Friday, December 28, 2012

In Sickness and In Health

I have a bone to pick with Walt Disney - for a couple of reasons. 

1.  He has something against mommies.

From Bambie to Snow White, Aladdin to The Little Mermaid - Disney mommies are suspiciously absent or offed even before opening credits.  And replacement step-mothers all seem to fall firmly in the "evil" category.  I've been aware of this phenomenon for some time, but it wasn't until I became sick that my children began to hone in on it.  I realize these tales are told because nothing is more terrifying to a child than a mother leaving them forever.  But when the possibility of such a scenario became real for our family, there seemed no relief from threat - even in fairy tales.

There are very few of my children's questions I have ever hesitated answering.  "What did (insert character here)'s mommy die from?" is one of them.  For those conversations alone - I will always hold a grudge.

2.  Thanks to Mr. Disney, generations of "little princesses" grow up with a jaded view of marriage.

In fact, I believe Walt's influence may be a contributing factor to our nation's nearly 50% divorce rate - and here's why:

"Happily Ever After" leaves a lot to the imagination.

No Disney cartoon that I've ever seen (and as a mother of two young children, I've seen just about all of them) tackles the real issues of marriage - dirty socks on the staircase, grocery shopping and bills.  Prince Eric never loses his temper over the incessant talking sea creatures his wife takes up with and Ariel never wonders what her life would have been like if she had married the merman two coral reefs from Triton's castle. 

They certainly don't delve into what happens if Cinderella gets cancer. 

In November, my own Prince Charming and I marked 11 years of marriage.  With each other.  In a row.

We've beat out about half of Hollywood and we're still in our 30's.

This milestone was even more meaningful as we tested the limits of the "In sickness and in health" vow.  Nothing makes or breaks a couple like joking about life insurance policies - or literally pulling hair out over cancer treatments.

In fact, many couples faced with cancer do not make it to the other side (according to some studies, as many as 20% of marriages end after a cancer diagnosis) - and I can certainly see why.  This experience has been stressful.  And I am beyond thankful that we were somehow able to grow together instead of apart through our fears and frustrations.

I'd like to tell you that our time together has always been Disney-esque or that we've somehow stumbled on the secret to making marriage work. There is no secret.  No fairy godmothers. Over the years, there were days when I wasn't sure if we would make it through.  And days when I was certain we wouldn't. 

Thankfully, when it came down to that "till death do you part" bit, there was never any doubt.

I've learned that staying married requires primarily one thing - both partners deciding to continue being married.  Even when the glass slippers are gathering dust and the evil step-sisters invite themselves to Thanksgiving - again.  Or if your princess happens to be holed up in the bathroom for weeks on end. 

Also, a little luck never hurts.

In truth, I think Walt does a disservice by ending his tales with that first step over the castle threshold.  The reality of Happily Ever After - the imperfections, fights and forgiveness, the shared history of moving day memories, dirty diapers and inside jokes - is beautiful.  It is so much more precious than any ball one could attend. 

This year on our anniversary, Chris and I did what we do every year - we signed on for one more.  I'd gladly give him a hundred if I could.  Though I am certain we will face many more trying times in our future -  real life, it turns out, is far better than any Disney fairy tale ever written.  And real romance is less about fancy gowns and more about continuing to say "I do".

Even after the clock strikes midnight. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Not the End of the World, But...

Probably the best part about being done with chemotherapy is to once again be able to choose foods based on anything other than barf-ability. This is exactly what it sounds like - and just as pleasant as you may imagine.

Throughout the course of my treatment, many of my favorite foods were eventually set aside as part of a self-imposed boycott.  These items were carefully selected based on a complex scientific process known as "learn-it-the-hard-way".  Included on my Thou Shall Not Eat list was tortilla soup, salad with blue cheese dressing, anything topped with salsa and what should have been obvious but made the list late due to my absolute love affair with them - Tim's Cascade Jalapeno potato chips.  There was also an unfortunate incident with deep fried pickles but I probably had that one coming. 

It goes without saying that "fish" did not score high in the barf-ability category either.  Thus, it felt as though I reached a milestone recently when I met friends for lunch at a favorite mid-town sushi restaurant. 

As I gleefully devoured a Dragon Roll without fear of potential "return factor" the conversation made the logical jump from Christmas shopping to the impending Mayan doomsday predictions.

"Wouldn't you be ticked if you went through all this and the world ended on Friday?"  Asked my best-ie while carefully balancing her chopsticks in one hand.  

I laughed and told her I wouldn't mind so much - so long as the End occurs quickly and we don't have to endure endless CNN coverage of the event.

But I think the question bears further investigation. 

While I don't believe "End of Civilization" has been neatly penciled in for tomorrow afternoon, I occasionally have been known to indulge in flawed judgement (see fried pickles).  So just in case, let me be perfectly clear:  If the world were to end tomorrow, I would not regret a thing. 

Yes - this year has been a challenge.  The last six months have shaken me to the core.  My experiences with cancer have tested my physical, emotional and psychological limits - and sometimes I've come up lacking.  But it has also given me the opportunity to gain a perspective I never would have otherwise.  I have said the things I need to say, strengthened priorities such as family and friends and let go of others such as vanity and wealth.  I've laughed harder, cried more and just generally experienced life fuller than at any other time.

And though I have what feels like an endless road ahead of me back to true "health" and wellness of both body and mind - I have confidence that the journey will be worthwhile. No matter how many days I am allowed on this planet.

So yes, Mayans - give it your best shot.  My guess is civilization will continue tomorrow - and CNN will supply endless coverage of the world not ending. 

As for me, I plan on ordering up another Dragon Roll  - and enjoying every last bite.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Being Brave...

There is something eerie about the way cancer survivors are portrayed.  It starts with the smiling, hat donning models that look out from rows of informational brochures at the cancer center. Touting headlines such as Lymphoma and You or End of Life Options the brochures make for macabre advertisement.

A bright-eyed woman holding hands with a loved one on the cover of  All you need to know about Colon Cancer seems to say "Look how fascinating this cancer diagnosis can be! I'm looking forward to this process - You should too!"

A stoic grandfatherly looking gentleman leans against a tree from the cover of Understanding your Prostate and retorts "I never wanted this prostate anyway."

After the diagnosis of cancer, the next images that are typically laid out for public consumption are those of  "survivors".  You know the ones - Pink hats, smiling faces, strength, strength, strength.

So here's the deal:  There is a lot that happens in the middle. And it's not all knowing smiles and pretty pink hats. 

I understand why images of smiling, happy people are chosen for "the face of cancer".  No one would pick up a brochure with Grandma breaking down and mouthing "WHY ME?"  But I also believe it is important to be honest - to be able to really prepare those who are on this path.

Cancer - and its treatment - is not pretty.  Surviving means getting down to the core of being human - with all the grit and grace that goes along with it.

This is why, on a cold day in October, my best friend and I ventured out into the woods to document "The Middle" of cancer.  At that point in time I had completed five of six chemo treatments.  I was not at my thinnest - I would lose another six pounds, require saline and blood to get through my final treatment.  And though these photos would never be used on the cover of Breast Cancer and You - they are reality.

Cancer is a brutal adversary.  But there is beauty and strength in standing up to it - and being honest.  I was here.  This is part of my story too.  I am not afraid.

 Photography is by Jennifer Borst - a most amazing and adventurous photographer whom I am lucky enough to call friend.  Thank you, sweet girl - for helping me to be brave and standing beside me through thick and thin.  Everyone should be so lucky.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Survivor Looks Like

If there is one thing I've learned through chemotherapy, it's this:  Don't plan on anything during chemotherapy. The moment you start to think you are in control of the situation - all heck will break out.  Which is why, when my friend Kym invited me to walk with her in Coeur d' Alene's Race for the Cure on September 23rd  I had no idea if I would be able to follow through. But, as luck would have it, on race day I was just beginning to venture off the couch again after recovering from yet another chemo dose.  And though I was weak at the time, I've also learned not to let "gift" days pass us by. 

And the race - my first wearing a snazzy "survivor" tee-shirt - was certainly a "gift" day.  Surrounded by friends, family and a sea of community members all donning pink - it was inspiring to feel the support of others who have been affected by the disease.  And though the services offered by Susan G. Komen foundation (such as screening mammograms for those over 40) do not benefit me personally - it is certainly a good cause.  They do an amazing job of raising awareness about breast cancer and I love that so many communities are taking up their cause.

I was not prepared for the sheer mass of "pink" at the starting line!  Check out the guy in the sombrero!

Starting out.  It looks dreary in the pictures, but it was a perfect day for a walk.

A little weak yet - but I think I should get points for participation.

Teague, Maddie and Kendel hamming it up.  Teague just could not bear to wear pink.

Beck, Brock and I setting the pace - well sort of.

This made my heart hurt a little.  I hate that he has to be so young and know what this means.  At the same time, I am so proud of our family for the strength, support and love that we show every day.  We are stronger for having gone through this.

So many of us have been touched by the disease - whether through a mother, sister, grandma, aunt or friend.

The kids had a great time, walked the entire 5K and didn't whine once.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  I think it captures the spirit of the day.

Coeur d' Alene is wonderful place to live.  The race was a good reminder of how supportive our community is.
I made it the whole 5K too - and didn't barf on anyone's lawn.  No small feat considering the week I'd had.
The crew (minus Becky the photographer).  I have to admit the word "survivor" still feels a little foreign - maybe even premature.  I think while I'm still in the middle of it "warrior" may be more fitting.  But I look forward to the day when "survivor" fits like a glove.  I'll have earned it.  This isn't easy - this business of being a survivor.  But it's do-able thanks to the love and support of those that stand beside me every day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Underrated Bodily Fluids

This year Halloween came a little late to the Caro household - specifically me.  With my last two chemo treatments both scheduled throughout the month and my body rapidly losing strength, October was less than kind.  In fact, it was downright brutal. And last week during my post chemo labs it was clear I was going to need a little boost to get through this last round of treatment.  After attempting to rehydrate me with two liters of saline and some steroids, the decision was made to order two units of blood. 


 Even though I've given blood products to countless patients and never thought twice, something about needing a transfusion myself seemed a. extreme and b. ooky.  But the simple truth was I was losing ground.  I was lethargic to the point of not being able to drink a cup of soup without needing to sleep for hours and I was short of breathe just walking up the few stairs to our bedroom.  My heart rate raced above 120 with simple activity.  It had to be done.
Hey Baby - What's your type?  (A Positive)
The effects weren't immediate - but within 24 hours I could feel my energy returning and I wasn't struggling to breathe any longer. Over the weekend I had the energy to play with my kids, get caught up with laundry, read a book and even write a little - oh and did I mention I can breathe again?  It's kind of a big deal. 

(My blood levels were low because chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cells - of which blood is one.  However, red blood cells take about three months to regenerate so we were killing them off faster than they could bounce back.  They would eventually come back on their own, but I was too symptomatic to sit back and wait for that to happen.  Not everyone who receives chemotherapy needs blood.  But in my case it was definitely needed.)

I wasn't a trauma victim.  This blood didn't save my life.  But it did speed my recovery through this.  Made my life easier and allowed me to breathe easier in every sense of the word.  And for that I am ever so very grateful. So thank you, thank you to all of you out there who donate blood.  Please know that it makes a difference.  Sometimes in ways you could have never expected.

And if it's been a while since you last donated - get out here and do it.  Tell them I sent you (and ask for an extra cookie - you deserve it!)

Testing, three, four ... Is this thing on?

 By the time the next phase of diagnostic testing begins, life starts getting very serious, very fast.

And when I say serious - I mean surreal.
Where were you when I needed you, Ashton?
I remember sitting huddled in cold waiting rooms draped in a one-size-fits-none gown telling myself this would be the scan/exam/lab test that proved there has been some terrible mistake.

 This couldn't possibly be my life.

With every scan I half expected Ashton Kutcher and his crew to burst out from around an MRI machine, pointing and laughing.  "You thought you had cancer! You should have seen your face"!

But, no such luck. Instead, each test only reconfirmed the last.  I did have cancer.  This was my life.

Still in shock, I then had to make one life altering decision after another.  Who would be my surgeon?  Reconstruction now or later?  Which oncologist would be right for me?  In short, I was asked to assemble what I came to refer to as "The Dream Team" - the group of medical professionals who would listen to me, care for me and ultimately save my life.

How I remember my nurse.  I may have had some dilaudid on board.
This is no easy task - and I cannot advise the best tactics to make such decisions. Personally, I made my choices after speaking with nurses who worked closest with the physicians at the hospital. I may be biased, but I've found nurses to be pretty reliable in knowing what "really" happens in the medical world.  At any rate, I could not be happier with who I eventually assembled.  And knowing the quality of care I received from them actually renewed my faith in the medical system as a whole.   

I've found that receiving the best medical care does not always mean a perfect outcome. There are still no magic wands out there.  But the best professionals will keep you front and center as part of the team.  They will take the time to explain difficult situations and empower you to make informed decisions about care.  Those first couple of months after my diagnosis were the most trying days of my life and I will be forever grateful for the compassion and excellent clinical judgement that was provided to me by not only The Dream Team but also the entire hospital staff.

Everyone should feel that sense of confidence about their team - and if you don't, I would encourage you to find a new team.  


By this point, you will be a pro at receiving scans.  Trivial things such as scan ambiance - or lack thereof - may begin to annoy you.  You may silently critique staff for doing things like offering blankets in a timely fashion or how well gowns fit.  As for me, I became fixated on the terrible music that always seemed to be playing while I was stuck in confined places. Seriously - they have canned music in malls with subliminal messages like "don't shoplift" or "stay longer".  Why can't there be a soundtrack for diagnostic scans with subliminal messages like "Don't give up or you'll never know what happens in The Walking Dead" or something equally as meaningful?

Brain MRI -
My particular tumor type likes to hide in the brain and this scan was ordered to search for anything suspicious, as well as to have a baseline scan for the future.  I can think of nothing more terrifying than the prospect of not being able to trust ones own thoughts.  I feel as though I could deal with most other scenarios - but I needed to be able to take solace within my own brain and was petrified by the prospect of finding cancer lurking there.  I was very thankful when the results came back negative.  Thank goodness for "empty heads!"

The Music
The MRI crew supplied me with headphones which piped music from a CD player set to some sort of generic ghetto music whose lyrics - and I'm not kidding - were something along the lines of "I can't believe you moved on so quickly after I was gone."  Nice.  The first chance I got, I asked the technician to change the music.  Which she did - to Norah Jones.

They're coming, Norah!
Now, I happen to like Norah Jones (unlike my husband who refers to her as Snorah), but this was NOT a good choice for an MRI.  Instead, the dichotomy between her lilting tones and the machine's metallic clang was something akin to Norah Jones being attacked by Space Invaders. *Sail awaaay with me, in the night... (BOOM BOOM BAM BOOM) Sail away with me... (CRACK CRACK CRACK BOOMBA BOOM WHIR)*  - Run Norah - they're right behind you!

Playlist suggestions:  Anything with a club style "remix", Beastie Boys, Black Eyed Peas - you get the idea.

Echo/EKG -
This was another "baseline" exam.  Chemotherapy can be hard on the heart (in more ways than one) and regular monitoring of cardiac status is required to ensure no damage is being done.  The exam is painless and usually takes less than 20 minutes to perform.

The Music
Nada.  The test was completely quiet to allow the technician the ability to listen to the machine.  However, I feel the experience could have been improved had I brought along an ipod.  And being that I have an echo scheduled every three months until possibly the end of time to monitor my little ticker - I'm making a mental note to bring one along next time.

Playlist suggestions: Happy and mellow - think Head and the Heart, Mumford and Sons, maybe a little Paul Simon.

PET scan - 
Probably due to a childhood steeped heavily in Star Trek reruns, I pictured this scan to be something hand held that would beep when cancer was detected.  Sadly it was nothing so magical.  PET scans detect glucose metabolism which is elevated in rapidly dividing cancer cells.  After spending 24 hours without *gasp* eating carbs, radioactive glucose is injected into a vein and after 30 minutes of sitting quietly in a dimly lit room, a CT is performed.  Areas such as the brain and bladder glow brightly on the scan and that is a normal finding - anything else can be suspicious for cancer metastasis.  The exam is painless but it can be eerie to lie back and scan your body for lurking danger.  Just like any of these scans - the hardest part about going through them is the great unknown.

What I pictured a PET scan would be like. (Spoiler alert: It's not)
The Music
The technicians here had a radio station playing during the scan.  This would be fine except when I was in the middle of the scan - guess what came on?  Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven's Door. Cue the "Punk'd" themesong.

Playlist suggestions: Everyone has a "happy place" song or two. For me it's always been The Rolling Stones You Can't Always Get What You Want. Choose the song that makes you feel as though you can get through whatever life throws at you - put it on your playlist and hit repeat.  Because you can - don't forget that.  As terrifying as it is to go through these tests, life gets easier when you can finally start fighting back. 

You can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes, well you might find
You get what you need. 

Truer words have not been spoken.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Testing, one, two..

There are few things scarier than hearing you have cancer - unless it is trying to figure out just how far  cancer has advanced. Why?  Because fear of the unknown trumps pretty much anything - just watch any well-shot horror film.

 As a now seasoned veteran of the cancer game, I can say with certainty the most harrowing part for me was the whirlwind month or so of diagnostics.  (And that is saying something considering I recently spent about a week in the bathroom and lost another 3 pounds after receiving my latest dose of chemotherapy.)

Really? Am I the only one who remembers this?
Since I've "gone public" with my journey with cancer, many people have shared with me their fears and questions as they've had their own diagnostic tests run. This is scary business and life is at stake.  Trust me - I understand.  With that in mind I've decided to explain some of the common tests that are run in the diagnostic phase of breast cancer.  Because as anyone who grew up in the 80's can tell you - knowing is half the battle.

Mammogram -

To the best of my knowledge the term mammogram comes from the greek root mammo - meaning "breast" and ogram - meaning "I didn't think it physically possible to flatten the girls out that far." In addition to regular breast exams this scan is on the front lines of detecting breast cancer. Guidelines vary - so check with your doctor - but the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for women with average risk of breast cancer over the age of 40.

Note the woman's clenched fists and "angry eyes."
What to expect -  A technologist will position your breasts one at a time beneath what appears to be a giant c clamp and then - for lack of better terminology - proceed to squish them beyond recognition.  A low level x-ray image is taken in each position and then reviewed by a radiologist who will send the report to your doctor. Normal breast tissues change over time and with menstrual cycles so sometimes a repeat mammogram or ultrasound will be ordered to follow up on possible abnormal findings.  Mammograms can be a little cold, awkward and moderately uncomfortable - but nothing that a post-exam latte can't put right.

Risks include exposure to low levels of radiation as well as possible false positives resulting in unnecessary biopsies. Or, in my case, the mammogram was falsely negative due to the axillary location of the tumor (it was located in my armpit area).  As with any screening tool, it's not a perfect process, but mammograms are the current gold standard for early detection of breast cancer - and early detection means survival. (So get 'er done!)

 What they don't tell you - After changing into a gown and locking up my belongings, I was led into a waiting room where other gowned women awaited their turn to get to second base with a technologist who may have signed a "cold hand" affidavit.  Be prepared to make awkward small talk with overexposed geriatric women about their doctors/the decaying state of their body/their grandsons marital status - or at least find a current Better Homes and Gardens to help you avoid seeing things you wish you hadn't.

Ultrasound (with or without biopsy)

If you have dense breast tissue (which is doctor talk for small boobs), have breast implants or if there is an area of tissue that warrants a closer look, chances are your physician will order an ultrasound and possibly an ultrasound guided biopsy to check it out. 

What to Expect - You might remember this procedure if you ever had a baby - hopefully they will use a gel warmer this time!  During a breast ultrasound a technologist presses a gooey, hand held transducer back and forth against the breast tissue. The transducer produces sound waves which help visualize the tissue. Through the images that are produced, radiologists can determine if a nodule is fluid filled (normal) or dense (not so much).  They can also determine blood flow to the area (cancers have particular blood flow patterns).  It is completely painless unless biopsy is included and I know I always find them interesting to watch.

 As with any test, be sure to ask questions if you don't understand the images on the screen.  Technologists are usually happy to explain what they are looking at - but remember they can't give official results so resist the urge to badger them.

Risks for an ultrasound are essentially nil.  Biopsy risks include bruising, bleeding, allergic reaction to lidocaine and of course discomfort.

What They Don't Tell You - Be suspicious of anyone who says a breast biopsy might "pinch" a bit. They stick a big effing needle into sensitive tissue and then snip off bits of you to send to the lab.  The radiologist numbs the area with lidocaine but at least in my case this did not cover all the pain. And in my humble opinion, if you don't have to suffer through something - don't!  My doctor gave me a prescription for a sedative that I took an hour before each biopsy (I ended up going through this twice after some suspicious nodules were also found in my left breast post MRI - those ended up negative) and I am so glad she did.  However, it is not necessarily something that is volunteered so if you are concerned about discomfort be sure to request a prescription ahead of time.

Also, biopsy results take several days to come back from the lab due to the processing techniques.  Be prepared to wait a while to find out results - it's normal and unfortunately can't be sped up.  If I remember correctly they told me to expect results no sooner than 3-5 days but when it was positive I had calls from the lab, my doctor and a nurse after two days.  Sometimes no news can be good news.
Breast MRI

Breast MRI's aren't super common as a diagnostic tool from what I understand.  It was ordered in my case because I already had a positive biopsy and they wanted to be certain there was no other involvement or other suspicious nodules in either breast.  It was ordered by my surgeon to help him decide my surgical options.

What to Expect - MRI's remind me a little of squeezing into a giant tampon applicator and then attending a rave.  They are ridiculously loud and if you have a tendency towards claustrophobia, be sure to request a sedative in advance.  The technician will go through a checklist prior to the scan to be certain you have no metal anywhere in or on your body. This was a scan that required contrast dye to be injected at a certain point in the test but after the set-up this was not a big deal.  It is cold in the room and once they start scan you are stuck there for a while - so say yes to an extra warm blanket or two.

It is exactly as comfortable as it appears - except add cold and loud.
What They Don't Tell You -   My scan happened to be scheduled the morning after I worked a 12-hour night shift in the ICU.  I traipsed downstairs bleary-eyed, still wearing my scrubs and was a little dismayed that I not only had to disrobe but also place my breasts in what appeared to be two beer cozies for the duration of the scan.  I was also incredibly dehydrated after working all night and because I have puny veins to begin with, it took a total of six attempts by three people to finally start the IV before the scan could even begin.  Take home lesson:  schedule your scans for days you don't have stuff going on - and drink plenty of water before you go!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Crossing the Half-Way Mark.

Moments before: "Captain, isn't this a lovely quiet night?"
Nurses tend to be a superstitious bunch.  Don't believe me?  Just waltz onto any unit and happily announce how quiet it is on the floor.  I can almost guarantee a well directed glare if not all-out protest from the staff.   Why the hostility you may ask?  A statement such as the dreaded "q" word can bring about unbridled mayhem faster than a bus full of drunken fraternity brothers.

In fact, there may be a direct correlation between history's worst disasters and some well-meaning sap describing the utter calm of the current situation:  Titanic, Hindenburg, World War II - all brought to you by the letter "q".  Now of course I'm still working on tying all this together, but until then I'm not taking any chances.  

Thus, there's a reason I haven't talked much about
Always lookin' up - The view from my chemo chair.
 my third round of chemo (which has now come and gone) and it can be summed up in a brief synopsis:  I didn't want to jinx it. 

Because of the severity of symptoms during my first two chemo rounds, my oncologist decided to make a few mid-game change-ups.  Most notably, he added a fantastic drug called Emend to assist with nausea. I was also given a Neulasta shot the day after my chemo treatment to ensure my white blood cells didn't end up in the toilet this go-around and I was prescribed Claritin for its antihistamine effects which counteracts the bone pain associated with Neulasta.  In addition, I was prescribed prophylactic antibiotics, began taking glutamine and also studied nausea specific trigger point therapy.  In short, my med cup is overflowing these days- but I got the break I so desperately needed.

Don't get me wrong - chemo (at least my experience with it) is not a walk in the park.  But with these changes, round three felt more like a bad case of the flu rather than a bout with the plague - and I'll take those improvements any day!

Which leads us to Round 4 - or as I like to call it OFFICIALLY MORE THAN HALF WAY DONE!!

Duck face is a little known side-effect of chemotherapy.
My fourth chemo treatment was Thursday and as much as I would like to report a glowing experience - I can't.  Although I changed nothing (right down to wearing the same shirt to chemo - superstitious Nurse remember?) so far I'm back to feeling achy, nauseous and fatigued.  But hopefully once the Emend kicks in things will ease up a bit.

The maddening part about all of this is the sheer lack of predictability.  Just when you think you've got it all figured out, along comes a giant wrench in the well-laid plans.

But as Winston Churchill once said "If you're going through hell - keep going."  And I couldn't agree more. Because the best part about being at round four is I'm finally feeling like I'm making progress.  Four down - two to go. We've got this in the bag.  It may not be the most pleasant of experiences, but day by day I'm getting through.  And if that's not something to celebrate, I don't know what is.

But don't go around uttering the "q" word.  Just in case. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends.

Fliers that were distributed around town.
If I were to write a cancer survival guide it would include these little nuggets of advice:

1.  Get yourself a cheering squad pronto fast.

2.  Swallow your pride and let others help you through this.

This sounds easier on paper than it is to practice.  It's incredibly difficult to be so vulnerable - physically, emotionally, and financially.  It's even more difficult to admit that help is needed. But cancer is one of those "it takes a village" situations and there's no one I know who could manage it alone.

Luckily we haven't had to.  From the beginning, our family has been surrounded and kept afloat by our incredible friends and family.  Between impromptu get-togethers, funny gifts and just checking in - we've never felt alone in this battle.  There's always been a hand to hold close by.

But what surprised me most has been the outpouring of support from the larger community - often by complete strangers.   It seems everyone has been touched by cancer in some way or another and are happy to show support.  But we have been shown generosity beyond reason - and for that we are so grateful.  My faith in humanity has been restored - and then some.

Case in point:  some of the lovely ladies of the ICU where I used to work *sob* recently put together an extraordinarily beautiful benefit dinner for us.   They did such an amazing job - it was like attending a "this is your life" wedding but with a silent auction instead of a gift registry (which is actually not such a bad idea - everyone goes home happy!).  As an added bonus I had absolutely nothing to do with the planning process so I was free to enjoy the night sans stress.

The event was held at Settlers Creek - just outside of Coeur d' Alene (  I'd never been there before and was pleasantly surprised by the venue.  Grounds were casual but elegant with both indoor and outdoor facilities.

The evening began with cocktails and appetizers then a buffet style dinner of cherry wood smoked pork shoulder, sea-salt crusted baby red potatoes, fresh fruit, house Cesar and pasta salads was served inside.  Yeah - it was as tasty as it sounds. 
There was also live music courtesy Rag Horn - a really fabulous local rock-n-roll cover band who donated their entire night to us.

We dined on the terraced grounds overlooking the silent auction which went on throughout the night.  The sheer number of items that were donated was astounding - we have such a generous community.
Pictures don't do these terraces justice.  They are so lovely.
Tablescapes captured the theme perfectly.
We were welcomed by Shirley (one of the lovelies who organized the night) and crew.
So many people!  Tickets were completely sold out.
Those giant incinerator things in the background are bar-b-ques!  These people mean business.  You could lead a small cow into one of those suckers and still have room to spare.
Some of the baskets donated to the silent auction.

There was some serious shopping going on.
Traci and Tinka - organizers extraordinaire. 
The all important drink ticket sales ladies - Taylor and Kristen!
A few of my favorite people. 
 All Business.
Nicki and Jon - we've been friends since nursing school.  Love them!
Adam and Tami - The ICU crew was out in full force - hope the patients were being taken care of!  : )
Kyle and his lovely wife-y.
Julie and her daughter
Even Joe (from SOARING) came out to show his support!
This is the only picture I have of hunky hubby - he was a complete social butterfly that night.
Well, we all were.  Lotta love in that place.  Oh yeah - and I debuted my new "oncology chic" hairstyle.
Mellon and me.  It really was an amazing night.  We all had so much fun.
Thanks so much to Traci, Kim O, Kim A, Shirley, Trish, Tinka and everyone who helped to make the night a success.  You could not know what it means to us.  We love you all so much!