Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Norm!" and The Premier of the “Starter-Kit”

A couple of days ago, I talked about all of the optional medications that the doctors give you to cope with your cancer. What I haven’t talked about are all of the ones that really aren’t optional. Between the two, I now feel like “Norm!” (from Cheers) when I walk into Walgreen’s. They just keep adding them for this or that. I show up everyday about the same time. They always have one ready for get the picture. For example, I went to the dentist on Tuesday because I was told that it’s extremely important to get your teeth cleaned 2-4 weeks before chemo so that they don’t rot out of your head during it. OK. I went.

So, I asked for “the cleaning of a lifetime”, which I was getting apparently from the taste of the blood, when I happened to mention to my hygienist that I had a port installed when I had my surgery. She dropped her tools and ran out of the room. Next thing I know the dentist is explaining to my why I need to rush off to the pharmacy to get a 2000 mg dose of Amoxicillin as soon as I leave there and shoving a prescription in my hand. “It’s prophylactic”, she said, “but you better get there as soon as you leave here.” Apparently the bacteria stirred up from cleaning your teeth is really bad if you have permanent foreign objects installed in your body. Who knew? And why the word prophylactic? Why not precautionary? That seems a little more appropriate…

I had already been to the pharmacy on Monday to pick up my Coumadin, that I now take daily, to prevent me from having a blood clot from the port. So, this port that is going to help me in chemo so much has really been a pain so far. Especially since the knots won’t seem to fall off the incision, which has COMPLETELY healed except for those stinking knots. My mom had a surgery a couple years ago and her knots took so long to fall of that she thought they were just there for good! (It has only been handy for that 6 year old boy in me that likes to show people things that they might think are gross. “Here, feel it…”)

So for more than a week, I have been developing this new “condition”. It basically feels like my body from my collar bone to the bottom of my ribcage is being drug across a cheese grater. My clothes hurt me. Typing this hurts me. My post-surgical cami with the stuffed “falsies” hurts me. I have put up with it because it wasn’t that bad until yesterday when I realized that it was getting worse, not better. So, yes, another trip to Walgreen’s last night. Apparently, I am having chest spasms from the tissue expanders. It doesn’t feel like what I thought spasms were, but I’ll do anything to fix this. So, I got the Rx. My sister, Michelle, was with me when we picked it up. I was bummed when they guy said, "That'll be $25." No generic, which matters when you're going EVERYDAY for a new drug. But, when we pulled away and Michelle said, "You're insurance saved you $287.99" I almost drove off the road. Those pills cost more than an iPhone!

I couldn’t take it until today at 4:00 so I don’t know if it's going to work yet. It has to be taken at 4:00 to maximize it’s result and prevent me from being a zombie during business hours. It knocked me out cold tonight from 8-10:30, but I'm all awake now! Great. Not sure if this is feels like the nerves in my face did when they were repairing. That took months.

So, all day the irritation and suffering from the clothes just kept getting worse. I wanted to rip my top off, but there’s some silly HR rule against that…and no one deserves to see that anyway. But, the pressure from the stuffed “falsies” was more than I could take. We had an important presentation today that was physically horrendous, even though it went well. So, I yanked them out of the tank and sported my new “starter kit” as soon as I got out of that room. It didn't fix the problem, but it did give me quite a bit of relief from the pressure. It also made me realize that I don't look that bad. Most people didn't really notice unless I told them.

So, I'm just wondering how long it's going to take me to do the same with the hair at some point. I think it will be sooner than anyone expects. I began this process thinking that always looking as normal as possible was the point. Now, I'm not so sure. I need to be able to adjust to the fact that for at least a while, I will live a new normal.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mommy, is it the 27?

Today was Brayden's birthday. He turned 5 today and is growing up so fast. In the last couple months he's begun to be a little walking, talking calendar. The first thing he does in the morning is announce the date. He hasn't gotten down the whole "th" "st" "rd" part of it. So it's sounds something like this, "Today's the 27, and Sunday will be the 30." I enjoy it so much that I find myself saying it wrong on accident and on purpose. I was watching him play with his cousin, Aiden, tonight as he opened his presents and began thinking about how unique of a creation we all are. If you ask, he remembers that Mother's Day was May 10. Don't worry, I checked, he was right. I'm the mother and my answer was "in May I think..."

He's such a little character. Loves math and has begun adding double digits in his head. People ask me why I didn't send him on to kindergarten this year. The truth is because he would fail coloring. He can't understand why anyone would want to do that. Just won't color a thing. When I pick him up at church, everyone's little pictures are on the door waiting to show mommy and daddy with pride. His is always the blank one. Or if it's a teacher that doesn't know him, she thinks she's lost one. I know better!

Well he had a great Birthday tonight. And as I headed off to Walgreen's for yet another prescription tonight (this time for chest spasms), all I could think about is how God made him exactly the way he is for some special purpose. I pray he finds it by seeking God's will over his own long before I did. Oh, how much easier his life could be.

You see, he saved my life. I had been sampling church for a year or so casually on the weekends. I liked Saturday night church because you could get your church in and still go "out". See, even though I was going, in my mind I was just "chalking up credits" with God for being there. Church was just something I had added into my calendar. I was not surrendered, still working on "strong" too much to be surrendered. Living my life in sin and not feeling particularly bothered about changing it.

It was like perfume. Spray a little church on you, you'll smell better & maybe no one will know what you were doing the night before. Then be on your way. I was on a path of total destruction. It's doubtful that I'd be here writing this now if it weren't for him. Exactly a month before I became pregnant, I had been laying in a hospital bed at Baylor having smashed my face on a 20 foot box truck after a hockey game. They pieced me back together and gave me a 10% chance that the left side of my face would ever work again because there had been so much nerve damage. It took my mom over 2 hours in the shower at the hospital just to get the dried blood out of my hair once I could get out of bed. Little pieces of fiberglass surfaced from wounds on my face for the next two weeks because they had been so deeply embedded. Thankfully no one else was hurt.

When I learned 6 weeks later that I was pregnant with him, everything changed immediately. I got serious. There was so much more on the line than before. I now was totally responsible for raising another human being. I always knew he was a boy, too. Stick turned pink, and my first though was, "I always wanted a boy." People thought I was crazy or that I was just taking the 50/50 shot, but that wasn't it. I knew. Never even looked at one girl name in the books...

God chose to bless me with what I always wanted in the middle of my darkest days away from Him. It took Brayden to bring me back to Him. Yeah, I had been at church for a awhile, but hadn't taken any of it home with me. So, as I look at him today, I see my little boy growing up so fast. I also see a boy God chose to give to another one of his children to bring her home. Thank you, Brayden and Happy Birthday! And, Thank You God for seeing past who I was, to who you created me to be and choosing me for his mother.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Strength, Pharmaceuticals, and Noah's Neighbor

One of the most interesting discoveries about this cancer journey is that I am so tired of people telling me how strong I am. If you've done this...don't worry I've already gotten over it. But, STOP! (And yes, Carol, please DO give that card to someone else.) Everyone's first thing they think of when they think of me is that fact. "You're the strongest person I know."

You see, to me it's really not a compliment. I know exactly where it comes from, but it registers in my mind as failure and conjures up bad memories. It used to be my greatest point of pride. (Pride...that's a whole other blog entry...we'll save that one.) I spent 20 years building the wall that it took to be that strong and it WAS true. I started young, and worked at it brick by brick into my 30's even. Defiant to authority, especially God. I didn't need anyone or anything. I did what I wanted when I wanted, always to the detriment of myself and sometimes to others. You were either with me or against me. And, I have the pirate scars to prove it, physically and emotionally. I had a lot of friends, but leaned on practically none of them. "Cross her and watch out!" That's how people viewed me because I wanted them to. That's what that statement means to me. Take it from someone who knows, it's an empty way to live, because we weren't built to live that way.

Then came the day when I realized that the "Yvette" plan was not going to work, kinda like that healthcare bill we're talking about now. There was just no way. I was dying inside and completely miserable. Then, my friend Sharon invited me to Fellowship Church. It was so different. Church had changed in the last 18 years! In fact, I wasn't sure it was for real because I was enjoying it! But, the messages truly were Biblical. I still remembered my Bible lessons I was teethed on. This church WAS for real, just packaged in a way that made sense. It wasn't the "because I said so" version of church I grew up with. Our pastor, Ed, explained the same biblical principles in a new way, a way that showed me why I was miserable and a way that showed me how to apply it to let God change my life. I wanted to be changed, I wanted to be different. So, I started to attend, then joined, started to volunteer, and began taking every class I could get my hands on in FC Studies. Today, I'm not that "strong" woman I used to be. My strength comes from my relationship with Jesus. It's HIS strength you see today, not mine. There's no other strength like it! So, don't tell me I'm strong because thankfully, it just isn't true anymore. The burden has been lifted!

That brings me to cancer, a walk with Christ, and pharmaceuticals. A weird thing happens when you find out that your own body has decided to try and kill you. It messes with your brain in unbelievable ways. Then, the doctors offer you drugs to help you through this time. It's a candy store of options. Depression, anxiety, sleep-aides, and that's just some of the optional ones. If you think like me, that just doesn't seem OK. Partially, because the OLD Yvette would never have admitted the need. (She still shows up sometimes.) So, I said, "No thanks." But the panic, nights with no sleep...they don't go away. So then on the flip side, I started to doubt the strength of my faith. I think crazy things like if my faith was really strong enough, I wouldn't even be considering any of these options. I shouldn't need them, any of them. God is all I need. I KNOW that's true. "Again, No Thanks." It was a real battle. I was dealing with physical effects and feelings that I had never experienced before. At times, they were overwhelming. In fact, on more than one occasion I have fallen completely apart in public, with perfect strangers, or over something minuscule. But for some reason I believed that if I reached out for the help, I was compromising my faith, once again failing even though it's very temporary. So, why did I make the call to the doctor admitting this "failure" and asking for the help?

Because, I remembered the story of Noah's neighbor. By the way, this one isn't in The GOOD BOOK. It's a joke wrapped in some insight. You know the story...Noah built the ark, spent a REALLY long time working on it. Everyone thought he was crazy! Then he loaded it up with the animals, his family, and the rains came. So, it rains for a while, Noah floats by his neighbor..."You want on the ark?", he asks. "No", says his neighbor, "it's gonna stop raining." So, Noah the animals and family float on by. The next time they float by, the neighbor is on the top floor of his house, waters rising and he refuses help once more. They float on by. The next time, he's on the roof, water lapping at his feet, refusing to get on board. Finally, the neighbor drowns and finds himself before God. He's pretty mad, "Why didn't you save me, God?" And, God says, "What are you talking about?? I sent Noah by to get you 3 times!"

To make it through this, I definitely need Jesus. That's FIRST and FOREMOST. But, I also need my family and friends, my church, my doctors, and as it turns out some pharmaceuticals for a little while. The doctors know how this cancer thing works. When they say you need a little help here or there, you probably do. It's temporary, it doesn't mean your faith has failed. In fact, some of the help I've said yes to has given me the clarity to see how He's using this experience, and keeping me from drowning in this cancer just like Noah's neighbor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Irony, The "GI Jane", and Side-splitting Laughter

OK. There are those days where you get to decide whether you are going to hide in a corner and cry or completely laugh yourself silly. For me that usually centers around a series of ironies that if strung together and put on paper would not even be believable in Hollywood. Today was that day. I have written some of these posts in tears. I do that tonight for a different reason. My mom and I just laughed so hard about today and what the results of my decisions made could be that we had to separate to recover from tears of laughter.

It was my first day back at work. That went well. It felt good to be back to doing "normal" things and I received a warm welcome from my team. The irony started in other parts of the building. You see, when you have a surgery like I have, and you're only 1/2 way done with the repair job it messes with people's minds. They don't know how to react, or more importantly where to look. I bring this up for the opposite reason that you think. It's the women I ran into today that seemed to forget that when you talk to someone, you look at their face. Now, if they see you coming from a distance, they're OK. There's time to check out the scene and sum it up. But, round a corner and surprise 'em...I must have giggled about this a good portion of the day because it happened so often and is so ironic. As for the men, I feel sure several of them know exactly how many ceiling tiles are in the building. Sometimes it's kind of fun to make people uncomfortable, as long as the joke's on you. But, that's not the good part of the story.

So, as I'm wading through 2.5 weeks of email, I get an email with the details of the singles retreat at our church that's being hosted at our new unbelievable camp. I say new because it's just about 3 years old I think. So, for 3 years I've been wondering when we were going to get around to having a singles retreat. You see, my best childhood memories and THE most important decision I ever made all happened at church camp. I tear up every time they show clips from the kids/student camps because I know what happens there. It takes me back to before the many years of wrong decisions, and bad choices...But, my camp was NOTHING like this one. We had no A/C, scorpions in the shower, huge biting horse flies that LOVED Deep Woods OFF!, and no windows in the cabins, just screens so that we wouldn't ACTUALLY die in the heat of a Texas summer. That's not our new camp. This is camp is 5 star!

As I turned to look at the dates on my huge wall calendar, I began counting how many days it was from Chemo poison (take #1) that is supposed to take every hair on my head within 14-17 days according to my Dr. last Friday. It's exactly 14 days!! So, here's where the decision came took a little while to ponder. First thought...well I'm not going to that! I can't! Then...I've waited 3 years for this!!! Pity Party or Bite the Bullet? Can I even do this in a wig?

So, I picked up the phone and called the cancer salon. I decided to go to the retreat, and get the "cut" the week before, October 3rd to be exact. Apparently it's called the "GI Jane" appointment. They buzz your head, fit, cut and style your wigs, and you walk out with your "look" for the next year or so. I'm giving up my hair a week before I have to, but the thought of getting to camp and living through it coming out in chunks all weekend was awful. Then it became really, really, really funny. I'm so visual. I see things that I imagine and that can be dangerous. You know, hug a friend, lose a chunk. Hug another friend, lose another chunk. Hug enough friends, wear a robe, and suddenly everyone's trying to figure out who got the Krishna to come to our camp. Either that's hysterical, or I'm sick...probably both.

So, I somberly came to Mom's and sat her down to get the appointment on her calendar. (I don't get the "put everything on a calendar" from nowhere...) So, I told her about the retreat, the conflict of dates, and my decision. We were quite serious for a few minutes. Then she asked the question that sparked the cascades of laughter. "What activities are you guys going to do at this retreat?" (Beyond worship and study, obviously...) So, I mentally went back to the clips I'd seen from kids camp activities, and what I thought the email said from memory. It went something like this..."they have horses, a zip line, wave pool..." We stared at each other and started laughing hysterically because I just don't know how you do any of those things in a wig! Ride your horse too close under a tree...where's your hair? In the tree! Besides, I may be a Texan, but I can't even ride a horse! I'm a city girl. The zip line visual includes a hunting expedition at it's conclusion... Forget capture the flag, it's find the hair! And no one needs to explain the wave pool part... (It's actually a lazy river, either way it doesn't need a wig floating in it.)

Then she tells me about a friend who rear-ended someone in a wig, saw the "head" fly over the back of the seat, and began screaming because she thought she had decapitated someone. Suddenly, my worst nightmare was the funniest thing I have laughed about in months.

Our camp's called Allaso Ranch. They tell us Allaso means change. So, really it's Change Ranch. That's a place I belong, hair or no hair. Besides, if I do get my hair stuck in a tree or lose it in the woods, my good friend, Susan, will retrieve it for me. Of that, I'm certain.

©2009 80% Sporadic | by TNB