Monday, October 29, 2012

Two Years and Counting...

Happy Cancerversary to ME!

Two years ago today, I spent the majority of my day sacked out on the couch or in my bed, slowly trying to climb out of the post-surgical fog that I was in, but mostly letting the world do its own thing.  I had just gotten home from the hospital the day before after having my bilateral mastectomies and removal of my lymph nodes on the 27th of October. 

Trying to nap between x-rays and surgery.  
Oddly, I remember most of what happened on that day, well, the parts where I was conscious anyway.  I remember those darn shots of radioactive dye into the left side of my chest – four in number.  The third hurt the worst, even with Valium on board!  I remember waiting and waiting to get x-rays and then finally being taken back to surgery.  Joe, Mom and Dad were there.  Friends also stopped by and called.  I remember chatting with the anesthesiologist about my bleeding issues and then moving myself from the gurney to the O.R. table.  I remember waking up in recovery, being in pain and alarms going off because I was breathing too shallowly and because my heart rate was too low.  Everything seemed so loud and so bright. 

Late in the afternoon, I remember being wheeled into my room and “Friends” being on the television.  I remember looking over at an anxious Joe and saying, in my best Joey voice, “How you doin’?”  The nurse cracked up!  Joe only cracked a smile. 

The kids checking out my drain lines and all my other gear.
Josie's face speaks volumes of what they all were thinking.
Mom and Dad brought the kids to see me in the hospital that night.  Their smiles didn’t reach their eyes as they walked into the room.  They were not used to seeing their mom hooked up to all kinds of machines and lying in bed.  I was in pain, pale, and probably a little bit loopy.  They did think seeing my pretty turquoise blue pee was cool (a side effect of the radioactive dye).  The night was long and uncomfortable.  My nurse’s name was John. 

Everyone (two & four-legged) was happy to have me home.
The day I came home from the hospital was really a blur.  I remember Dr. C coming to see me and the nurse taking off my bandages so I could see my scars.  The scars didn’t freak me out, but the drains sure did.  They were stitched to my skin – ewww.  I remember getting discharged from the hospital and getting creamsicle slush from Sonic on the way home. 

The house was quiet when we got there.  I vividly remember the look of relief on Joe’s face once he got me situated on the couch, him taking me into his arms and weeping with relief.  I didn’t realize until that moment just how scared he’d been of me going under the knife, worrying if the doctors would be able to keep me from bleeding too much. 

I don’t remember what happened after that, other than the kids coming home from school.  I guess the pain meds kicked in and my adrenalin pooped out.  According to Michelle and Joe, I guess I spent most of that day asleep in bed. 

I thought it would be hilarious to
go as a cow for Halloween.  My costume had udders but I didn't anymore.
I spent the next few days sleeping, recovering and getting back into the daily routine as much as I could.  I had to finish Joe’s costume, we had to carve pumpkins, go to soccer games and go trick-or-treating.   I started walking around the neighborhood two days after surgery.  Joe busted me five days post-op swiftly walking on the treadmill, my drains pinned to my shirt.  It’s hard to keep this chick down!

Surfing in O'ahu w/Becky and Matt
on Becky's b-day.
Last year, we celebrated my one-year “cancerversary” early with our trip to Hawaii, watching Joe compete in the Ironman World Championships with about twenty family and friends.  It was quite a memorable way to celebrate quite a tumultuous year!

My beloved boy
On the actual day of my first cancerversary, I had an appointment with Dr. C.  We talked about how much had transpired in a year, how much I’d overcome.  Mainly that day, I remember grieving the loss of my beloved Sneakers who died the day before.  I sincerely believe he hung in there to see me to that day, and for that, I’m so incredibly thankful for his giving, sweet soul.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about and miss my furry boy. :0(

This year, I came home from running errands on Friday to find a pretty bouquet of flowers sitting on the counter.  I assumed they were a bit of an apology from Joe since he and I had been having a bit of a tiff a few days earlier.  I did that is, until I read the card.  Somehow, my cancerversary had completely slipped my mind, but not Joe’s.  He obviously still doesn’t take my good health for granted.

Lynn & I ran the Half-Marathon
to Finish Breast Cancer on a
COLD February day in Jacksonville, FL.
The local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was this Saturday, my actual cancerversary.  I had been planning to run the race, but hadn’t planned on my calves and my right foot being in almost constant pain for the two weeks prior.  We were going to be camping with Jamie’s Boy Scout Den for the entire weekend, but the campsite was really close to the race site.  No problem.  I figured I would run/drive over to the race and then run/drive back to the campsite.  Darn injuries!  I am running a half-marathon with two of Joe’s sisters this coming weekend so I wasn’t going to do further damage just to run a 5K, regardless of what cause it was for.  The race next weekend is to benefit breast cancer and the one of the half-marathons I ran this past winter was also to benefit breast cancer so I think I’m good. :0)

Anyway, Joe surprised me yet again and had a bag of truffles and a heartfelt card in the morning.  Part of me felt very guilty for not running the race, but I spent the day with my family – the people I love the most and who had the most to lose if I hadn’t made it to this day.  We didn’t have a fancy dinner or do anything super-spectacular; that’s hard to do when you’re camping.  We were together and that was the best and most important part of this or any cancerversary. 

These are the people that I love the most!
I am blessed to spend another year with them, healthy and disease-free.
I am grateful that we’ve made it another year.  We could not have done it alone!  As always, I am thankful for all my friends who helped us get here.  Yes, this means YOU!  :0)  I try not to take my health and those I love for granted.  I’m still working on becoming more patient, but methinks that will be a never-ending project.  Anywho, here’s to another year of health, love, laughter, and NED (No Evidence of Disease)!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Just Plane Musings

I’ve been up waaaay too long, but I had a plane to catch this morning.  I’m the lucky duck with a kitchen pass that is flying to Colorado Springs, CO this morning.  As it always happens when I’m working on limited sleep and too much coffee, my brain is on over-drive.

As we were getting ready to taxi out to the runway, I assumed my usual pre-flight occupation – people watching.  Airports and planes are great people-watching venues.  The expression of, “It takes all kinds…” really does apply!

“Her eyes were dark like huckleberries.”  Huckleberries?  Seriously?!  That was the first sentence in the synopsis on the back of the book that the women across me was reading.  “Bodice rippers” is what my mom calls them.  Love that term.  It tells you all you need to know about the book, among other things…

The woman two rows ahead and across the aisle I had observed in the boarding area.  She initially caught my attention because she had a travel blanket that she kept wrapping and rewrapping around her feet.  She continued this behavior once we got on the plane and then proceeded to add a large camouflage blanket for her shoulders.  Her purse must be like a clown car.  

The guy I’m sitting next to was another one that I noted in the boarding area.  He had “PERSONAL TRAINER” emblazoned across the back of his jacket.  Gee, I wonder what he does for a living?  He surreptitiously also observed me while we were waiting to board.  I found this odd until I realized how I was dressed.  No, I wasn’t wearing anything outlandish or that would get me kicked off of my Southwest flight.  Nope, just jeans, tennies and a tech shirt.  But… it was the tech shirt and tennies that I was wearing that probably caught his eye.  I had on my Merrill “minimalist” running shoes and my National Breast Cancer Half-Marathon tech shirt that has “SURVIVOR” written down the sleeve. 

I like to wear comfy clothes when I travel (and most days to be perfectly honest), jeans, tennies and preferably a tech shirt in case I have to do an OJ Simpson-like sprint to catch my flight.  Since today was a travel day to a chilly locale, long sleeves and running shoes it was, but I really did seriously consider wearing my beloved cowboy boots.  Anyway, I had forgotten that my choice in attire screams athlete and cancer survivor in one fell swoop.  Oddly, I sometimes, for very short intervals of time, forget that I’m a cancer survivor.  My constant aches and pains never let me forget that I’m an athlete.

I was trying to think about the last time I flew anywhere.  It’s been awhile, unlike Joe who flies every month.  I had forgotten just how much I actually like to fly.  I love watching the ground drift away from the plane – the steep angle of the plane – the view from the windows – the view of the sky as we travel into the clouds.  And, the people watching.  Some people, like Joe, close their eyes and immediately tune out; some stuff their faces in a book.  Others, like me, watch and occasionally will engage other passengers in small talk.  Then, there’s always a mom soothing a fussy little one.  I remember doing my fair share of that, but honestly I don’t miss it.  I’m thankful that the kids can carry their own bags, snacks, and bodies to and from the plane. J

While I love the anticipation of travel and the actual flight, I really dislike the getting to the airport hassle.  There are two types of people in regards to getting to the airport – those that are relaxed and those that are not.  The relaxed people are those that don’t stress about when they get there, they don’t stress about parking the car, checking the bags, security, nada.  Joe and my mom are in that camp.  Then there are those of us that wake up hours before we need to leave, if we even sleep at all.  We MUST get to the airport ninety minutes or more before our flight leaves.  We pack and repack our bags days before our flight.  We check, double-check and triple-check that everything is in place and continue to do so until we are at a “comfortable cruising altitude.”  My dad and I drive Joe and my mom crazy with our plane travel neuroses, but the feeling is mutual!   

This flight is the first one I’ve made by myself in -- I don’t know how long.  I’m so used to having the kids with me.  There’s no one to tell to stop fighting or hand out snacks to.  I’m not quite sure what to do with myself.  I feel somewhat discombobulated.   

Oh wait –I just remembered the last time I flew solo – when I flew home for my cousin Michelle’s graduation from college over a year ago.  Then, I was flat-chested, forgetful, puffy and bald from chemo.  I’m no longer flat-chested, puffy or bald, but I guess I’m still a bit forgetful. J

The last time I flew with Joe and the kids was when we went to Hawaii last year for Joe’s Ironman.  That time, we flew with the Setos and had the kids sitting in a separate section all together.  One would think that the plan would have been fraught with peril, but all of our kids are great travelers.  Besides, there were plenty of other kids on the both flights over who were traveling with their triathlete parents.  

Triathlon is a very family-friendly sport; I pitied the people who were on our flight that were going for something as mundane as to sit on the beach and get a tan.  WE had a mission – to celebrate Joe’s accomplishment with friends and family and were ready to PARTY – family-style, of course.

Incidentally, if you want to do some people watching, take a flight with a bunch of triathletes – talk about “interesting” wardrobe choices…

My flight today is a precursor for future celebration.  I’m flying out to Colorado Springs to look at land.  Why Colorado Springs?  After years of thinking that we would move back to Phoenix when Joe retired from the Air Force, we came to the realization that we both wanted to move somewhere green with mountains and a more laid-back vibe than Phoenix has become.  We both love Colorado and both of us have made many happy memories there, so Colorado became our goal.  We are planning to move there when Joe retires or gets a job there, whichever comes first. 

A couple of weeks ago, Joe was in C-Springs for the retirement of his boss from his Aviano days, which was held at the Air Force Academy.  He was there for a week, hanging out with Lynn, Al and the kids, reconnecting with old Air Force buddies, and looking at land.  Lynn and Al have just purchased a large plot of land in a quiet subdivision next to a regional park, close to the Academy and with gorgeous views of Pike’s Peak.  Sounds good to me!  Where do I sign up? 

Joe prudently decided that before he put in an offer on a plot of land that he thought would be perfect for us, wanted me to fly out to see it for myself.  Plus, it was a good excuse to see Lynn, Al, and the kiddos.

So, I’m sitting on a plane watching people read their bodice-rippers, play on their iPads, bundle up their feet, getting grief from the sassy Southwest flight attendant, and giving it right back at her. J  I am slowly relaxing, making mental notes to myself about my weekend wardrobe choices that are limited since I only brought a carry-on.  I was thinking about changing out the jeans I’m wearing today when I arrive and then just re-wearing them on Monday when I fly home.  OMG!  I just realized that I have “plane pants” like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory’s “bus pants”.  I really am a neurotic traveler.  Perhaps moving to Colorado will cure me of that... I doubt it though.