Monday, July 29, 2013

The County Fair

Reflection photograph
Miss M's picture entered in "Reflections"
Last week was our county fair.

It was a long week. The fair ran Wednesday through Sunday, but we are at the fairgrounds every day from Monday through Sunday. A few days we came home and it took my last bits of energy to quick shower and climb into bed. Some of our days were 12+ hours of being at the fair. Three of the days I worked at the farm stand there too. I'm beat. My goal today was to do as little as possible.

Petting Chickens
Letting kids pet the chickens
All that said, it was an awesome week! Last week was the culmination of work that my daughter has been working on since late last year {which means it was also the culmination of the nagging I began doing late last year ;-)}For many of her project areas, she has to bring one project to the fair - a poster board, a kit, something she made, etc. However, what people don't see at the fair, is her project areas come with a workbook that she has to work through. She is also supposed to do some giving back, interviews, workshops, etc, as we can. For example, one of her project areas is photography. She worked through the photography workbook, at two different events she volunteered to take pictures to share after, she read some photography books from the library and also attended a photography workshop. She could have, had she wanted to and we made it work out, gone to a museum to look at pictures, participated in a photography show, showcase her photos somewhere public, created a photography how-to tips to display somewhere, taught a friend what she learned, etc, etc. Basically, my point is, it's a lot of work. It's so much more than the two photographs she showed for 4H, and the four photographs she showed in open class. And I love it!

Grooming Cats board
Her cat grooming board
She meets with her club and they do things together. She picks her project areas (up to ten and each member picks their own as well). She works hard, she learns things. She has done experiments, interviews, giving back, and has learned a lot of things. She also builds confidence. There is some time management to be learned. We registered for the maximum ten projects this year. We showed in nine of them. It was a lot to juggle and we decided a few months ago to let one go knowing there simply wasn't time. Next year, I don't think she'll register for all 10 again, but maybe! If she does, she knows to start sooner.

My big thing is the confidence boost. My 10yo is the middle child. We haven't had any dramatic "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" moments in our house (thankfully), but I also get it's not always easy to be the middle child, especially when you struggle with some things that seem to come naturally to your siblings (though, that would be struggle if you were the oldest or the youngest too I think).

Paper Mache Bowl
Her paper mache project
At the moment, Miss M is the only one of my children doing 4H. My 7yo will join when he is old enough, but I think the projects he picks will be very different than what she picks. And let me tell you, her having this 4H, this thing that is so uniquely hers, is fabulous! It helps too that her 4H club is full of some pretty wonderful kids and parents too. I could go on and on about this, but the short version is: she loves 4H and I love 4H.

So last week was fair week. This is our second year participating. Last year we brought 4 projects for 4H. It was nice and easy. This year we brought 13 4H projects, 8 open class projects, and 2 chickens. There were boards, kits, framed pieces of art, a rock collection, and more. Half the projects were turned in on Monday, half Tuesday (also the day we brought the chickens) and the fair opened Wednesday. It was a busy week. Thankfully, it was not very hot (because that would have been hard on the chickens).

Now, being in the fair isn't about the ribbons, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't exciting to get some good ribbons! Miss M ended up with (for 4H)  4 class champions, and 1 reserve grand champion. In open class she had 3 first premiums, 1 third premium, 1 fifth premium, and one Judge's choice special award (the picture at the top of the post).

Chicken Judging
Chicken judging!
In addition to all of that, she learned so much! We had no clue what we were doing with our chickens when we first arrived. Next year, will be so much easier (in fact, I think we will end up bringing more than two). She got to run around and have fun with friends. She befriended some of the other exhibitors there. And when she could, she would pull the chickens out so visitors could pet them.

I am so grateful that 3 years ago, after visiting the same county fair with my mom, she came home and told me she wanted to join 4H. I'm so happy I picked up the phone and got her in it. 4H has been an amazing experience for her (and me!) so far and I think it will continue to do so.

Yellow Rosette
Her by her yellow rosette!
I love how all this hard work ends with the fair - the people, the food, the rides, the crowds, all of it - is just so fun! I'm not sure county fairs and 4H are appreciated as much as they used to be, but if your county fair hasn't happened yet, try to visit at least once. Stop by the animal exhibits, the 4H exhibits, the open class exhibits. Eat an elephant ear and a corn dog. Go listen to one of the bands play. Or see a pig race. Just go and have fun. I don't think you'll be disappointed. And next year, maybe encourage your child to participate in 4H or maybe you'll want to show something in open class. I highly recommend it =)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Fear. I've got a lot of it.

I hesitate to talk about it though. It feels strange in the midst of others going through harder things, not that I think there is a who's got it worse competition, it just, well feels awkward. Not to mention, part of my fear comes from hearing other people's bad news. Which, on one hand, is understandable. But, on the other hand, it kind of makes me feel like a jerk - like I'm trying to make it about me.

I know though, I'm not trying to make it about me. I'm working through a lot of emotions that are sometimes heightened when I hear about other people's bad news. More specifically, when I hear someone's breast cancer has returned. A recurrence.

Recurrence is my biggest fear right now. It is not a paralyzing fear. Here's the thing - there is no cure for breast cancer. Sure, I am No Evidence of Disease (NED) right now, but do you know what that really means? It means they've checked me. They can't find evidence of cancer in my body right now. However, it could be there and be too small to see. It could be pre-cancer, just waiting to shift to cancer. A new cancer could be brewing. Or maybe nothing is going on at all. Who knows? Not me. Not my doctors. No one.

Now, I know, I know, I could be in a car accident tomorrow and tomorrow is promised to no one. That is all true, but those don't feel like real fears to me. That doesn't mean they can't happen. Lots of things can happen, but they are not there, staring me in the face, threatening me. Cancer is. I know the stats for my cancer. I know the 5-year survival rate. I won't go into now because we all know that a number is just a number and I could fall into either side of it. But I won't deny that the odds are not in my favor. I also know I've done all I could, but that may not mean anything tomorrow, or 5 years from now or 10.

So when someone I know and care about has a recurrence? It terrifies me. Completely. Um, let's be honest, if I heard about someone's recurrence second hand, without even knowing them, it would terrify me.

For whatever reason, this year has been the year of recurrence. I know more than a few women who have had recurrences this year: both locally (recurring in the breast) or somewhere else in the body (metastatic). It's pretty cruddy too. Isn't it enough that these people had cancer once? Now they've got to go through this sh*t again? It's awful. And it's terrifying.

Last week I had my 3 month oncology check-up. It was a good appointment. I checked out healthy and we talked a lot. She is very thorough and makes sure to check me out as a whole person and not just as cancer. We talked about mood, anxiety, etc. I admitted to her that my anxiety is elevated and I told her all of this (though, I was much less wordy with her). She got it right away. I even told her I wasn't trying to make it all about me and feeling guilty about that and she reassured me that my fear was natural and I wasn't a jerk. She also told me their practice had noticed the same thing - this seemed to be the year of recurrence.That half-calmed me (it wasn't all in my head) and then it terrified me. Because, let's be honest, I kind of wished it was all in my head.

Recurrence. That thought is always there, in the back of my head. Sometimes it jumps to the front of the list. Should I be worried about the new back pain? Or this fever? How about the tenderness in my armpit - I mean, I can't feel a lump, but is tenderness unexplained something I should tell the doctors? And oh yeah, I have this new freckle. Well, I think it's a freckle. Should I get it looked at? And all of this tumbles out while I'm sitting in my doctor's office.

I feel dumb letting it all out. I tell her though, "You know, it's probably nothing, but I'm here so I thought I should tell me. I mean, I wouldn't make an appointment just for it, but since I'm here already, I just wanted to point it out. Just in case. You know. Cause. Well ..."

But she smiles and nods. She looks, feels, examines. She tells me it's all okay, but if x, y, or z happens to call her back. She tells me that I could make an appointment just for these things, that it would be okay. She assures me I'm not being paranoid and that it's all natural.

I leave feeling lighter, less anxious. The fear, it slips back to the back of my mind. It's still there but it's not overwhelming.

This is the roller coaster I do not appreciate being on - the ups and downs, the anxiety that waxes and wanes. It is nothing new. I had anxiety before all of this. I have it now. It's changed, and yet somehow the same. But I've changed, and yet somehow I'm the same.

But for now, I'm on the easy part of the ride - the part of Splash Mountain where you are just riding this nice log on a calm little river, seeing a cute story play out in front of you.

I'll take it though. I'll stay on this part of the ride as long as I can.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This is what I do

Too often lately the world has simply not made sense to me. There is so much happening that I just can't wrap my head around. Some of these things hit close to home - good people who are getting a sh*tty hand dealt to them that they don't deserve. Some are not close to home - I see it on the news, I read about it on twitter - and yet they tug at my heart strings and make my head hurt because I can. not. make. sense. of. it.

Sometimes life really sucks. And is completely unfair. Sometimes my heart hurts so much I think it will break forever. Sometime, too much of the time actually, this makes me feel like I am walking a fine line between being sad and being depressed. Like, if I just hear one more piece of bad news, I will go lay down in bed and not get out ever again.

I don't. Even when I really want to. Because laying in bed can't heal those who need it, can't help those who are hurting, and can't make a difference at the end of the day. Often, though, I don't know what I can. I can offer my words. Sometimes I can offer a ride somewhere or a meal or some prayers or good thoughts. This never feels like enough, despite the fact that these things offered to me when I was diagnosed with cancer were a huge blessing. But I want to do more. I wonder why can't I eradicate cancer, pain, hate, sadness, etc. Herein lies the vicious circle I often get stuck in - all of this leads to an increase in anxiety for me. Sadness = anxiety = sadness = anxiety. My brain gets stuck on why I can't do more.

But I think that if it were that easy to get rid of the "bad" things, they'd be gone already. I can't take the bad away. I can't heal the sick or the broken or the struggling. I can offer my words. A meal. A ride. Even when it doesn't feel like enough, it is what I can do.

I can also knit. So I pick up my knitting needles. I grab yarn out of my box. And I knit. Using two needles, I turn a long piece of yarn into something - a scarf, a blanket, a shawl, a shirt, something, anything. I knit. Then I often give what I make away. This is what I do. Knitting makes sense to me, when other things do not. Knitting brings me happiness, even when I'm sad. It's something. It doesn't fix everything, but it helps. It helps me. I hope it helps those I've shared my knitting with.

I also like to walk (or more accurately to pace). Moving, stepping, it calms the anxiety. It gives me a place to funnel that buzzing energy feeling I get with the anxiety. It's easy and even when I'm not feeling physical strong or great, I can walk usually.

All of this to say this weekend I spent a lot of time walking. And a lot of time knitting. And sometimes I was walking and knitting. I know, I know. It probably looks strange. And normally I'm pretty klutzy, but knitting just makes sense to me in ways I can't explain and it feels natural to do, even when I'm walking. Somehow I manage to not trip on the yarn or poke myself with the needles.

This is what I do. It might not make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.  

Friday, July 12, 2013


It's Friday! And not a moment too soon.

We've been busy around here - between softball, the holiday, 4H, and the other million things to do, it's been crazy. But we've accomplished a lot and that feels good. I still have a mile long to-do list, but I'll work my way through - somehow I always do.

It's been pretty good though. I have so much to tell you all, and yet, not enough time to sit down and write. This is my blogging curse: if I'm busy, I struggle to find time to blog. If I'm not busy, I have time to blog and nothing to blog about! Gotta love that little circle. But the list of things to blog about in my head is steadily growing. And someday, if I can tackle just half of them, I'll feel accomplished!

But now it's Friday. And my plan right now is to do as little as possible. I will oversee the kids as they do things, but I plan to do a lot of nothing. I won't have a car (husband's car is in the shop. Again. Sigh.) so I can't run around and do errands.

I might take a nice walk. I haven't been on a good walk in a while, maybe not since the two walks I participated in last month (both of which are on my list of things to blog about). I've been cleared to start getting back into things though and I'd love to go on nice, long walk. Plus, a cousin of mine recently told me I needed to run a marathon in my life, so, you know, I'll start with walking and see how far I can make it ;-) Probably though, no one should hold their breath waiting for me to run a marathon.

I might do some reading. I'm trying to make my way through Game of Thrones. It is not the first time I've tried reading it, but I've gotten the farthest this time around. The husband and I have watched the first two seasons and that has helped me as I can keep all the characters (mostly) straight in my head. I do occasionally have to google who someone is to remind me.

I'll probably be helping the 10yo with her 4H projects. The fair is 10 days away and she is working hard to get everything ready. I think we are in good shape though. She's a bit worried about finishing, but we have more done already this year than we did on fair day last year!

And other than that, I'll be hanging out and relaxing. Sitting around in my compression sleeve, which I am back in now during "all waking hours." I have a new one though, much much nicer than the one I was wearing a few weeks ago. But, I haven't worn it since before surgery until today so I am getting used to it again (side note: I wasn't allowed to put it on post-surgery until I got okayed to do so and I just had that happen today. So, no, I wasn't being a bad patient by not wearing it. I was actually being a good patient!).

At least though, I have a pretty one now (thanks to some awesome friends!) and that makes me smile when I look at it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Friday. In fact, have a wonderful weekend. Even those of you who are going through rough times - I'm holding you in my heart and wishing desperately there was more I could do.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Done, well, almost

Hello everyone!

Sorry it took so long to get back here, but life is busy (as always) and truthfully, I just wasn't in a blogging mood. I know, I know, what a poor excuse, but there you have it.

Anyway, I'm here now. Surgery went well. Recovery sucked, but surgery went well. I find the more and more surgeries I have, the less and less I tolerate them. The anesthesia makes me so sick - despite the anesthesiologist saying that they are giving me all that they can. I had to take antibiotics, just in case, and those made me sick too. I spent 3 days itching all over and a few more itching locally from surgery. Basically, I think surgery sucks. And I'm SO happy this is, at least for quite some time, my last one.

I'm not completely done with reconstruction though - there are a few small steps, the finishing touches if you will. Unlike Angelina, I was not able to keep my nipples (which actually, might be a post for another day if I can get over talking about my nipples that much on such a public forum LOL!), and so I'll have to decide what to do about that.

That aside, the hard part is over. I don't have tissue expanders in anymore. I woke up instantly able to breath deeper than I have in so long. It was like literally getting a weight off my chest. These permanent implants feel much nicer, both inside and outside.

Of course I use the term permanent in a relative sense. These aren't permanent for my lifetime. I will probably have to replace them within 10-20 years (how's that for a specific range LOL!), though closer to the shorter length because they tend to be replaced sooner when used for reconstruction verses non-reconstruction. I'll take it though. At this point, even 10 years feels pretty permanent to me. If you think about, on the right side, this is my 4th breast in like 2.5 years, so, yeah, 10 years would be awesome ;-)

I'm glad to be on this side of things. I'm glad this surgery is done and behind me. It's going to take some getting used to though. There's still some healing that I need to get through - both physically and mentally. But I know I'll get there. One moment at a time ;-)

my first post-surgery picture