked if he could go back to playing the Wii. Which made us all laugh, and then cry some more. Then I told everyone we needed to go eat chocolate. It was 10 in the morning. I think they all thought cancer invaded my brain at that point because I've never suggestion candy that early before! But we ate chocolate and somehow we all felt better. Somewhere in the midst of all of that, and I wish I could remember more clearly, Little Miss (who is not so little at 11) asked me since grandma had it, and I have it, did that mean she would get it. That was a hard question for me. Because I don't think any 11yo should be worried about getting breast cancer. It doesn't belong in their world. They should be worried about puberty coming and shopping for the first bra and things like that. Not breast cancer.

I know Mister Man just didn't understand it all. He's too young. It didn't mean anything to him that day. I was still home. I wasn't coughing. No sore throat. No runny nose. There was no tangible sickness signs he could see. So for him, I was just sad. I'm not sure Miss M (8) really understood that day. She got I was sick, but I don't think that day she really got it. As, honestly, she shouldn't have. Cancer has not really been a part of my childrens' lives. {We've had relatives go through it, but only when they were much younger}. So she was sad. And she hugged me. And was sweet, but yet, not quite grasping it. Little Miss though {who at 11 clearly needs a new nickname LOL!) she got it. She understood it. It makes sense but it absolutely hit her the hardest. She didn't really know what was coming and yet she did know. She may not have seen it, but she got it.

It was such a hard day. Just thinking about it makes me cry. I hate that day. That one day forever changed my children's childhood. In many ways they felt this summer, but it also changed it in a lot of ways they'll never know.

I planned to write more about how they've managed through the summer, but you know what? I can't anymore. I'll try to share more another day. It's just. This part of the story? It's so hard to write about. It brings up so many emotions within (that maybe I'll talk about another day).

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Your questions: Knitting


First up:

MrsSudz said... Ok there chicky, how old were you when you decided you liked knitting? My mom is crafty and my sisters me not so much. Mom tried to teach me several times to knit and i just plain suck at it. So when did you know you liked it?


I learned to knit when I was 24 years old. I remember at a much younger age, an aunt tried to teach me to crochet and I just didn't get it, and probably wasn't too into it truthfully. But when I learned to knit, we had just learned a friend was expecting a baby and I just decided I needed to knit some booties to give as a gift. So I learned to knit. And I ended up giving her 3 pairs of booties and a baby blanket!

But oh my - if you could have seen my first couple of attempts! At the time my oldest was 3, almost 4 and I swear it looked like she knitted up my first few swatches.I almost wish I had saved them just so I could see how far I've come! LOL!

I was hooked as soon as I made something that didn't look like a mess! I do admit that I sometimes go through phases where I absolutely do NOT want to knit at all, in any way, shape or form. That can be hard to deal with, but I also take a break and don't force myself to knit at those times. 


SortaSuperMom said... 
 
What's your favorite thing about knitting/ sewing and what's your favorite thing you've made? Is there a story behind it?
 
 
My favorite thing about knitting and sewing is just how cool it is to take yarn and fabric and turn it into something else. I mean you take this string and can make bags, purses, scarves, sweaters, toys ... well, so many things! It's so fascinating to me. 
My favorite thing to do is to make a lined bag. If you haven't done this, I'm not sure it will make sense .. but, you take the outside layer and the inside layer and you sew them together with the inside part actually inside-out and on the outside and the outside part right-side out but on the inside. Then you turn it and it comes out perfect. It almost feels like you are performing a magic trick. It still amazes me every time I do it. 

I'm not sure if I can pick a favorite thing I've ever made. That's such a tough question to answer. I suppose it's a lot like asking me my favorite child! I'll pick one thing to share:

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So these socks were the first socks I ever knit. Which is a HUGE deal. Socks are scary and required some new techniques for me. So it was a big deal. I knit them at the time for my now 11yo. She requested socks and picked out the yarn (I want to say she was 5/6 at the time?). So that made it super special. The socks have since been worn by the other two kids too. And every time a child wears them it makes me smile. I love it. =)


Jessie said... I would like to know if you are working on any current projects. I also would like to know what one thing you enjoy eating or drinking right now, or has all enjoyment of food and rink temperarily gone away?
 
 
I am currently working on a sweater (for me) and a scarf for my oncologist - who has been so amazing to me and retires at the end of the month. The knitting is slow going. The current chemo is causing lots of issues with my hands/fingers. It often feels like I'm wearing a much too tight pair of gloves. My fingers feel stiff and the insides feel much to big for my skin. I know that must sound weird. It's almost like feeling swollen, but I'm not actually swollen. It is making it tough to knit (among other things). Everything is slow going. I admit, this has put me in a foul mood. I am finally in the mood to knit (the first medicines took away all my desire to do anything crafty at all) and my fingers don't work. I've complained. A lot. About it. 
 
 
As far as eating goes, my stomach is still picky, but s-l-o-w-l-y getting less so. I've been craving a lot of salad lately and grapes. I could eat salad and grapes all day. And cheese, but only mild-sharp cheddar. No other kind. So strange. That is mostly what I've been eating though. I figure it's not that unhealthy so you know, I'll run with it and see where it takes me! 
 

A real conversation ...

So this year we are working on report writing with the 11yo. She is less than thrilled with report writing. It's hard. It's boring. Lots of sighs when it's time to do it, etc, etc.

So today we had this conversation

her: Just teach me grammar and spelling. It's all I need to know. I'll never have to write reports.
me: Yes, you will have to write reports. Writing is a key for so many jobs.
her:
me: Even if you go into fashion design like you want, you may have to write reports about your business if you want people to give you money to make more clothes and other things.
her: Well, let's be honest. If that happens, I'll just hire you to do that part for me.

And now? I'm the one sighing LOL!

As an  aside, she played at freerice.com today and earned 680 grains of rice to help end hunger just by practicing multiplication!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Your questions: Homeschooling

So today we'll hit the questions that pertain to homeschooling.

Rebecca asks "Dang, Erika stole my question. So, I'll ask this: what made you decide to homeschool? How did you know you'd be good at it? And as your kids get older, how do you deal with the subjects you don't know as much about as you need to? (If there are any such; I am embarrassed to admit how young my son was when I was no longer able to help him with his math homework just out of my own head.)"

 I decided to homeschool while I was in college getting my teaching degree. Yes, amazingly enough I am a certified teacher in my state and can teach in any k-8 classroom. (okay, I *think* my certification expires soon or maybe expired this month so I probably can't say that for much longer and be truthful about it}. Let me preface this by saying there are AMAZING teachers in this world. I know some of the best. I also, sadly, saw some of the worst. I do not think the worst make it for long. I think they quit, give up, but the truth is some kids have them for the year or two they hang in there. When I received my degree, my oldest was 3.5 and my youngest was 9 months old. That colored a lot of what I thought. I didn't want to risk them having the bad teachers. Not even for one year.

So I started looking into homeschooling. Did I know for sure I could do it? Um no. But I figured if the state of IL would let me teach an entire class of kids, I couldn't do much worse for a few kids at home. We started off pretty structured, but then stumbled into unschooling pretty quickly. So for a very long time, most of our homeschooling curriculum, we did whatever we wanted with no worksheets, textbooks, etc. I don't regret one second of it. I think my kids had lots of time to be kids, to learn and explore the world around them in a very nontraditional way. And it works. It works differently than school - by that I mean yes, they are behind in some areas. However, they are ahead in others. So basically, they are like all kids - they have strengths and weaknesses and we work with that.
This year, we left the unschooling behind and are now doing formal learning. It's an adjustment for us all. We now take tests and do worksheets. We study and make note cards. We drill with flashcards. We have due dates for assignments. The transition, especially for my 11yo, has been a lot easier than I anticipated. There is a lot they already knew - and we never had to waste time doing worksheets about 1+2. It's a bit harder for my 8yo - that said, I wish we could wait until she was 10 to make this transition for her as well. However, given both girls are almost positively going to school next year, I can't wait to make the transition for her. In an ideal world though, we'd unschool until 6th grade and then go formal. {That was always the plan, but cancer kind of changed it all}

As to what happens when I don't know something ... I do what I'd do if I was the classroom teacher ... I research it. I try to learn it all before we jump in, but often I'm learning right along with my girls. Here's the thing. When I was in college, I didn't in 2 years learn everything I might possibly have to teach from kindergarten to 8th grade. Often when a curriculum changes or a teacher switches grade level, that teacher has to prelearn what s/he is going to teach his/her class! It's true. So a teacher might have a teacher's guide with all that information in one spot ... but between google, the library and just asking people I know, I can gather up what I need and I'm good to go!

I think I like learning along with the kids the best. I like to tell them I don't know ... I like them to see I'm still learning and curious about things and looking stuff up. That learning doesn't happen only at school and stop once you graduate. I think all parents do this with some stuff. We've all been faced with questions we don't know, I just think I get them more since they are home with me all day.


Tracey asks "What do you like best about homeschooling? What do you like worst about it?"

I like best - having them all home all day =) What I think is worst about it? Is having them home all day!

No really. It's true, although mostly it's the best thing. I love them being home. I love them having more time to just be kids (even now with doing formal learning, we finish in 2-3 hours) and explore and play and just be. I think too many kids are already caught up in the rat race and don't have enough time to just be. Actually, I think too many adults are that way too, but that's a talk for another time!

That said, I'd be lying if I told you there weren't days I long to put them on the bus and get a break. That there aren't days I wonder if I've permanently screwed them up by keeping them home instead of sending them to school. That there weren't days I wonder why we decided to take a path that is not the normal one. But on the other hand, other parents have doubts at times too. So I think most of those doubts don't come from me homeschooling my kids so much as me parenting my kids.

Anymore questions, please feel free to ask! =) 


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Out of ideas ...

My dear readers,

I never thought I'd say this, but I feel like I'm out of things to talk about. Or that I'm to the point where I'd just be saying the same thing over and over again. I think my brain is just a bit fried right now.

So I'm asking for your help. Please, I beg of you, leave me some questions in the comments area. I'll answer them over the next few posts. They can be about anything at all. I mean anything. If I don't like it, I just won't answer! Ha ha! =) Although I can't think off the top of my head what I wouldn't answer, so I doubt that will be an issue.

Anyway, hope everyone is having a great day. Leave me questions. It would make my day =)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Future ...

Last week my husband and I were able to go out to dinner alone. This is huge deal. We haven't gone out on a "date" in so long. It seems most of the year was wrapped up with sickness and then just as we left all the winter illness behind we were hit with my cancer diagnosis.

Anyway, we got out and it was so nice. While we were out husband started to talk to me about our future. He specifically brought up dreams I've talked about greatly in the past. And I can't lie. My anxiety sky rocketed and I couldn't talk to him about it.

You see the future right now is a scary place for me. Don't get me wrong, I feel very positive that this cancer will be gone and I'll go into remission and it won't come back. And yet, I'm terrified that the cancer is not gone. Or it will go away but return again. It's not uncommon for women who have breast cancer like mine to get it 2, 3, even more times in their lifetime.

That knowledge makes thinking about, planning for, or even dreaming about the future very difficult for me. I need to focus on today. Getting through the now. And once we are through all of this, hopefully I can back to dreaming and planning.