Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bah Humbug

Our Christmas elves being all festive!
It's December 10.

Our elves have arrived. Our tree is up (though not yet decorated). Tomorrow is my son's birthday. We have a wreath on the fireplace and one on our door. A few days ago the kids made gingerbread houses. Cards are starting to arrive in the mail. Most presents have been bought. And there is a layer of snow on the ground.

And me? I feel no Christmas spirit. Nothing. Nada. Not a thing.

Which makes me feel sad. Which makes me feel less spirited. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm still struggling with these headaches. At their worst, I would call them debilitating. If there is a medical measurement for this, I'm not sure I reach it. But it feels like it. At their worst, I feel barely capable of functioning. At their worst my eyes get twitchy, so I don't drive. I can't think. The prescription I have helps when the headaches aren't full strength. When the headaches are at their worst though, the medicine isn't so helpful.

I called my primary care doctor in tears last week and asked for a referral to a neurologist. Can another doctor help me? I don't know, but I'm desperate. I did all the other doctors asked of me and it's not helping. And if someone tells me they are being caused by stress again? I might scream. Of course I'm stressed. My head is freaking pounding, my eyes are twitching, and I'm pretty sure my head is about 10 seconds away from exploding. OF COURSE I'M STRESSED!

I also have an appointment with an eye doctor. I haven't been to one in too long. The doctor I had, and was great, left the state. Her replacement was not even slightly as great so I never went back. The new eye doctor's office seems nice. As nice as they can be on the phone anyway.


And I called the chiropractor. I used to see her regularly. She's very nice. But with all the treatment I've undergone the last two years, I often wish to NOT be touched and the thought of going to see her isn't exciting. (I know, it's weird. But I'm all touched out and mostly have no desire to have anyone touch me so I haven't been to see her). Alas, I will go back because I figure it can't hurt!

In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to try to find some Christmas spirit. Because it's not that I don't want to have it. I just need some extra help getting there this year.

xoxo
B

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Things I Don't Say

Yesterday I celebrated, what I'm calling, my second birthday. It was my second second birthday. Two years ago yesterday I learned I was officially NED (no evidence of disease).

This is similar to being in remission. Or maybe it's the same thing, and they changed the terminology. I don't actually know. I just know that according to my doctors, there is no detectable levels of cancer in my body.

Yesterday a friend shared that he has a tumor. In his spine.

I'm so incredibly pissed for him. It's so unfair (it is always unfair but even more so when it hits a friend). I hope someday he can celebrate a second birthday, or a canciversary, or a NEDiversary, or whatever he wants to call it. I hope his treatment is easy and the tumor isn't large. I hope his spine is okay and that however they treat him goes as smoothly as possible.

I'm holding my friend in my heart tonight and in my prayers.

Those are the things I say. I say them because I mean them. And I hold those thoughts near to me when I think about him (and all the others I know going through cancer or other issues).

However, there are a lot of things I don't say.

I don't say, you're strong, you can beat this. Cancer doesn't care if you are strong. It invades your body and has caused many, many strong people to leave this world much too soon.

I don't say, just stay positive! Because cancer sucks. And treatment sucks. And side effects suck. And sometimes you need to get angry or mad or sad and that's okay. Positivity is not a cure for cancer. It's okay to be positive about it, if that's how you truly feel, but denying your feelings isn't healthy and sometimes you will not want to smile. That's okay.

I don't say things like God doesn't give you more than you can handle, or this is God's plan for your life. I'm sorry, but no where in the Bible does it say you won't be given more than you can handle. And I know a heck of a lot of people who were handed some pretty harsh things that were more than any one deserves to handle. Cliche sayings like this don't help, or at least don't help me and many others I've spoken to.

These are the things I might have said in the past, but no longer do. Cancer is an effing bastard. It leaves so many hurting, leaves so many in dark places. It takes those we love from us. Being treated for cancer is not a war. It is not something only the strong, positive people win. People don't lose the fight with cancer - it is not a war to be won or lost.

Cancer is something you get, you hit with the best science has to offer and hope that somehow you come out on the other side NED, with no sign of the cancer left. It doesn't always happen though. Sometimes the science and the medicine isn't enough.

That's not to say I don't think my friend is strong, that I don't think he will do all he can, that I don't hope he gets to celebrate second birthdays for many years to come. I just know that cancer is a jerk. And can take anyone, regardless of if they are strong or not, young or old, smiling or crying.

So I don't say these things. I say other things. The things I believe to be true. And hope that my words, while they can't cure cancer, do touch people's hearts.

Xoxo
B

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The End

The last day of NaBloPoMo and frankly, I'm thrilled!

I feel like I've had some pretty darn awful posts this month - the downside of committing to posting ever day, even if I feel I have nothing to say, I have to come post. It's also been an up and down month for me - the headaches, the stomach aches, the doctors' appointments. The month has been crazy for sure. I am not sad to see it end.

I have high hopes for December. My second birthday, my son's birthday, Christmas, cookies, presents, time together, Christmas music, parties to go to! I can't wait.

And right around the corner is the new year - which is looking like it might bring some big changes (but again, I have to vague, even though I realize it's annoying to do so!)

So tonight I say, good-bye November. And hello December. Hello to high hopes and a month spent with friends and family and not doctors! Hello to a month of smiles and laughter and lots of fun.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Walking

Since yesterday was a day to enjoy so many wonderful foods in quantities not normally eaten, I thought I'd spend today talking about my walking!

(side note: Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful! We managed to pull it off and it wasn't half bad!)

Anyway, for my birthday all the way back in May my husband bought me a fitbit! I had read about them on-line and had asked for one. He, being awesome, got it for me!

He gave me the fitbit flex. It is a pedometer in a bracelet and it's perfect for me. Some of the pedometers clip to your waistband and/or your bra. At the time I wasn't wearing a bra because of reconstruction and I was afraid that if I put it on my waistband I'd forget about it and wash it! Or I'd take it off and forget to put it back on, because I'm really good at being forgetful!

Anyway, I got and read that my goal should be 10,000 steps a day and I thought, man, I've got this in the bag! 10,000 steps - no problem! Um, no, not at all. Apparently I didn't move around nearly as much as I thought I did!

So I started walking a lot more, though it did help I was training for the avon walk, but after the walk, my steps plummeted! I really had to make sure I was taking time to walk and get steps every single day. There have been times when I had to set my daily goal lower than 10,000 - post surgery or other medical things that have come up.

In late summer, when my low iron levels got really bad, I had to walk a lot less. I was actually getting dizzy spells and that wasn't good for much. But in the fall, I realized even though I was exhausted, I could start upping my steps again. The whole, a body in motion stays in motion tends to apply for me. If I can keep moving, or make sure I'm getting up and walking on a regular basis (even just 10 minutes to pace the house every hourish) I'm less exhausted. Of course, I have to balance this with pushing too hard, and I think I'm able to find this middle ground most days.

Right now, my goal is 12,500 steps every day. A lot of days I actually hit 15,000 steps (which, not to brag, but I'm pretty proud of!). I often pace the house or job in place or go up and down stairs. Sometimes I go to track by house to walk or to the mall.

Sometimes my kids tease me as I jog in place in our living room or walk around the living room in endless circles. Sometimes I knit while I walk (or jog) or read a book. Mostly I watch tv, but I figure it's better for me to be moving while watching it than just sitting.

I've had my fitbit since May 21 (I only know because the website tells me LOL) and I've reached 2,143,538 steps. 2 million steps in 6 months. I have no idea if that's really good, but I'll take it! It's nice to have the pedometer. I walk and move a lot more now than I did before. I especially like it because the doctors all want to know if I'm exercising or not and I'm always like "Yes! And I'll show you proof!" (for the record no doctor has doubted me but a few have asked me some questions about the fitbit and seem pretty excited about it!)

How about you? Do you walk or do other exercise daily? Share and tell me all about it!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful

I've got a lot to be thankful for this year. In honor of thanksgiving today (at least here in the states!), here are some things I'm thankful for

  • my awesome family - my husband and kids
  • the rest of my extended family - my parents, sisters, aunts, uncles - including my in-laws, who aren't so much in-laws to me as they are family
  • my friends - I have the best bunch of friends. Some live far, some live near, some of you live in the computer (lol!) but you are all awesome
  • a house to live in, and not just a house, a nice house, filled to the brim with everything we need and a lot of stuff we don't need
  • two cars to drive. I know some families with just one and I know it's hard on them
  • a full fridge, pantry, and freezer. We are not starving, we are not close to starving, we have lots of food. 
  • medicines I need. I've never had to not get a medication because I couldn't afford it. I've been able to get all the medicines I need
  • my doctors. I've got an awesome team taking care of me and I am truly grateful for that
  • my blog where I can be 100% completely me and share whatever is on my mind
  • television (silly, I know) I watch too much, but some days it gets me through the rough moments. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday

It's been a crazy Wednesday.

My headache is back and not being very kind.

I had a doctor's appointment. The doctor was just over an hour late. He looked at me for 30 seconds. Said I was good and now I'll wait for the pre-op call (nothing major, just super minor). I wonder if next time I can show up, flash him, and leave. Because that would be nice.

It was decided today that my husband, my sister and myself will make Thanksgiving day dinner. Last minute changes because my grandma is sick and my mom needs to take care of her.

I've never cooked a t-day dinner before. I've never cooked a turkey before. My husband has, so thankfully he'll be there to help. It should be a thanksgiving to remember!

We'll head to my mom's and hang out all day, hopefully not being too stressed, or having too big of a headache, and we'll laugh a lot and have fun!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Being Thankful

It's November. That time of the year when we all pause to reflect on what we are thankful for.

Don't get me wrong, I have much to be thankful for. There is so much in my life to be thankful for at this moment.

However, there is this underlying thought that I should be thankful for every. single. thing. merely because I am alive. I had cancer and now, suddenly, everything in my life is supposed to be cherished, never taken for granted, and so amazing.

We see it on tv, in movies, in books. You get cancer. You get treatment. You go through an amazing epiphany. Life goes on happily ever after and everything in it you are SO incredibly grateful for. After all, cancer is a gift.

Even on facebook ... we are guilted into this thinking. Some people want a new house, a new car, a new phone, to lose weight, but people with cancer just want to win.

Somehow getting cancer is supposed to make us eternally grateful for everything! And make us not want anything! We must be at peace! With a smile on our face, because after all, we are supposed to stay positive too!

I get it. People want to help. There is so much other people can't do. You can't do chemo for someone. You can't do their radiation treatment, or their surgeries, or take their pills, or fight their side effects. So, chin up, stay positive! You are so strong! I get that it's often meant as encouragement, and yet, at times it falls short, even with the best of intentions.


You know what? Cancer sucks. Some days are hard. For me, even now, two years later.

I am incredibly grateful to still be here. To have caught my cancer when we did.  For treatment that worked. For cancer that hasn't recurred. To have my hair back. To get every day with my family.

But. But. I am also still pissed at what we went through. I am angry at how the treatment that saved me also has left my body beat up and weak. I am so upset about the things I couldn't do with my kids because I was too sick too. I am annoyed that I still have so many damn doctor's appointments.

I am both happy and sad all at once. This is life. It's good, it's bad, some days it's exciting, other days it's mundane. This is how life works - with or without cancer. Things happen that can bring us down, make us sad, hurt us, haunt us, linger. All mixed in with happy memories, wonderful things, lovely times, such uplifting things, kindness showed to us, new friendships made.

As my friend Becki said "People with cancer aren't transformed saints. They're people...with cancer. And all people are different."

To which I say sums it up perfectly! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nearly Wordless Monday

I know, it's usually Wordless Wednesday. But, here we go.

This is the embroidery project I was working on this weekend. It doesn't look like much yet, but it's getting there!

I've been taking pictures of it since the beginning. When I'm all done, I think it will be kind of cool to put together a slide show of it!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Craft Weekend

Random shot of the table tonight
This weekend I threw my (second) annual craft weekend. I invited lots of people over and said they could bring any craft they so wished to work on.

I worked on some needlepoint, which I had been neglecting for too long.

The husband and kids left the house, so it was nice to have that time to not worry about them.

A few people were able to come over and craft with me. Two friends came over yesterday, and both worked on knitting. Today a friend came over who was doing some gorgeous scrapbooking pages. One of my sisters spent time here both days to work on a paper for her class. It was nice and I had a good time.

I enjoyed the time alone, and I enjoyed the time with friends. I got a lot of good stitching done and didn't have to worry about anything. No cleaning, no laundry, none of that - just lots of doing whatever I wanted to. It was good.

I do wonder though, if I'll do it again next year. I'm had a great time with those who came, but it's also a little disappointing to plan stuff, get it ready (though truthfully I didn't do nearly as much to get ready as I did last year), and then have people not show up. And I get it - things come up, people are busy, there wasn't as much notice. It is a busy time of year for sure.

But I'm also not sure if people are as excited about the idea as I am! I imagine more than one person out there is like a weekend of crafting? Um, no thank you! (Which I get, because while I love crafting so very much, there are things I wouldn't want to spend an entire weekend doing LOL!)

Really, it's late and I'm thinking out loud. I'm tired - I stayed up too late last night (but I had the house. To myself! To do whatever I wanted to with! LOL).

On another note my new meds are managing the headaches, but I'm still taking it pretty around the clock and sometimes there is a background throb even with the meds. Sometimes though there are long periods of no headache and oh, I'm so grateful for that!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Busy Saturday!

This morning was ChiTAG and I can't wait to tell you all about it - we had a FABULOUS TIME (and yes, my ChiTAG trip was sponsored, but everything I will tell you about it is entirely my own opinion!)

This evening I have company coming over for my craft weekend. I'm not sure how many people will come over, but I've kicked my family out of the house until tomorrow afternoon. And if no one shows up, at least I will have a nice evening to myself!

Anyway, with a busy day and company coming over, I have to scoot!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Saturday and a wonderful weekend!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Club

Last night I went to book club ... it's run through the local library, but we meet at a local restaurant. I don't always make it out to book club, but when I do like it.

Last night, I still had a headache but I went anyway and I think it was good for me. (then I came home and took the medicine that actually helped the headache! yay!)

This month we read the book Defending Jacob by William Landay.

The book is a courtroom drama about a 14yo boy (Jacob) who was charged with murdering a classmate. His father (Andy), the former prosecutor, is telling the story.

The book is part transcript of a grand jury trial and part Andy's memories. Right away I realized that this was not the Grand Jury for Jacob, but another one. However, you don't find out for what until the very end. 

When the murdered boy (Ben) is first found, despite some worries from others about a conflict of interest, he stays on the case. Once charges are brought against Jacob, he is removed from the case and put on leave. (This comes up in the book several times).

Andy and Laurie are besides themselves as they have to watch their son go through this. Andy is convinced of his innocent. Laurie seems to want to believe in his innocence, but unsure. During all of this Andy admits he's been keeping a terrible secret from everyone - his father, who he always said he didn't know - was in jail for murder. And his father before him. And his father before him. 3 generations of men all with a tendency to violence and murder.

And the possibility of a murder gene is introduced and plays into the case, not as heavily as they could have, but more heavily than Andy wanted it to. 

Alright ... now I'm about to talk some SPOILERS. So please stop reading if you don't want to know more about the book than what I've already said!

The case against Jacob isn't airtight. There is another character - Patz who maybe could have done it. As I read it I thought the author's intention was to let us know that Jacob did do it. Somehow, after a particularly bad day in court, Patz commits suicide and leaves a confession note. The charges against Jacob are dropped. After a small cool down period, his family take a trip to Jamaica, and everything seems to be fine. Until the girl Jacob was hanging out with turns up dead. I feel like this was glossed over in the book and it was pretty obviously (I thought anyway) ripped from the headlines of the Natalee Holloway case.

Jacob is never charged with this however, and the family comes home. The father - Andy is convinced Jacob is innocent and is once again just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And then the book ended in a way that just tore my heart out. (And I don't usually do spoilers but I need to talk this one out). The book ends with the revelation that Laurie (the mother) has purposefully crashed her car, killing Jacob and barely staying alive herself. Like, in the last few pages. This is what the grand jury was about - should Laurie be charged with murder.

My heart stopped beating for a moment. On one hand I get it. I think Laurie felt guilty, felt her son was guilty and wondered how many more people he will hurt, harm, or kill.

But. But. I look at my kids and I think how could I ever hurt them? Or harm them? Or, my goodness, kill them. I still struggle to wrap my mind around it. I just. I can't.

On the other hand, I can't believe the father's complete denial that his son ever did anything wrong at all. I love my kids, but I also know they aren't perfect (neither am I frankly, I never expect perfection for them). They have made mistakes and we deal with it. I hope I never have to deal with them murdering someone, but what parent thinks that that might ever happen? Probably not many.

I finished the book Wednesday and I still have all these questions swirling. Did Jacob really kill Ben? Or Hope (the girl from vacation)? How do murder genes play into it? What's the deal with Patz? The book touches on bullying, and yet, it doesn't. I couldn't tell - teasing I think happened. But did bullying happen? Was Jacob pushed to this or not? And the ending? Crazy.

The writing was good, the book however irked me, too many gray areas, too much unknown. I didn't like it. Of course, I'm probably clouded by the ending to be honest. I just don't understand it.

But alas, I'm glad I read it. I'm glad I went to book group. Next month's book is The Glass Castle. I have high hopes for this one!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blargh

Headache again today. Another night of bad sleep.

However, I got medicine and took it a bit ago. At first it made my head hurt more (or you know the headache just flared coincidentally when I took it, which is possible because all day long it flares up even worse than normal). I have high hopes for this medicine. Though, my brain feels a bit fuzzy so I definitely couldn't take it during the day if I needed to drive.

I hope it helps. I hope I get some sleep. And I hope the pain stops.

If it works, tomorrow I'm going to tell you all about the book I just read for book club.

xoxo
B

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My brain is all clear

The MRI results came back today. My brain is fine. No anything wrong (the report even said my sinuses look perfect too).

Exactly what we expected. In fact, if they told me something did show up on it, I would have thought they were pulling my leg.

This is good news. Except, I still have a headache. And it is near-constant. It swings though - sometimes it's a dull ache - there, annoying, but not too terrible - other times it is excruciating pain. It's like a switch is flipped, it comes on so strong, so quickly, then after time, the flip switches again and it goes back to dull ache. The meds I am taking (just over the counter) is not helping at all.

I talked to my primary care doctor today. She is approaching it from a stress point of view (since the mri was clean, and she checked me for ear ache, sore throat, anything that she could "see" that might cause the headache). So we're upping the magnesium supplement I'm taking. I'm okay with this as it might help with my digestive issues too. Actually, I think it is already helping a little bit so upping it might just do the trick. We also talked about meditation, relaxing, and getting enough sleep - which I definitely don't do, so melatonin was added as well. We talked about exercise - I'm already doing what she suggested, and she said that was definitely good and to keep it up, even on the days when I'm feeling too tired.

The possibility of going gluten-free came up, but it wasn't a strong suggestion for her, so I'm ignoring it for now. However, I'm tucking it in the back of my head. I'm not against trying it, but I'm also not eager to. Plus, my head is pretty much always pounding and the thought of radically changing our diet makes me want to curl up in a ball and whimper. (I know, someone somewhere is thinking but doing this could make you feel better! And it could, but I also know my limits and I'm there. So we are shelving the idea for now).

I love my primary care doctor because she's not all "let's throw 55 prescriptions at you and see where it goes." Not, mind you, that there is a problem with doing that, except, I've had a lot of really bad reactions to a variety of prescription medications, so I'm leery to take them personally. I did, though, get a few trial pills of a sleep prescription medicine to take when I'm so exhausted but can't sleep and just need something - or to help me with the headaches, which are definitely currently making sleep difficult. I'm not opposed to trying them, but I worry about side effects because I tend to get them.

Also, she listened to me. There was a chance I'd get sent for more scans - similarly to the MRI, not that we thought anything was wrong but maybe we should double check. I don't think we need to do this - though I would if they wanted me too. So I told her that it was my opinion that there wasn't anything REALLY wrong, or one BIG problem, but more every system in my body was off by a little bit - and because they were all off at the same exact time, it felt bigger. She said at this point, she agreed with me, she saw nothing pointing to anything different. And that since I have lived in my body for my whole life, she felt that my thoughts on the matter were probably pretty spot on. {side note: If she saw anything that contradicted what I said, I also know she would say, that may be, but this needs to be checked}.

It's nice to feel like you are part of your health care team. It's nice to feel listened too, to feel trusted to know your own body, and to have a doctor that understands you and how you work. It's so good. I wish everyone had this kind of doctor.

After I left her, the oncologist called. He was calling to tell me the MRI was clear (not knowing I met with the other doctor already). We also talked a bit about the headaches. He is prescribing a medicine for migraines. No pharmacy has it today, but I will be able to get it tomorrow. Hopefully, if this headache lingers, this will help without causing some horrible side effects that make me feel worse. He also told me my iron levels are still low (though they are higher than last time). My white and red blood cell counts dropped a bit too, but nothing too terrible. Though I should still expect to feel exhausted (though as we've talked about before, he suggested last month that might just be my new normal).

Since things seem to be stable, he doesn't need to see my back for 3 months. I'll take it. I've got fabulous doctors, but for real, I am doctored out.

I know. More talk about doctors and headaches and tests. This isn't what I had pictures for the month of November, but my head apparently had other ideas. Also, my head has been hurting so much, I haven't been knitting or sewing or anything like that (p.s. this is how you know I'm really not feeling well because I love doing those things so much!). I've been kind of anti-social too, just hunkering down, doing what needs to be done and then trying to lay low with the hopes the headache will pass.

I realize this is all pretty darn boring to read, and I'm sorry. But, I can't wait to come here and say "No more headaches!" and hopefully that will be the last we have to talk about headaches for a while! ;-)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Another Day

My head is bouncing around with so very much right now, and yet, I can't manage to put any of it into words. Strange, I know.

Headache. Again. Not as bad as over the weekend though, so I'll take it. I also had my brain MRI today, and let me tell you, that certainly didn't help any. Essentially, my head was put in a vice (not literally, but it felt like it because you can't move your head at all). Then there is a lot of loud noises. Sometimes I could feel it vibrating. I'm not sure it actually vibrating, since you aren't supposed to move at all, but it felt like it was vibrating my whole body. But, apparently I did good at not moving because according to the MRI technician (is that what they are called?) we didn't need to redo any of the pictures.

I'm still not worried very much about it, I don't think anything will show up. Hence, why I talk about it so much. If I'm really worried about something being wrong, I generally am tight-lipped about it. No use worrying anyone until we need to worry. Though, one of my children pointed out (after telling her the doctor was positive nothing was really wrong), that was the same thing one doctor said when we found my breast cancer, so were we supposed to worry or not? And that sums up why I don't like talking about these tests, scans, etc, until I've already gotten the all-clear.

Anyway, my head still feels all jumbled. Like I can't hold an entire conversation without pausing, thinking, and saying quite frequently well, you know what I mean because I can't find the right words. Because my head is almost always pounding and it's really hard to think when you feel like your brain might completely explode. Right then and there. So I've been hiding out so to say, not really talking to people, laying low, etc. It's just what I need to do right now for me.

The pain is easing. Yesterday I felt a little better. Today I felt better (until the MRI) so I am hopeful that this period of headaches will pass, hopefully sooner and not later. Because I won't lie. This is getting so taxing on me. I realize they are just headaches. But having them so frequently is just sucking me dry.

But tomorrow is a new day! And I've got big plans for the weekend and I am hoping beyond hope that nothing interferes with them - no headaches or nothing!

Monday, November 18, 2013

ChiTAG

Mister Man with his favorite!
It's that time of year again ... it's time for ChiTAG (Chicago Toy and Game Fair).

My family and I look forward to this every year. Well okay, for the last 3 years since that's how long we've known about it! It's a great place to have a lot of fun and learn about new games. Both of the last two years we've brought home a bunch of extra games to play.

We do play games around here fairly often. We don't have a set game night, but we have a pretty big board game selection and enjoy playing them as often as we can!

Miss M with her favorite
We all have our favorites to play, usually the newest games are the favorites, but we also have some classics we like to play as well. I enjoy playing Carcassonne. A new game we just got (warning, not for young kids, some cards have bad words on them) is Trailer Park Wars.

We have friends who also enjoy board games. Sometimes we are gifted some great ones. Other times we play a game at their house and end up buying it for ourselves. We've found some great games at ChiTAG. Two years ago we bought the game Gotcha at ChiTAG and it is a big hit! Lots of laughs during that one!

A rousing game of Ticket To Ride
All of this to say, we really love games! And ChiTAG is great for anyone who loves games, toys and having fun. ChiTag, once again, takes place at Navy Pier (side note: there is parking right there which is so helpful!). And ChiTAG is THIS weekend! I know, I should have told you about this like 3-4 weeks ago, but alas, my brain is a bit jumbled right now. But yes, ChiTAG is this weekend, November 23-24.

I think you should go to ChiTAG and so I'm giving away not one, but two family passes to attend! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. If you'd like to share your favorite game to play as a family, that would be awesome. But, feel free to leave pick me! Or I don't know, what would you play with your 5 year old? And also, leave your e-mail address so if you win, I can let you know! This is a QUICK giveaway. Enter by 8pm on Thursday (central time) and I'll alert the winners so they can plan the weekend accordingly!

If you don't win, you can buy tickets at the door. There is a $2.00 off coupon here you can print up and bring with you if you don't win.

Good luck and happy playing!

http://www.chitagfair.com/



*Comments are now closed since the giveaway is over and a winner was chosen!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 3

Today marks day 3 of this same darn headache. Or maybe 4. I don't think I can keep track anymore.

Today also was a terrible day for my state - Illinois - with many tornadoes touching down, so many home destroyed and news of some fatalities. Just heart-breaking.

With that said, today's post is simply to say, I'm holding so many in my heart tonight and sending a lot of prayers.

xoxo,
Brandie

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Headaches

My goodness. My life lately is revolving around headaches.

I never had much trouble with headaches until cancer. I think the daily medication I am on contributes to them. They were very cyclical and we thought linked to my hormones - which my medicine affects, so hence the link.

A few weeks ago it all shifted though.

Today I spent most of the day in bed because of a headache. Yesterday, my headache woke me from sleep. Thankfully, today that didn't happen (though I was still pretty exhausted from the poor sleep the day before).

I still feel exhausted. My head is still aching, though at least now it's just a dull ache and not too terrible.

I don't know what changed. I don't know why they are so much worse, and seemingly exponentially worse each passing day. Who knows because just google causes of headaches and there are roughly a billion possibilities.

Truthfully, I'm not worried. My guess is maybe side effects of meds getting worse or stress, or everything mixing together to make it worse. Equally truthfully, I'm glad I'm getting an MRI this week because even though I don't think anything wills show up on it, it will be nice to know there is nothing there.

So. Headaches. Lots of rest today. Short blog post tonight. And I hope all of you are having a much more exciting Saturday night!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday

TGIF!

Thank goodness it is Friday. It's been a long week. It's been a long Friday.

As I said earlier this week, I had not one, but two doctor's appointments today. They weren't bad appointments, but I hardly slept last night thanks to a horrible headache. And each doctor needed blood work (but not the same stuff, so I couldn't just have one do it and send it over to the other).

Thankfully, I have some awesome doctors (and nurses and staff). My doctors are friendly, personable, smart, and they listen to me. I'm very lucky that way.

I've heard less than awesome stories from people and had a run in with one nurse that should not be interacting with people (at an urgent care, so not someone I regularly deal with).

I've been seeing all my doctors this month. Partly because I'm catching up on appointments I missed in September, part of it (that I think I've mentioned before) is I am just not feeling great. I'm not sick per se. It's like every system in my body is off just a little bit, but they are all off together which really really sucks. Much of it we can still blame chemo for (even though it's been 2 years and 2 months since my last chemo infusion). It is mind-blowing to me that 2 years later I'm still dealing with side effects. Then again, chemo is a pretty aggressive treatment so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

The thing is I know some people who went through chemo and will say it was fine, they didn't really get sick, and no real lingering side effects. I am both very happy for them and want to punch them. I'm kidding about the punching part, well, mostly kidding ;-) But seriously, I think it's awesome even though I am admittedly jealous.

On the other hand, I know some people who have side effects much worse, that have lingered a lot longer, and are jealous of what I'm going though. And I wish I could make it better for them. Because this stuff sucks.

Probably, I shouldn't make so many appointments in such a short time period. 6 appointments this month, that have lead to two scans and probably one more coming. All currently set for Nov. 6 through Nov 20. 15 days. What in the world was I thinking when I set it up? LOL! Though, on one hand they are all out of the way and done.

Anyway, today's appointments are over and I'm glad. Now to just wait for both blood tests to come back. And next week I get to get an MRI of my brain. We don't expect to find anything, but the headaches are getting worse and worse and so, we're just going to look and see. I'm not hardly worried about it - in fact I've been joking about it. I told my 7yo the doctor wanted to see if I had a brain which he found really funny!

The good news is I'm setting myself up for what might be a doctor-free December. Which trust me, would be the best Christmas present of all!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And another

There was a third little baby born this year that needed a blanket, and once again I reached for a crochet hook and yarn.

Now this blanket has quite the story behind it. I found one of those free patterns from the big box craft store and loved it. I bought the yarn it recommended (and how much it recommended). I did this several years ago.

I picked it up and began to work and realized I would have a blanket fit for a doll. So I thought, no problem! I'll just go to the store and get more yarn and crochet more rows and repeats than the pattern called for!

Do you know where this story is going? The yarn isn't made anymore. There was one that was close, but I knew put together, it would be obvious they were different. So back home and to the drawing board, because I liked the yarn and I wanted to use it!

I ended up using one strand of yarn (the pattern called for two), bumped up the crochet hook a bit and took off. After making the blanket I added an edging (the pattern didn't call for it) in the solid blue which I think made the sides look a lot nicer. In the end, I loved it. Sometimes things need to be tweaked. I don't often feel comfortable tweaking things, especially with crochet as I don't feel as comfortable with it. But it worked so well.

My cats especially loved this blanket! I may have to make them their own. They often cuddled up with it (but don't worry, I washed it really well before giving it to baby just in case!). This is another blanket I would make again if I had the chance!




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Crochet!

So, I mostly stick to knitting, but every so often I reach for a crochet hook instead. I probably should crochet more than I do, but knitting was my first love and it's my default setting.

Earlier this year, we had some new babies arrive and I just knew I wanted to crochet some blankets for the little babes.

I made this lovely blanket. It's called the Baby Boy Wrapper. (side note: I'd totally make this for a girl too! But alas, this was made for some cute boys). I crocheted this blanket, and used a white/blue mix for the main blanket and a straight blue for the edging. I instantly fell in love with this blanket. So I made it again for another little boy.

I would absolutely crochet this up again for a little baby. It was fun to crochet and crochets up beautiful. The yarn I used (which I can't remember, or I'd tell you) was so soft and didn't feel too heavy. Oh, I loved it so much!



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Long Day

Today was a long day. It ended well, but it was a long day.

I had to go get an ultrasound of the lymph nodes in my armpit. There was a lump there that the doctor felt last week and didn't like the feel of it. (I'll tell you now, everything is fine and it all checked out okay)

Yep, here we go again. Sigh. So I scheduled the ultrasound.

Today was the day. I had to go to the same place I had to get my mammogram. I haven't been back there since then. Inf act, that was the one and only time I had been there. To get my mammogram. To have the doctor say we need to biopsy. To hear them say that it needed to be looked at further.

My goodness, it was gut wrenching to be back there today. So very much anxiety wrapped up in such a small thing. Thankfully, this was a diagnostic ultrasound so right after I had it done, the doctor came in and talked to me. He said everything looked fine and they were recommending no further action. Not even to watch anything.

Thankfully. Then I ran out of there as fast as I could. Because my odds there are now50/50 and I just don't like those odds in the slightest bit.

This is the part of cancer I hate the most: the cancer is gone, and yet, it's not. I mean, technically I'm NED and no one thinks cancer is in me. But my body likes to have lumps and bumps and have things go wrong. And since I had cancer once, everything gets looked at, checked, sometimes double checked or rechecked. Tests, scans, appointments, it sometimes feels unending. And every time I have to get one, I get so very nervous. Because even though the odds are in my favor, I've heard that before and it was still cancer.

I suppose I should be used to it by now. I should be able to brush it off and laugh about needing yet another test. And yet, I can't. Every single time feels like that first time, feels like I am minutes away from getting bad news. Again. And I hate it. I can't stand it. I hate both cancer and I hate my ability (or more inability) to deal with it all. Still. Now.

This is the cycle I'm in. Doctor's appointment, scan, news, another appointment, blood test, appointment, scan, news, round and round it goes. I'm stuck in the middle of it, waiting for it to end.

But alas, it doesn't. The news is good. The week goes on. And Friday I have not one, but two, appointments to go to. We'll see what they bring. I'm hopeful it won't bring anything. Afterall, I still have another appointment next week to go to. And I feel like I had enough excitement for the month already! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Welcome Winter

When it first started snowing!
Today we had our first real snowfall of the season.

We had flurries in October, but today, the world was actually dusted in white. Thankfully, not enough to cause trouble, just enough to cause excitement. 

I let the youngest two take a break from schoolwork (I would have let the oldest go, but alas, she wanted to stay inside. So did I. It was also cold out there!) so that they could go play in the snow. I figure, what's the point of homeschooling if we can't do fun things like play in the first snowfall of the season? It's a big deal, especially so to the younger ones! 

Personally, I love and hate snow. I love how it looks when it's falling - especially when it's the big, fat, flakes falling from the clouds. It is gorgeous to look at. However, I hate cold weather with a passion. I'm never warm enough. I also hate driving in the snow. And I don't enjoy the shoveling. If my husband is reading this, he will laugh, because I also almost never shovel snow - we leave that to him. Thankfully, he's okay with it. and the kids might help (as much as they can) now and then.

But looking at snow is gorgeous. There is something beautiful about a world covered in white. Everything looks clean and wonderful. It calls to me to hunker down under a nice blanket and sip some hot chocolate, maybe light the fireplace. It's all so comfy and cozy and I love it.

So today, I stayed in my pajamas, huddled under the blanket and watched as the kids went out and played. It didn't snow enough to make the husband's drive home from work terrible. So, I'd say overall it was a win-win for everyone.

I'll end with the song I sang (loudly, off-key and happily) many times today. I learned it in elementary school and it has stuck with me! Enoy!

The First Snowball of The Season
(sung to the tune of Take Me Out To The Ballgame) 

It's the first snowball of the season
The first snowball of the year
And me and the kids in the neighborhood
Packed and pounded and rounded it good
Then we rolled it over to Main Street
With people popping their lids! (pop-pop-pop)
It's the FIRST SNOW BALL of the season when we were kids!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday ...

Today was a good Sunday. Out to lunch today with much of the extended family. It was nice to see everyone I saw (though I missed those who couldn't make it). Then home again to relax.

I relaxed so much I neglected to blog. So, here I am, at almost 11:30pm at night, writing a blog post. I have to get it in before midnight and since I don't plan to write for an hour, I probably will.

I feel badly. I feel like these aren't great blog posts. Well, I mean, I don't really ever write great blog posts, but these last few ones have been even more sub-par than normal. I'm sorry. That is, of course, the risk of NaBloMoPo - having to write each day, when you don't normally. It's hard to write good content every day for me! I don't consider myself a writer and this blog is a hobby. I blog for fun, for me, because I love it!

Anyway, it's late, and I'm rambling. I'm tired, but I'm staying up to watch Walking Dead (rerun from earlier tonight), playing The Tribez - two guilty pleasures of mine.

But it was a good day. I'm going to really try to have some awesome posts this week for you. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and a great week to follow!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Short and Sweet

Pre-date selfie
This post is short. My husband is sweet =)

Tonight he took me out to dinner at this fabulous Mexican place near us. Neither of us had been there before and the restaurant is newer. It was SO good. I told him he better take me back good ;-)

I even got all pretty - did my hairs, put on make-up, wore a kick-butt dress I bought yesterday during an impromptu shopping trip. I didn't even plan to buy a dress, but we passed the store and I saw the dress and just wanted to have it so badly. Then I tried it on and it fit. I asked the internet if I should buy the picture and boy, you guys sure are good and at encouraging me to spend money! So the dress came home with me.

So date tonight. Short and sweet =)
bad dressing room pic!


Friday, November 08, 2013

Scarves

I've been a knitting fool and have made a lot of scarves lately. The thing is, I can walk and knit. And sometimes job in place and knit. And occasionally, I can jog in place, read a book, and knit. I know, I know, it's crazy. I'm usually pretty klutzy and so it amazes even me that I haven't killed myself yet. However, it seems I become less klutzy when I have a pair of knitting needles in my hand.

Anyway, I guess this is pretty fascinating because sometimes I mention it and then people look at me like I have two heads. I suppose, it's not often I see people walking down the street knitting away (though I did see it once, and no, I wasn't looking in a mirror). So, alas, in an effort to be healthy, train for the avon walk, I walk and knit.

Scarves are the easiest for sure. I once started a shawl and knit, but once it got to a certain width, it became impossible to do so. So I stick to scarves. I had about 8 done when I offered to sell one to someone, in exchange for a donation of their choosing to my Avon walk. I really expected people to be say oh, that's cute. I don't need one. Good luck. But a few people actually wanted the scarves I made. Kind of cool, and flattering (I won't lie!)

So today I mailed 3 scarves off to their new homes. I had 2 others (that were gorgeous if I do say so myself) but I forgot to photograph them before giving them to their new owners. Anyway, here are my walking scarves! The pictures are great. I took them with my phone last night while trying to get everything ready to ship =)

Untitled
This scarf is going to the first person who responded. She mentioned she just got cream gloves and asked which scarf would match. I didn't actually have a cream one knit up, but I knew I had cream yarn, so I offered to make her one just for her!

Untitled
Then there is this purple beauty, which I love. I may have to make myself a second one. This one was snatched up pretty quickly as well.

Untitled
And last but not least, this gray beauty. Looks familiar huh? Someone saw the purple one and said, oh, can I have that in gray? And I said yes! I love this pattern so much. I could knit it a million more times and not grow tired of it. The yarn is thick enough that it keeps your warm, but the holes make it so it isn't too warm (as someone who is prone to hot flashes, that is pretty important to me!)

Anyway, some of my recent knitting to show you =) I suppose next week I'll have to talk more about all my walking, and somewhere I have a video of my walking and knitting that I might have to post!

Have a good Friday night!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Pillow!

One of my favorite things to make is a ring bearer's pillow for weddings. Ever since I discovered I love making them, I try to offer to make them for those I love if they are getting married. I've made quite a few and I love it. Weddings are so magical to me and to be able to contribute in a small way makes me so happy.

Recently a friend announced her upcoming wedding. Okay, maybe not so recently, but in the spring. I asked if she would allow me the honor of making her pillow and she said yes. That's when the questions really start: what do you want on it? What colors? Names? Dates? Nothing? What? Tell me more about your dream ring bearer's pillow than you ever thought possible!

This particular wedding is having an aviation theme, so I set to work and searched for embroidery designs and found what I thought was the perfect one. Then I looked for a few more so the bride would have some choices. Turns out, we both agreed on which one was perfect! Yay!

Then I turned to the embroidery machine (which I do not use enough at all and I need to start using a lot more!) and let it whiz away. After the embroidery, I sew up a pillow and I love how this one turned out. I hope the bride and groom like it as well. I hope they have an awesome wedding (that I will attend in spirit only). But most of all, I wish them a lifetime of happiness!






Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Blah

These are the days I wish I hadn't signed up for NaBloPoMo ... the days I have nothing of substance to say and where I feel my words are more of a waste than worth anything.

Alas, I did sign-up, so here I am writing.

Today has been a gray, cloudy, rainy day. I have had a headache since last night that I can make not as painful, but can't seem to get it to go away. I went to the doctor. Again. To complain about some tummy issues (ps this is how you can tell I have kids. I find people with kids almost always say tummy and those without (or with grown children) say stomach. Just a random thought thrown in).

It was a good doctor's appointment. I have a great primary care physician. She listens and I never feel rushed when I'm there. That's a good thing because too often I hear about people who feel rushed in and out of the doctor's office and never have a chance to breathe, let alone ask a question or two.

I didn't sleep well last night, and my head was pounding, and I was telling her I just feel crappy all. the. time. And that's about when I started to cry, well more tear up. I'm emotional, it's who I am. This is just how it is. I'm okay with it and feel very angry when people tell me to toughen up or that I'm a baby for crying (which thankfully happens almost never). So I sat there and had tears and the doctor offered me kleenex and patted my leg and said she understood. 

And we moved on and talked about a few things and I left feeling mostly better but also a little worried. Because not only do I cry a lot, but I'm awesome at worrying and being anxious. I'm starting a new medicine. Well, technically a vitamin (I think?) - magnesium to be exact. Which, if it's going to help should do so soon. And if it doesn't help, well, let's not go there for the moment, because I'm really hoping it helps.

Here's the thing. I just want to feel good. I don't feel good very often. Between stomachaches, headaches, fatigue and a few trigger points for pain, I often feel pretty darn icky. I'm so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. So I'm really really really (no, I mean really) hoping the magnesium works. And soon I will be feeling better. Maybe not quite to good so quickly, but better would be a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Eff Cancer

Sorry guys, but we have to return to cancer again.

Trust me, I wish this wasn't so, that we could spend a month on it and hten forget it for the rest of the year, and yet, it doesn't that work that way. Stupid, stupid cancer.

Last month, I shared Ginnie's story with you. Today, I sit in tears after hearing the news that Ginnie's cancer has spread significantly and she will restart chemo on Friday.

Ginnie is an awesome person and this just sucks. And isn't even remotely close to fair. If you have a moment, send Ginnie some good thoughts, say a prayer for her, hold her in your heart. 

xoxo,
Brandie

Monday, November 04, 2013

Aprons

I LOVE aprons, just love them. I own more than I should (though not enough in my book and I am always on the look out for a new one to add). Most I've bought, one I made, one I had made for me, and one (which I will never actually use) was made by one of my husband's favorite relatives when he was growing up. She is no longer with us, but I hear amazing stories about her and am so grateful we got something she made. {side note: I should take pictures of that and share!}

Anyway, all of this to say, I love aprons. About 5 months ago my mom asked if I would sew two aprons for her. They were fabric panels so all I needed to do was cut and sew. No problem!

But they sat. And sat. And sat. Um, yeah, I kind of have procrastination issues. But last month I slowly but surely worked on them and was finally able to give my mom the finished aprons yesterday. Phew!






I've actually finished quite a few projects this year and realized I haven't shown any pictures around here. So maybe my theme for NaBloPoMo will be featuring some of the things I've made. After all, that was the point of the blog when I first started it eons ago!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sunday

my view from where I type this
It is a gorgeous Sunday around these parts. It is chilly outside, but the sun is shining. Many of the trees are bare, but some of them are sporting some gorgeous red and orange leaves.

The kids are happy. The husband took care of all the chores that needed to be done. I got to sleep in (thank you extra hour of sleep!). I've spent some time sewing today - which I don't do nearly enough.

This last week was good. I finished a few projects (all of which are going to be mailed to people and I hope will make them smile). We have a warm house, plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear.

Life is good. And I'm so extremely grateful for that.

Notice, I didn't say life is perfect. It's not at all. Exhaustion is still kicking my butt. There are few major life decisions that need to be made (no, I won't say more than that. Sorry.) I turned into a screaming banshee at my oldest when she frustrated me and pushed every single one of my buttons. I apologized to her later though, and I think we both still love each other. ;-) Just kidding, I know we love each other, because she wrote that beautiful piece for the blog after I turned into a witch. I've forgotten more words this week than I think I probably should and wonder if I should be worried, but probably it's stress so I'm not worried yet. Though, I will joke about how I wrote "He likes sports people the most" because I couldn't think of the word athlete and sports people worked just fine - everyone knew what I meant.

But despite all of that, life is good. It is good in so many ways. We are so loved by so many. I can feel it all the time. We have good people in our lives - really good people. In so many ways, we are blessed so much. Today, I'm going to think about those things and just be grateful for them.

xoxo

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Whee!! Let the fun begin

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Though, I don't expect anyone to get hurt, so hopefully it will just be fun and games. Because I'm doing it again ... signing up for NaBloPoMo again this November, because, why not. I did it last year and survived so here's to hoping I survive again this year.

NaBloPoMo November 2013 




So here we go. It's time to get this party started and hope I don't go crazy trying to post each day. ;-)

I know I'm not the only person doing NaBloPoMo, so if you are doing it too, leave a comment so I know who to bug when I run out of things to talk about LOL! ;-)

Friday, November 01, 2013

One last guest post

Today is one last guest post. I had intended for these to just take up October, but this morning, my 14 year old came to me (in tears) and told me she had decided to write for me after all.

Her writing this was hard. Not that writing is hard, but it is emotional hard to share something you have held so close to your heart. My daughter, bless her heart, doesn't often share these emotions with me - she doesn't want me to worry and doesn't want to make me more stressed. (That's not to say she doesn't talk to me about other things, because she does and I love it)

But when it comes to the cancer, she is often tight-lipped. I hate that, but also know where she is coming from so I don't press too hard and try to suggest other people she can talk to if she wants to.

My daughter is a smart girl, a typical oldest child, and has had to bear too much in her life. This piece is heart-breaking to me in so many ways. But also makes me so proud of her for sharing this. She is brave and strong, but I hope she also learns that being strong means you are allowed to cry. Anyway, here is her piece.

 

Last week, on her 14th bday
My name is Abigail and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2011. I was terrified when she told me that she had cancer, but that didn't compare to how scared I got later.

In May my mom had a double mastectomy. We had to turn our dinning room into a bedroom for her because she couldn't walk up the stairs. We were homeschooled and my mom was our teacher. Often days she would be too sick to teach us so we had to try and do all of our work ourselves. That coming school year my mom was too sick to teach my brother who was going into kindergarden. So we enrolled my little brother in school, and on the first day of school my mom was having chemo done so she couldn't even take him to the bus stop or help him get ready. My sister and I had to help my brother on the bus a lot as my mom was too sick or at a doctors appointment.

At one point I went to a sleep away summer camp with my cousin and everyday I was worried that my mom wasn't getting everything she needed or that my brother and sister were at home and couldn't get dinner because no one was there.

Now my dad had it the hardest. He had to take care of my sister, brother, my mom, and me while having a full time job where he often had to work extra hours. When my mom finished chemo she had to start radiation. Radiation makes you very sick and unable to most things. So my mom was in bed a lot during radiation treatment. Then finally in November she was done! And everything was okay.

Her with on her fav softball players
Until December came - she started getting sick again and she had a rash near her radiated area. Then on December 23 my mom was taken to the ER and was rushed in for immediate surgery. She came home that night but she still was very sick. All through the years she had constant doctors appointments and physical therapy appointments.

Then came this year my mom had found an organization called Camp Kesem. Kesem is a camp for kids who's parents had cancer. And finally I had found a place where people were just like me. Because though we had tons of support which I am thankful for, there was no one just like me. And I can't even tell you how tired I was of hearing "god bless you poor little soul" or "don't worry everything will work out in the end". Because none of these people understood what I was going through.

I am not a big crier. I just don't do it. When I got Kesem I was afraid it was going to be yet another place I felt alienated from everyone else and that all the counselors were going to be like everyone else. But that's not what happened. I met a lot of great kids my age who had gone through what I had.

Then one Wednesday night at camp they had a ceremony where we sat in the gym area in a big circle and had the opportunity to tell our story. Going into this ceremony I was thinking it was going to be stupid and everyone was telling me you're going to cry, its so sad. They had a rain stick that they would pass around and when you had it you get to talk. Now, I didn't really know anyone's story and they didn't know mine. So I did not expect what happened to happen.

They asked who wanted to start. And a little 7 or 8 year old raised his hand. They handed him the rain stick and he said my daddy died of cancer. That was very hard on me because my brother was 7 and here this little boy was whose dad had died! And then it kept going around until it got to me. Now I was already crying and then they handed it to me and I had intended to talk, but I just couldn't. I burst into tears and counselors immediately started surrounding me. But me being stubborn I intended to talk and share my story. So I moved to where the rain stick was being passed around and I waited.

The girl behind was talking about how her mother had died, and again she was the age of my little sister which only made me cry more. And finally I got the rain stick again and told my story and after words I started bawling, or as my would say ugly crying. Then the camp psychiatrist brought me out to the hall where a couple other kids who crying just as bad as I was were. And she let me talk about why I was angry and what made me so insecure.

I hadn't talked to anyone and it felt so good. I told how my grandma had cancer at 30 and my mom got it at 31 and I was afraid it was genetic and my little brother or sister would get it and their kids would have to go through the same thing as we did. An then my sister came and we just held each other and cried for a long time.

Camp ended and we went back home and didn't want to tell anyone what happened and how I broke down. And then in October I found out that my mom needed iron treatments because she  was low. And they had tried giving her iron before but she kept having allergic reactions to it. And the last time she had a respiratory reaction, which I didn't really understand, but I knew it was bad. She came home and really sick for a couple of days and they decided they couldn't give her the treatments anymore. Which was bad because she needed it.

And now I'm here and I hope everything gets better from now on.


A few notes from mom: radiation shouldn't have been that bad, we didn't know I had an underlying infection - that is what kicked my butt (and caused that surgery I had that Dec).
Camp Kesem is an amazing organization. Their website is here if you want to learn more about them!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

In memory


Today, on the last day of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 
I'd like to take a few moments to remember
Jen
Jenny
Susan
Rachel
Arlene
Eedie
and everyone else who was taken from us too soon

xoxo
Brandie

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Has Cancer Affected Us


Today's post comes from my husband. I saved this for last for a few reasons. Mostly because he just sent it to me at the end of last week. But also, it made me cry. Not just cry, but ugly cry. And, I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to keep this just for me for a few days, to read it, to reread it, to love him extra and to hold his words in my heart. But he wrote this for you as much as he wrote this for me, so I won't be selfish any longer and I'll share it with you. I think, if you don't already know how awesome he is, you might after reading this.

How Has Cancer Affected Us
by Eric

Eric and I in August
Hello everyone in the digital world, it’s the DH here. Most of the time DH is used, it stands for Dear Husband. Occasionally, although my wife would never admit it, DH stands for something less glamorous. Something I always tease my wife about. Today’s blog post as you have guessed by now is from me. My credentials can be summed up pretty quickly. I’m married to Brandie. I have no blog, twitter, or social media account other than Linked-in. If I check my personal e-mail account three times in one week, it’s impressive. It’s not that I’m anti-technology, the real reason are these short 24 hour days we live with. I cannot fit anything else into my routine, and I’m not one to do something half hearted or poorly.

How has cancer affected us? It might almost be easier to talk about ways it didn’t affect us.

Cancer. Just finding a starting point is hard. Cancer is a taker. It takes an individual’s time, well-being, money, and this is a short list of the many things which come to mind. In order to combat cancer one needs to surround themselves with a support group of givers. Since my wife was diagnosed with cancer, people and organizations have given their time, meals, emotional support, and yes; money too. Within our own family we regularly give to each other. This has been important, as a family unit we’ve grown closer during this time of need. Sometimes we asked for help, many times though it was offered without any request on our part. It is truly humbling to receive this help.



Eric coaching softball
I have a typical guy trait in that I do not get very emotional. Outside of funerals, my wife has only seen me tear up a couple of times the 15 years we’ve been together. In retrospect though, we could not have made it through without the support of family, friends, church, and other groups. This thought makes me cry. I look at the growing up which our kids had to do. How many times I was forced to use the “C” word on them as reason for them to put aside being the kids that they were supposed to be and transform into an adult because the house needed to be quiet, they would be left home alone, that they couldn’t play with their friends on a nice day, or join some sport they wanted to do, etc. This thought makes me cry. I look at the love of my life and see her struggling, to this day with many things we healthy people take for granted. Knowing that even when she says everything is ok, it’s really not. This thought makes me cry.



I try not to dwell on this long. A quick thought is enough to appreciate and respect the situation. Because like a tornado that randomly strikes a town, we did not choose to let cancer in our house. This is one of those random life events, which we are fortunate enough to be counted in the survivor column and not as a casualty. So long as we are in that survivor column, there is some good to be had.



Out of this mess, we cherish things more than we did in the past. My wife takes lots of pictures. Another item I tease her on regularly. I’m glad she takes these pictures. It gives us a lot of happy moments to look back on, even if I’m not sure what we will ever do with all of them. As we go forward, I want to say that the worst is behind us. Should this not be true though, I will be there for Brandie, now and forever, as I know she will be for me. Make sure those you love and care about know this and thank you for being a friend.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cancer Stinks!!!

she made this on the rainbow loom
Today's guest post is from my 11 year old daughter. She's a pretty awesome kid and has a big heart. She would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it. Her words are simple, sweet and short, but have tugged at my heart in some pretty big ways. But, I'm glad she wrote this. Parts were hard to read, but at the end of the day I love this kid and believe she knows how much she is loved!






Miss M in Aug
Dear readers, 

When I was told my mom had cancer I was really sad. We were crying, sitting on my mom's bed when she told us the news. After she told us, we got to eat chocolate. The first thing my brother said when we found out was "can I go play Wii now?" {mom's note: he was 5 at the time}

Cancer was very hard on my family but other family and friends helped us. People brought us meals and helped babysit my brother, sister, and me. With a lot of help we got through it but there were a lot of hard times and lots of very sad moments. 

But in the end (even though sometimes it felt like there wouldn't be an end, there was one). It all started to get back to normal then back to bad over and over. My mom even had a surgery the day before Christmas Eve! But not a major one, a small one, and she was back home even better then before and on the same day! 

But I remember when every day she was sleeping in bed. My sister and I would try to help out around the house as much as possible and try to do all our school work without help. Even though it was only a few weeks, sometimes it felt like forever. 

But in the end, it all worked out. I'm really glad I still have my mom. I mean cancer stinks!!! But I'm glad we had help. 

Sometimes when my mom has doctor appointments that are important tests and other stuff like that, sometimes I worry the cancer might come back. I get scared a lot about things like that. But knowing that we have family and friends makes me feel a lot better.

Love,
Miss M

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Journey

Today's story is from Mary Lou. Mary Lou is another one of my relatives. She is my mother's cousin, which I think makes her and I second cousins. Mary Lou is a breast cancer survivor, but you will see she used her breast cancer story to do some pretty amazing things! 

My Journey 
by Mary Lou



First of all I would like to say that I had always had my Mammograms, my Paps..everything by the book. I was 40 years old at the time I first encountered my problem that would lead to many more.

My journey with Breast Cancer started like any other day, it was a beautiful day in October of 1986. I had a hectic work schedule and worked hard outside that weekend raking   leaves and preparing my flower for the long Illinois winter that lay ahead.  At the end of the day I felt like so much had been accomplished and I drag myself upstairs for my shower and settle in for the evening. But the shock I received when I undressed for that shower is one that I will never forget. When I took my clothing off to shower I found blood in my bra...I was so frightened and confused and here it was a weekend and I had to wait until Monday morning to call my family Doctor. 

I thought Monday would never come, I called as soon as my Doctor came in, he took my call and directed me to a surgeon, he knew that was where I would need to go, he got me in that same day.  The Surgeon reviewed all of my past records, and scheduled me for surgery right away. He found that the bleeding was coming from my milk gland, it was not a “full scale Cancer” at the time they did the Lumpectomy, it was Severe Atypical was the description on the Pathology report,   he felt that the Lumpectomy would fix the problem. It was a very deep and difficult surgery; remember that many years ago it was much more evasive. I went home thinking it was over, but it was just beginning.

Exactly one month later I started bleeding again, I was so frightened when it happened again. This time my surgeon sent me to a Chicago hospital and I had more surgery ... taking more of the breast. I did not feel comfortable and was so frightened that they were just following protocol and guessing at what point this would turn, I felt they were thinking Liability Insurance and covering their butts and I was so afraid that they would guess wrong. I came out of surgery the 2nd time wrapped like a mummy, not knowing what they had even done. Rush is a teaching hospital and everyone that came around would tell me I would have to ask my Doctor, this continued all day. I finally found out that they found the same thing with the milk gland being ate into and described it as a Severe Atypical Cell.  For the next few months I saw the surgeon almost monthly having repeated mammograms and biopsies.  In Sept of 1987 when I had my (almost monthly) mammogram, they kept asking me to come back in for more views and sent me upstairs to my surgeon. He told me I needed a Double Mastectomy and he scheduled it in 10 days. I remember leaving his office feeling numb, that was before cell phones were so widely used, I wondered how I would tell Milton, my Husband and my Children, my Mom, my 6 Sisters, my coworkers, family and friends … my mind was spinning. I thought I wanted to be strong when I told Milt, I didn’t want to cry. I stopped in the lobby of the clinic and called him, I thought I would be stronger on the phone than I would face to face … but I wasn’t strong, the fear came out.  But he assured me that it would not change his Love for me and was so supportive of me and he still is!



I was in management for a large company, I rearranged my work schedule to accommodate the surgery dates and the day before my surgery, I was in my office when I got a call from my Dr, he called to say that he had changed his mind and wanted to do MORE biopsies.  My family Doctor did not trust what the doctor did, he called Mayo Clinic and sent me armed with Mammograms, surgery reports and Biopsy reports. The Pathology Dept called when Milt and I were with the Doctor and said “You need a Double Mastectomy, and I can do it tomorrow”. Milt and I went to lunch while the surgeon scheduled all of my pre surgery testing and admitted me to the hospital ... needless to say, we could not eat but we did need time to digest this news.
I recall the calls to my children and family, trying to stay strong but being scared to death. We were so far from home and Milt was alone during my long surgery and that bothered me, I just wanted it over with so I could open my eyes and see him again. The Plastic Surgeon came in as soon as the Surgeon finished to put the expanders in to start my reconstruction.  I came out of surgery feeling like a “time bomb” had been removed from me. 

Milt got me pillows and made me a comfy bed in the back seat of the car and we returned home. I did wonderful, my Sister lived in the same town and came to stay with me and I know that it was hard on her and it was hard for me when I saw her and her girls that first day. I knew I had to be strong for so many people. I had a very positive attitude and I got through all of my reconstruction surgery with flying colors. But after facing something of that magnitude Milt and I decided that life and quality of life was more important than our careers. We wrote out resignations, scouted the country for our new home.

We ended up moving to Lake Cumberland KY, Somerset was home the day we first set eyes on it, we bought our home in October 1987, one month after my mastectomy. We have never regretted that decision. Immediately after moving here I got involved with the American Cancer Society and that was exactly what I needed to heal, to me it was a huge part of my recovery. I met so many people that became like family to us, I served on the Board of Directors for 10 years, as President for 3 terms. I became a Community Activist for ACS and obtaining Ambulance Service for our Lake Locked Community and Chairman of the Ambulance District for 16 years. 

After 5 years I had problems with my implants and had to have them removed, I was named Hero for Hope for 2012-13 by the ACS for the South Eastern Division, an honor beyond word for me. I am a trained Reach to Recovery Volunteer with the ACS. My goal is to help families going through this as we that have been there can be a source of strength and inspiration to those that have yet to travel down that road.

I have never felt anger for what has happened as I feel I have had the chance to grow and experience things in a different light than if I had not traveled this journey. I also have had the most supportive husband and he is behind me in all I do, encouraging me all the way.  I also feel my faith in God is so much stronger. I hope to be able to reach many more ladies in years to come and each day is a gift.