By: Shannon Ralph
Something happened this weekend—a lifetime first. (Well, actually, not a real first, but the first time this particular thing happened in 37 or 38 years.)
I pooped my pants.
Yep, you read that correctly. I realize this is probably entirely too much information, but I think it is life-altering enough to include it on my blog. In itself, the poopy pants were a completely explainable event—and I will explain it in a minute. I think the big picture, however, is symptomatic of a larger issue—the demise of my forty-year-old body.
So I took my daughter to Carter’s on Saturday afternoon. She needed some fall clothes because she outgrew every single article of clothing she owned this summer and, frankly, I can’t pass up a good sale. Carter’s has everything on sale right now. (Seriously, check out their website.) So we headed to the Carter’s store in Bloomington.
As soon as I got on Highway 494, I remembered that Ruanita had casually mentioned that they were doing construction on 494 this weekend. There were signs, but I saw no construction. As a matter of fact, there was very little traffic and we flew down the highway with ease.
While shopping at Carter’s, my stomach began to cramp. Then it cramped some more. Then it cramped rather painfully. Then it hurt like hell—a telltale sign of an impending bowel event of magnificent proportions. I tried to think of what I had eaten that would upset my stomach. For breakfast, I had eaten some cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi. Then my sister had brought me an iced white mocha from Starbucks. I had skipped lunch.
Nothing screamed of dietary stupidity. Though cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi wasn’t exactly a breakfast of champions, it was unlikely to cause the type of gastrointestinal issues I was experiencing.
I quickly paid for Sophie’s new clothes and shuffled her out the door.
(On a side note, this is why I typically do all of my shopping at Target and/or Kohl’s—the close proximity of bathroom facilities wherever you happen to be in the store. When you are forty years old, these are the kinds of things one must consider.)
We hurried out of Carter’s and I hopped (or rather, slid like a palsied Mermaid with my legs tightly pressed together) into the car. I should have stopped at the McDonalds that was right there. But that particular McDonalds is kind of, sort of difficult to get in and out of since it sits in the middle of a shopping center parking lot. So I decided to get out the rather congested Penn Avenue area and stop at a nearby restaurant with a restroom. Arby’s…Wendy’s…I wasn’t picky.
As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that I was in trouble. The onramp to Highway 494 was closed. As were all the onramps to 494 in the Bloomington corridor. I tried to take a different route, but apparently every single driver in Bloomington that day had the exact same plan. I ended up on a frontage road with about one hundred other cars.
Not moving at all.
The cramps intensified. I broke out in goosebumps all over my entire body. I prayed the Our Father. I prayed the Glory Be. I tried to remember the words to the Act of Contrition, but eventually said screw it. I even threw in a few Hail Marys for good measure. Mary was a forty year old woman once—she had to understand.
I repeatedly told Sophie, “Mommy’s got to go to the bathroom.” “Mommy’s going to die.” “Oh God…mommy’s in trouble.”
Sophie was—and this is why I love that little girl with every fiber of my being—entirely supportive. “You can do it mommy.” “It’ll be okay, mommy.” “We’re almost there, mommy.”
Then it happened. Just a little bit, but entirely enough.
I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop it. I was ill.
Sophie responded with a simple “Gross.”
I eventually made it home, cleaned myself, finished my business, changed my clothes and made it to pick up Lucas from his choir rehearsal with three minutes to spare. My stomach was a mess the rest of the day, though I never figured out why.
To say that it was a disturbing turn of events would be a gross understatement. It is, however, not entirely shocking. It is endemic of a problem with which I am having difficulty coming to terms.
I am getting old.
Not granny old. Not rocking chair old. Not afghan and fuzzy socks old (though I am a big fan of both). But I am aging.
Since turning forty last October, I feel like I have fallen apart.
Suddenly, I pee on myself when I cough. Or laugh. Or do not run to the bathroom the instant the urge hits. I have plantar fasciitis and walk like a cripple. I have arthritis in my big toes. My knees creak. I fart when I bend over. Fried food does me in. I am on medication for high blood pressure. I sweat all the time. Adult diapers are rights around the corner.
I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I need to lose some weight. But I find it odd that it all began when I turned forty years old.
I am not forty years old like 1960s-era forty year old women. They’re children were grown. They could sit home and bake pies and have Tupperware parties and watch their “stories” on daytime television. They could spend the day in their “housecoats” if they wanted to.
I have a full-time job. I have a partner who occasionally wants to see me. I have little kids. I have 5th grade homework to deal with. And zoo trips. And visits to the park.
I can’t be old. I can’t drive around the metro area shitting my pants. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Something is going to have to change. It’s time to dust off the treadmill. Pull out the vegetables. Table the beer and wine. If my body is going to fall apart, it’s going to have to work a little harder to do so. I’m not going to make it so damn easy.
This is not going to be fun.
By: Shannon Ralph
These are not my words. They are his. If you ever want to feel like a loser mom, try having your seven-year-old son cry hysterically in Target because he thinks he’s lazy.
The conversation went a little something like this.
Nicholas: It’s only three dollars. Why can’t I get it?
Me: Because you don’t have three dollars.
Nicholas: Why does Sophie get to get a toy?
Me: Because Sophie has worked really hard and earned the money to buy a toy.
Nicholas: (tears welling in his chocolate brown eyes) I’ll never have any money.
Me: Sure you will. You just have to do some chores and you can earn some money just like Sophie.
Nicholas: But I can’t do that.
Me: Why not?
Nicholas: (full-on crying now) Because I can’t.
Me: Yes, you can. You are smart and capable. You can earn money.
Nicholas: (still clutching the $3 toy) No I’m not. I try to do chores, but I can’t.
Me: What do you mean?
Nicholas: I mean… (sniffle)…I start to do chores, but then I always end up lying on the couch.
Me: Why do you do that?
Nicholas: (hugging the $3 toy tightly to his skinny little chest) Because I think I want to do chores, but then when I do them, I figure out that I don’t like it. So I lay on the couch.
Me: I don’t like chores either. Most people don’t—except maybe your other mom. But it feels really good to earn your own money. Wouldn’t you like to earn the money to buy you a toy like Sophie?
Nicholas: Yeah, but I can’t.
Me: Yes, you can.
Nicholas: No, I can’t. (dramatic sigh) I’m just lazy.
Me: (stifling a giggle) You’re not lazy, Nicky.
Nicholas: Yes I am. I just lay around all the time doing nothing. I play video games and nothing else.
Me: (treading carefully so as not to destroy my child’s fragile ego) There’s nothing wrong with playing video games…you enjoy video games. That’s okay. But it’s important to work, too. You can work AND play.
Nicholas: But I’m lazy. I’ll always be lazy.
Me: I don’t believe that.
Nicholas: I do.
Me: You’re not lazy. I don’t want to hear you saying that. You are a smart, capable boy.
Nicholas: No, I’m not. (pause for dramatic flair) I’m just a lazy bum.
I have to say that it bothered me a tad that my son thinks he is a lazy bum. In all honesty, his flair for the dramatic is a bit overdeveloped. AND he really wanted that toy and was probably pulling out all stops when it came to “playing” mommy…but still. No one wants to hear her child belittle himself in the toy aisle at Target. Target is a place for coffee and casual strolls and smiles and love and laughter and unabashed joy. Am I right?
So I had an ingenious idea. I would “help” Nicholas reach his chore-completely potential. I turned to that most sacred of all mommy tools—the chart. I have to say that I was pretty damn proud of the results. I created a magnetic chore chart that had a column for each of my three children to track the chores they completed in a week. Next to the chore chart on the wall hung a baggie full of magnets. Each magnet listed a chore and a dollar amount. The child could choose what chores they wanted to complete based on how much money they would like to earn. Once completed, they would place the magnet on the board in their column. At the end of the week, we would tally the amount they had earned and that would be their allowance. On average, the chart would allow the kids to earn about $5 a week in allowance. That seemed perfectly reasonable to me for two seven-year-olds and a ten-year-old.
Freakin’ genius, am I right?
Or so I thought. I did not, however, take into account the fact that my daughter is a workhorse and my sons tend toward gross under-achievement. Their desire for money is trumped only by their desire to sprawl on the couch and do a whole lot of absolutely nothing.
Right now, our chart looks a little something like this:
Perhaps my son was right, after all? Maybe his declaration of his laziness was a truly insightful comment rather than a thinly-veiled ploy to guilt momma into buying him a tiny plastic Angry Birds figurine that would only enhance the hoarder-esque vibe of his bedroom. Maybe Nicholas is lazy.
I should maybe work on that, huh?
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
My goodness, it has been a long time since I have written anything. I guess between chemo, sickness, and trying to get my summer on, I just haven’t made the time. But it’s a rainy day today, and I’m feeling pretty good (but lazy), so here we are. I figured it might be time to share about the wonderful world of chemotherapy, now that I am halfway through.
So for me, the course of treatment was to be eight rounds of chemo – the first four consisting of two drugs, and the last four to be a third drug. The first drugs are known as AC, and are very commonly used to treat breast cancer. AC is made up of two drugs: doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide. These are drugs that are meant to prevent cancer cells from dividing and growing, and are supposed to eventually cause the cancer cells to shrink and disappear. One of these, for me, is given as an IV drip through my port; the other, aka “the Red Devil,” is given to me in a giant syringe, pushed directly into my IV line.
The red devil causes the first few trips to the bathroom after treatment to be freaky – my pee is red! It can also cause tears or sweat to turn red for up to a day or two after treatment, but I haven’t tested that theory as of yet. This drug is so strong that they wouldn’t give it to me directly in an IV in my arm when my port was messed up – because if it leaks out onto the skin, it will eat it away. Kind of like leprosy, I imagine….yikes!
I have treatment every three weeks. There are tons of side effects, and at times it seems like the treatment is doing me so much worse than the cancer itself! Thankfully, I haven’t had near as many of the side effects as some; but it still sucks. I started losing my hair after the first treatment, so I buzzed it down super short. Within a couple of weeks, it was coming out in big chunks, and while we were out of town in Little Rock, it got to the point that I woke up looking like a dog with mange – so I had to go and have it all shaved off. That was rougher than I ever imagined it would be!
Also, I have to call the doc if I get a fever of 100.5 or higher, which is really low for most people, but chemo causes the immune system to be compromised and blood counts to go way down. I have only had to call once, and even then, my fever only got up to 100.2 degrees. But let me tell you – 100.2 during chemo can make you feel like death warmed over! There is also the well-known side effect of nausea and vomiting, and once again, I am thankful that so far I have not puked even once. The nausea is pretty constant, and to me, that can be worse than just puking and getting it taken care of. I have four anti-nausea prescriptions that range in strength, and I have used them all. There are many natural anti-nausea remedies, and all I will say about those is that they work. Much better and faster than ANY of those prescriptions. Allegedly.
Like I said, I am now halfway through my chemo treatments. The AC portion of the program is over, and I am extremely thankful. The next, and final, four treatments will be of a drug called Taxol. I don’t know near as much about this one, but I know that the doctor has assured me that it won’t make me as sick. He did, however, tell me that it will make me more fatigued. What the what??? How is that even possible? I am tired ALL the time, it seems! Well, at least for the first two weeks. It seems like a pretty regular pattern emerged over the past four rounds: week one SUCKS and I am tired/sick pretty much from the day after treatment; week two sucks a little less, but I am still fairly sick for most of the week; and week three seems fairly normal, where I can go and do more. Most of the trips that I have taken this summer have been during week threes. And hey, that has worked most of the time. Of course, the trip I was most looking forward to was to the beach and was scheduled during a week three – and I was sick the entire time with cough and cold BS! But what can you do, right?
Onward with the chemo – I believe that the next one (first round of Taxol), will be August 5th, the day before my birthday. Nice. They tell me that treatment will be about three hours, not including the bloodwork that I do when I get there, waiting for the results, and the half hour of pre-medication (they give me anti-nausea and anti-anxiety meds). I’m just ready to be over and done with it. I think I get a PET scan when I’m done – which of course had better show NOTHING left! Then I have to do 30+ radiation treatments, which will be daily Monday-Friday in Flower Mound…I am SO NOT excited. According to the calendar, I should finish up everything around the week of Christmas. Wow. What a long year. But a Merry, Merry Christmas it shall be! And the best Happy New Year will be a bill of clean health and remission!
By Brandy Black
I realized as soon as I had three kids that balancing attention is a tough job. I worried that they would all blend together in my mind and I wouldn’t notice the little things that I always had with my first born. In some ways that feels true, I haven’t written down the first sneeze or the first smile or the first laugh or the twins discovering their toes. But what I hadn’t prepared myself for, having been an only child, was the very distinct personality differences they would all have at such a young age. Bella, 17 months old, is obsessed with shoes. We may have our very own Carrie Bradshaw in the house. She picks out different ones every day. She not only picks them out for herself but for of the rest of us too. Her concern is constantly about shoes. Why aren’t we all wearing shoes all the time? She insists on wearing them with her pajamas. She waddles around with a confidence like she runs this place. She has also recently taken a liking to a particular floral (floral is in you know) cover-up for her dresses. Yesterday in the hot heat she would not let me take it off. When it’s wet from washing her hands she screams if I try to remove it. This morning, she dug it out of the laundry basket and held it up to me. I told her it needed to be washed and she began screaming. When I put this wrap on her, she smiles and pets it and then waddles off to something else.
There is no blending in for this little girl, she has her own ideas and everyone will listen to them. She has begun what friends of ours have coined “the Bella drop” in which she drops to the ground back rounded and head to the down, screaming when something goes wrong. I remember learning a version of this for Drill Team in high school and it’s quite hard to drop yourself from standing like that. We think she may be a cheerleader. She’s got the moves already.
She is a foodie. She loves any kind of food and fully expects to be fed when anyone near her is eating. She is that kid that will follow other kids to their treats assuming their parents brought enough for everyone.
She sits on my feet every morning while I blow dry my hair. Her brother wanders around picking up toys, babbling but Bella plops down on my feet, stares up at me and waits patiently for me to be done. She is a little lover, she will walk right up to you and sit right down on your lap. She loves to be held and could ride around on my hip forever.
Bella Bell, you are our sweet baby girl.
I am a 47 year old woman who has been a member of many families. First, there is the family I was born into. I am the second child in a family with three children. I am the only girl with two brothers. I lived with my two brothers and my mother and father until I was 18 years old. I grew up in the 70′s and 80′s which was a time that was different than growing up now. We didn’t have all of the technology that kids have these days. I think of it as a simpler time, but to be honest that may be because I was a kid and didn’t have the responsibilities I have as an adult. I don’t know if my parents would call it simpler. My family was far from perfect. We had our struggles, and our good times. We had dysfunction and we had function. But over all when I look back on my childhood, I remember being cared for and not worrying too much. We had food on the table, and were taken to the doctor and dentist regularly. My father always had a job and we always had a house to live in. My parents did the best they could, and frankly I think they did a good job.
Then there was my Navy family. When I was 18 I joined the Navy and my coworkers became my “family”. We all shared a similar vision, and frame of reference. I think in many cases people in the military bond so well because “teamwork” is talked about all the time, and we are in such close quarters, both living and working. If you are a young person in the military you probably live with your shipmates (or fellow soldiers as the case may be), and so a certain camaraderie and sense of “family” is established.
So now I am a grown up and have a family of my own. However, my family is different than many other families and I am going to tell you why:
I believe that kids should get good grades. Getting an education gives you options, as I always tell my kids, and unfortunately for my 16 year old, I talk about his grades and his education ad nauseum.
I have always expected my kids to get a job when they turn 16. I am relentless about them looking for work. I make them keep a list of the places they have applied and the dates, so they know when to contact the managers and check up on their applications. I have done this for the 20 year old, the 18 year old and most recently the 16 year old. These days it is not as easy for a young person to get a job and follow up is very important. The squeaky wheel get the grease, and the kid who goes back week after week to “check in” with the manager of a place of employment gets the job. (The 20 year old, 18 year old and 16 year old have jobs by the way)
My “adult” graduated from high school children pay rent if they live in my house after graduation. Now before you get upset about that, you need to know that it is a very small amount, and I actually put it aside and give it back to them when they move out so they can use it to buy things they need for their own apartment. I believe that a young adult needs to understand responsibility and staying in our pocket forever will not do that for them.
A big way our family is different than most is that the teenagers in my household do NOT get a cell phone unless they can pay their bill themselves. We do have them on our phone plan so their bill is only $50.00 per month, but since they earn an allowance, they use it to pay their bill first, and then use the rest for their own enjoyment. We feel as though a phone is a luxury not a necessity, and luxuries need to be funded by the person who wants said luxury. If they blow their money and can’t pay the phone bill, I suspend the phone line, so it can’t be used until it can be paid for. Isn’t that what will happen to me if I don’t pay my bills? Why not teach them the responsibility of paying bills while they are teenagers?
There are also many ways my family is JUST LIKE millions of other families. We fight with each other, but are fiercely loyal to each other. We joke around and have fun with each other. We love each other and can’t stand each other alternately. (Some days more than others). Sometimes our feelings for each other change on an hourly, even moment by moment basis.
So, you can see that just like millions of families around the world, our family is just like some families and very different from other families! The differences and the way we parent makes a significant impact on the kind of adults we are raising, and we really want more than anything else to raise adults who are kind, caring, responsible, compassionate, productive members of society.
Oh, and I suppose I forgot to mention that one other small way our family is different than others. We are a two mom household. And believe it or not that makes NO difference at all in the way our family functions, or how we relate to each other. It doesn’t change the fact that our kids play sports on school teams, that one son is a Boy Scout, that we like to be together, and we need space from each other. We fight and love and laugh together. Having a family with same gendered parents does not make our family function any differently than any other family, and it isn’t better or worse.
It just is what it is, and we are quite happy with it!
By Brandy Black
I judge. I don’t mean to, I don’t want to, I swear I won’t but I judge. When I see a mom walking down the street with their child attached to a leash, I judge. But if I have learned one thing from parenting, it is that the minute I started feeling high and mighty, I fall, it’s inevitable. I broke down and bought back packs with leashes attached for our twins. My wife fought me all the way through the purchase but the fact is, safety is my priority. I had no idea how hard it would be to keep track of two 17-month-old toddlers in a public place. We were at The Grove this weekend and I could not take my eyes off our son, he would zip around so fast and of course his twin sister running the opposite direction. Having three kids makes it next to impossible to ensure that they stay by your side. So, I did it. I sometimes get brave and decide to take all three to the park alone and a few minutes in I wonder how I’m going to get the hell out of there. I begin to notice all of the unsafe playground equipment and the potential for falls. When I asked Susan about how she handles it she said “you just have to infer that they are going to be safe or that if they fall it won’t be that bad.” And that is where we differ. I can’t handle the notion of my kids being unsafe on my watch. I worry all the time. I’ve always been a worrier, I convince myself that worrying will make me more vigilant so I can’t seem to let it go. My wife doesn’t worry much from what I can tell. I’m envious that she can live in that state. What must that be like? No wonder she falls asleep the second her head hits the pillow.
So the leashes hang on their cute little hooks by the front door, waiting to keep our children safe one day soon.
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
Friday. Another day with yet another appointment. My biggest meltdowns so far have been over the abundance of appointments. There have been SO many.
Today’s appointment is just a consultation with Dr. Ilahi – the Radiation Oncologist who will administer what will hopefully the final phase of treatment, at the end of the year. She is in the same practice as my oncologist, Dr. Perez, but she is in another office in another neighboring city. It is MUCH bigger and MUCH busier than my small office nearby, but hey, I gotta do what I gotta do.
I was ushered to the back within a few minutes of arriving and checking in, and soon was waiting in an exam room with Harrison sitting in her stroller – NOT being quiet, by the way. I finally got The Lorax rolling on Netflix on my phone (God I love technology), and soon she was quietly watching when the doctor came in. After introductions were made, she began asking my history: discovery of the lump, time frame of mammogram to surgery, when was chemo to start, etc. She then asked about my PET scans and realized that while she and Dr. Perez had conferred over the phone on the day of my last appointment with HIM, she did not have the scan results right in front of her to refresh her memory. She excused herself for a few minutes and went to print it out from my record, and returned to discuss. Dr. Perez had not been too specific when he told me that the cancer had spread, but rather just told me that it was in several of the intramammary lymph nodes (that can’t be taken out) and that I would need radiation. I appreciated that over the next several minutes, she took the time to explain that the PET scan results don’t specify how many nodes, but just whether or not it lights up on the scan in small or large amounts. I guess on mine, it lit up in several nodes, in small amounts. She also told me that it lit up in one node in my left collarbone area, in a tiny spot of an area. What??? I know that this may not seem like a big deal to most, considering that it had spread, so what’s one more node, right? Well, it was a big deal to ME. I had a minor little freak out there, spouting off that Dr. Perez had failed to share with me the fact that it was up near my collarbone as well. Dr. Ilahi was very understanding and told me that it should make me feel better that it was only a tiny spot in that location. Yeah, great. She then went on to explain to me that after I finish chemo, we will wait a couple of weeks, get me fitted for my radiation stuff, and then start 6 ½ weeks of daily (Monday through Friday) radiation treatments. Um, what??? I know that THIS may not seem like a big deal to most, but it was a big deal to ME. Dr. Perez had told me that it would be “about four weeks” of radiation at the end of chemo, but here I was, hearing that it would be 6 ½ weeks – 32 or so treatments. I was already upset enough that I was having to even do radiation, and now I am hearing that it is longer than I was initially told. I know that she, the radiation oncologist, ultimately made the call on the length of treatment and NOT Dr. Perez, I was still stunned to hear it. Fortunately for me, Dr. Ilahi was very calming and reassuring, and somehow made me feel okay about venturing down the radiation road eventually, even if it DOES totally freak me out.
She then asked if she could examine me, and she went over my scars and all of the edema that I have. She was very personable, asking about my family and my life. Once she was done and I was dressed again, she asked if I had any questions. My last question was about staging. I told her that after surgery, the surgeon had told me that I was officially a Stage 2b. I knew that the discovery of cancer that had spread had surely changed my staging, but when I had asked Dr. Perez about it, I wasn’t really given a direct answer. It seemed that nobody wanted to answer me, and while it may not be a big deal to some, for some reason, it was a big deal to ME. She responded so sweetly, saying that no, she understood me wanting to know, and that this raises my stage to a 3. OK. That was all I wanted. I had been afraid that it raised me to a stage 4, and that nobody had wanted to tell me. It was actually a relief to hear that it was a 3! I asked what that meant for my odds, and she said that with medicine and technology now, there was no reason for me NOT to beat this and live a long life. Will I see her grow up, I asked, as I pointed to Harrison? She smiled and said, “I don’t see why not.” She then walked with us back up to the front, chatting in the hallway, and hugging me goodbye at the door. I left feeling good, rather than scared of the next step, and super confident that I had been given the perfect match of a radiation oncologist for me. And while that may not be a big deal to some, it was a super huge, big deal for ME.
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
It is Wednesday morning, May 1st. I am scheduled to have a PET scan this morning. Nothing to eat since midnight the night before. They are going to see if the cancer has spread.
I arrive at Texas Oncology in Plano, which is HUGE compared to the office that I go to in Carrollton. There were SO many people of all ages, and it made me very sad as I sat among them in the waiting area. Cancer is absolutely a demon of a beast, and it is random, nor is it discriminate in whom it chooses to challenge. Soon, a sweet tech by the name of James came out to get me, using humor to ease my anxiety. I spent an hour in a quiet room, sipping clear contrast liquids and reading Facebook on my phone. Then James gathered me up again and moved me into the room with the giant, intimidating scan machine. He basically strapped me to the table, and explained that it would take a while, but he would be coming in to check on me several times. While listening to all of the whirring noises of the massive machine, I tried to think about anything else – my wife, my babies, upcoming chemo, my friends, any plans that we have. I almost thought that I might possibly be able to take a little nap, if I meditated myself into a relaxed enough state, but then James came in and said that I was all done. Within minutes I was on my way out the door and in search of food, with promises that the results would be in Dr. Perez’s hands before my appointment two days later.
It’s Friday now. I have an appointment this afternoon with Dr. Perez, my Oncologist, to go over my PET scan results and plan for chemo. Erikka leaves work early to meet me for lunch before my appointment, and then we are on our way over to the hospital. We are taken back almost immediately, and put into a room to wait for the doc. When he walks in, with papers in his hand, he shakes mine and asks how I am. “Well,” I respond, “I guess that will depend on those test results in your hand.” He laughs and gives me a warm grin and says, “We need to talk.” Well SHIT. That is NOT what I want to hear, obviously. He sits down, Erikka reaches over and takes my hand, and tells me that the cancer has spread. There are lymph nodes all over our bodies, as we all know; and under the chest wall in the middle of our chests are intramammary lymph nodes. It is here that the PET scan lit up with spots of cancer cells. Just before I was going to ask if that meant more surgery, for Dr. Garner to remove these lymph nodes as well, the doctor proceeded to explain that these lymph nodes are NOT usually removed in surgery, as they are difficult to reach. Well SHIT. So what does this mean? He tells me that it means that they will need to add radiation on to my cancer-fighting regimen. THIS is what makes me cry. Having chemo didn’t make me cry, but radiation? Now THAT was what upset me! I was thrilled when I was told initially that I wouldn’t have to do radiation, so it was a huge disappointment that I was now going to be facing that as well. But I have to see the good in the situation – there always has to be something good to focus on, right?
Dr. Perez told me that it had NOT spread to any organs, or to my bones – a HUGE good. He takes a moment and goes to call Dr. Ilahi – one of his colleagues who is the Radiation Oncologist that I will consult with regarding my radiation. When he returns, he says that they consulted on my case, and they believe the best results would be to start chemo right away and do four weeks of radiation after chemo was finished. I felt stupid that this made me cry, but it is what it is.
A few minutes later, we were all done, with plans for chemo to begin on Monday, May 13th. We were originally going to schedule the first treatment for Friday, May 10th, but decided against it so that I could have the weekend enjoying my family and Mother’s Day.
Cancer may be taking some things away from me, but it can’t take everything. I’m not willing to let it have any more than it has already taken. I can kick chemo AND radiation in the ass, no matter what.
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
One week out from surgery. The pain is intense; the drains are annoying as hell. My post-op appointment with my surgeon is today, and I am SO hoping that she will remove at least one of the drains today.
We get to my appointment right on time, and are taken back right away, as usual. She starts off by telling me that I am actually and officially only a stage 2 with my cancer; and based on the number of lymph nodes affected (9 out of 15), I was actually a 2a. Initially, just after surgery, she had thought that based on the size of the tumor that she took out, I would for sure be a stage 3, which is what she told me in the hospital – thus upsetting me greatly before I was ready to go home. But when I went in for this appointment, she told me right off that she had been mistaken, and I was truly only a stage 2. She said that her first statement was based on the size of the tumor, and that it appeared to be 4 cm upon initial examination in the operating room. The lab returned a result that it was actually 3.5 cm, and therefore only a stage 2. I was VERY grateful for her error in judgment! But this also told us that it had grown quite a bit, in quite a short period of time. When I found it, my doctor estimated its size to be 2-2.5 cm. The mammograms and ultrasounds measured it at 2.76 cm, just two weeks later. The biopsies measured this tumor at 2.8 cm, and the final lab results after removal show 3.5 cm. This is at least a full centimeter growth in less than six weeks! She then went on to tell me that she got all of the cancer, to the best of her knowledge, but she suspected that the oncologist would want further body scans and brain scans, to make sure it hadn’t spread to other parts of my body (since it was so aggressive and fast growing). I pray that the fact that it was fast growing says that it had not been there long when I found it. I then got her to take out the right drain, which was heavenly; but she said I would have to wait a few days longer for the left drain.
While on our way to my post-op appointment with the surgeon, I got a call from Texas Oncology – Carrollton. I made an appointment for my consultation with Dr. Enrique Perez for Friday, April 19th. The very nice lady, Roxann, emailed me new patient paperwork so I could be efficient and ready upon arrival. When Friday arrived, we went to lunch beforehand at one of favorite restaurants – Misto Bistro – run by one of my favorite friends, Janet. We have been friends for a while now, and I have worked with her doing catering (which I love); but our friendship has gone to a whole other level in the past several months, and she is even more special to me than before. After lunch, we headed to Texas Oncology of Carrollton, where I met the chick who will be my supercool nurse, Amy. I was ushered into a room, where I was asked a series of questions that I had already answered on all of the forms that I had previously filled out. Soon, we were being introduced to Dr. Perez – a very nice and very tall man with a wonderful disposition and bedside manner. He was able to put me to ease by anticipating my questions and answering them before I even got a chance to ask them. I told him that my genetics testing came back negative, and my hormone receptor testing came back as a triple negative – triple negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2. So now what? I am negative for everything. “What does that mean for me??” I asked the doctor. It basically means that it is harder to treat; but we are going to fight and we are going to do everything that we need to do to keep me alive. Well alright. That’s what I need to hear.
Dr. Perez went on to tell me that he wants me to have a PET scan, a CT scan, and an echocardiogram before starting chemo. He also said for me to go ahead and have the port put in, while I am waiting to start and waiting for my scars to heal. He explained that based on all of my negative results, he was going to do a certain course of drugs (which I can’t remember the names – except that one is the evil red one that I have read about) for four rounds, three weeks apart. The first four rounds will be two drugs together. After that I will do another four rounds, three weeks apart, of a third drug. He said that I WILL lose my hair, and other side effects could include diarrhea. Yay.
Three days later I was back in Dr. Garner’s office to get my left drain out (FINALLY, thank God!). I went over my oncologist visit with her, and we scheduled my outpatient surgery for the port placement. It would be a couple of days later, on Wednesday morning, and she assured me that it was nothing…a breeze. This procedure would be a walk in the park compared to the mastectomies.
So I guess here we go. No looking back. Part one is done. And as hard as it has been in the two weeks post surgery, I don’t think it will be anything compared to what is coming with six months of chemotherapy.
Guess we will see.
By: Shannon Ralph
So, I’ve been
obsessing thinking a lot lately about my eldest son’s all-too-near-future foray into middle school. I’m worried about him. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Lucas, let me take a moment to describe my dear son.
Lucas is, well…he’s very much a product of his environment. Take one high-strung, work-her-ass-off, the-sky-is-always-falling lesbian, add a terminally laid-back, slacker, isn’t-that-falling-sky-a-gorgeous-shade-of-blue lesbian, throw in a couple of dysfunctional extended family members with addictive personalities, add a chubby blonde baby to the mix, and you get…Lucas!
Lucas is awesome. Really, he is an amazing kid and I adore him. But he is an enigma, of sorts. He is a math whiz, but struggles with reading and writing. He can remember the (every language BUT English) words to his entire choir repertoire, but can’t seem to remember to flush the toilet. Or change his underwear. Or bring home his homework. He gets nervous. Often. But not over the things you and I might get nervous about.
He is a sociable kid. He can stand up in front of a crowd of hundreds and sing beautifully without so much as hint of nervousness. But he freaks out if the bathroom sink drips. He struggles with anxiety. He doesn’t handle the unknown very well. He has to know what he should be doing at all times. He has to know how things will turn out. He has to know how every story ends. He has attention issues at times. He’s never been diagnosed with attention problems, but he tends to escape to his own thoughts a lot. He’s a thinker. He’s what used to be called a daydreamer. He’s not worldly like other boys his age. He’s a true innocent. Obnoxious, but innocent.
Come September, he will be thrown into a completely different world and I am worried. He has a good group of friends, so I am not so much worried about him being lonely. Or bullied. Or called names. That may happen, of course, but he has a core group of four good boys that he hangs out with. He’s not a loner.
No, I don’t harbor the “normal” parent middle school worries. My worries are irrational. Ridiculous, even.
• I worry that he will be unable to remember his locker combination and will start crying in the hallway—a turn of events that would mortify him.
• I worry that he won’t remember how to get from one classroom to the next without a kindergarten-style walk-with-your-finger-on-the-wall line of classmates.
• I am afraid that the clothes I pick out for him (because he does not care in the least about clothes and will put on whatever I hand him) will be a little too lesbian chic for 5th grade.
• I am afraid he will start speaking in lingo I don’t know and that I won’t be able to find an appropriate translator.
• I am afraid he will begin cursing and, being a less than stellar parent, I will laugh rather than react appropriately, thereby reinforcing a sailor’s mouth in my innocent little boy. And we all know that “shit” and “damn” are gateway words. Before long, my baby boy will be casually spouting the BIG ONES, and it’ll all be my fault because I reacted poorly in middle school.
• I am afraid he will not fit into any of the typical middle school cliques. He’s not truly a “geek/nerd” because he is a pretty dang social kid. He’s not really a “brainiac” because, while he is amazing at math, he can’t write a coherent sentence to save his life. He is in no way whatsoever a “jock.” He has neither the interest nor the ability to be athletic. He’s not really “preppy,” as he does not own a single piece of clothing manufactured by Hollister or Abercrombie (we are Target and Old Navy people up in here). He’s never been your typical rough-and-tumble boy. He’s just a regular kid. A good kid. I am hoping there is a group for that.
• His friends will find out that 1.) He cannot tie his shoes (seriously…he wears slip-on shoes all the time and has refused to learn to tie his shoes—though his six-year-old sister can tie hers), 2.) He still cannot ride a bike (and has no desire to learn, in part due to his anxiety), and 3.) He still sleeps with the stuffed “doggie” he’s had since birth.
• I worry that his homework is going to be beyond me. Fourth grade math is already pretty damn advanced for my tastes.
• I worry that he will stop climbing in bed with his mommas on the weekends. I love that time with him.
• I worry that girls will like him. He’s a handsome boy with gorgeous blue eyes and big dimples. He’s smart. Sociable. Kind. Gentle. He’s everything an eleven-year-old girl wants in a steady “boyfriend,” right? I am SO not ready for unworthy little hair-flipping, giggling, make-up-wearing wenches hanging on my son. See…there you go. I am not going to be good at this.
• I’m afraid he’ll get lost in the shuffle. An average kid amongst average kids. How will anyone know what an extraordinary child he is?
In the end, isn’t that what we all worry about as parents? Will the world be able to recognize the amazing potential that exists behind those radiant blue eyes? Will the world understand what a beautifully crafted, brilliantly original child we created? Will the world treat him as such?
I hope and pray.