Anniversaries, Relay For Life, Cancer Sucks, and Maybe More

It was kind of hard to come up with a title for this post…can you tell? Just lots to update on!

May 10th will be one year cancer-free for me! I kind of had that “ah-ha moment” yesterday, where I suddenly realized it’s May and I had my mastectomy in May so it was almost one full year. Pretty cool, I think.

Also, on May 3rd Brad and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary. Congrats to us for putting up with each other this long! Here’s to another 11! Er…here’s to forever! Kidding…I love you, Brad.

The Relay For Life event was April 26. We had a great time. The survivor lap was humbling. Just seeing all those cancer survivors…how crazy. I always knew cancer sucked, but going to an event like that REALLY shows you just how much it sucks. We did not last until midnight, we were SO tired, but we stayed until the luminaries were lit, which was around 10:30. Here are some pics from the event.

The Relay For Life was a Friday night, and that Sunday we went to the hospital to visit our friend Heather who has been fighting a fierce fight with a very aggressive cancer. Unfortunately Heather lost her fight on Tuesday. She left behind a husband and two young kids who are going to miss her so much. We attended her services this passed weekend, and it was beautiful, but completely heartbreaking.

It makes you want to know why, you know? Why did she have to lose the fight? There are two kids out there now without a mommy. Two adorable, sweet 5 and 7 year old kids. A husband without a wife. It sucks. Cancer sucks.

And that’s the reason why I participate in the Relay For Life. I do it for the Heathers, the Matts, the Alyssas and the Lukes. I do it for the parents, sisters, brothers, friends, and other relatives of people fighting cancer. I do it for every single person in that funeral home and the church.

No one should have to attend the funeral of a 32 year old mom who died from cancer.

Golf Tournament Recap

I’ve needed some time to chill, process, and get back to my regular routine after the tournament, but I’ve been wanting to post a recap of the event.

First of all, everyone was SO generous. My expectations for our first event were exceeded in both players and dollars.

The tournament had a profit of around $4300.

I was not expecting that. I wasn’t expecting 59 players and I wasn’t expecting thousands in profit. Especially not for our first effort that was put together in three months time.

I can’t thank everyone who participated enough for their generosity. I’m still sort of riding the high of a successful event so I’m thinking I’ll probably do it again next year, only this time we’ll start the planning process a lot earlier! I plan to post the pictures I took on the More Than Ribbons website and Facebook page soon, so please look us up on Facebook.

Fundraising for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is a year-round thing, so if you want to either participate in the Relay or make a donation, there is always opportunity to donate to team More Than Ribbons!! Link: https://bit.ly/2FL8Jn8

No news is good news!

Y’all. I’m so sorry it’s been over a month since my last post. Since this is a cancer blog, that’s a good thing, right? I really want to include some of the life after cancer stuff, so I’m sorry about that.

First things first (priorities!!), Barkley is doing great. He’s 12 weeks and had some more vaccines today. He’s still a maniac, and can be found at @sirbarkleyelkins on Instagram.

I’ve actually seen each of my three doctors in the last 2 weeks and everything is going great. Oncologist, breast surgeon, and plastic surgeon. I’ll be seeing them again in 3, 6, and 12 months, respectively. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life not being dictated by doctors’ appointments anymore, with the exception of my Lupron shot every few weeks.

What else is new? Classes are finishing up and I’ll be off for the summer before starting my LAST official semester of grad school. I plan to work on my thesis this summer to wrap up my masters degree, and then take my last two classes in the fall to finish my additional graduate certificate. The end is near, and when it happens, I’ll have my Masters in Psychology with a certificate in Behavior Intervention in Autism. I feel like I’ve been going to school forever, but I love it, so it hasn’t been a hardship, it’ll just be nice to have one thing off my plate. The whole student loan payback thing is gonna suck though.

A couple things related to my recovery that I’ve been meaning to talk about…I still have no feeling in my breasts, though it is returning a little bit around the outside and working its way in. Dr H said the feeling may never fully return, but it’s interesting to see how it’s gradually coming back. Same with my belly area. On the surface, I have no feeling. It also feels really funny underneath because I can feel soreness in my abs when I workout, but that’s about it. Sometimes I can’t tell if I have a stomach ache, sore abs, or cramps because it’s so hard to determine where exactly the feeling is coming from.

Second thing is also ab related. Well, abdomen related I guess. The docs took the fat from my abdominal area on the outside of my abs. My “flab,” so to speak. So now my abs are right beneath my skin, and as I gain weight, I’ll gain it underneath them – visceral fat that hangs out around my organs. We all need some of that fat to an extent to protect our organs, but too much can be detrimental. I certainly hope to not harvest a whole bunch of that crap, and I’m working hard to lose it, but because I’m post menopausal due to my current maintenance treatment (Lupron and Letrozole combo), it’ll be more challenging for me to lose weight. That’s not going to stop me from trying though. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve dropped an inch around my waist and an inch around my hips. I’ve also lost around 5 lbs.

I had to change my nutrition plan to better suit my current needs and situation, and it’s working great for me. I’m still eating very healthy foods that I choose and I’m feeling satiated. It’s a good plan and SO easy to implement. I love it. Brad is even following it without difficulty.

Anyway, I do want to talk about the golf tournament, but I’m exhausted, so I’ll share that another day. Hope you’re all doing well!

Cancer Sucks.

Need I say more?

I think I’ve talked about this before, how when you’re diagnosed with cancer, you seem to realize how many people around you have or have had cancer. It’s a horrible, horrible number, which is why I will probably volunteer and raise funds for cancer organizations for the rest of my life. We seriously NEED a world without cancer, and if I can put even the tiniest dent in that goal, I will.

In recent months, I’ve had two friends diagnosed with cancer. In the past year, another one of my friends joined the ranks, and prior to my diagnosis, another friend had started his fight with cancer. These are people who are my age…mid to late 30s. There have been other people I’ve been acquainted with or told about over the last couple years who have been diagnosed, too, varying ages. It’s just crazy how widespread this disease is. It’s crazy and so damn frustrating.

It makes me mad that cancer doesn’t care that these people have friends and family who love them. That they are good people just trying to make it through life and do the best they can. Between the four people I mentioned, there are nine kids who have to watch their parent struggle in one way or another. Two of those friends are in the hospital, one is home recovering from surgery, and the other one is going for radiation this week. I’m sure every single one of them has shouted at the top of their lungs, “Give me a break!!!” I know I did at least once during my fight.

Sometimes when I hear of the struggles others with cancer are going through, I feel guilty. I feel like I got off easy, you know? Deep down, I know that’s not true. I know my body fought hard through chemo and recovery from my bazillion surgeries. I know my body was so weak and I had to rebuild my strength. I know it wasn’t easy when everything was happening, that I looked and felt like shit, but it’s so easy to look back and say, “What I went through wasn’t so bad,” when I see my friends being hospitalized because their bodies are being beaten down by their diseases. When I see them going through it longer than I went through it. My treatment was short. I was never hospitalized. My side effects were always pretty manageable with medications.

My fight is over and I feel great. And sometimes I feel guilty for that, and I think that’s an OK think to feel. I think that’s normal. Survivor’s guilt, in a sense?

Anyway…Barkley is absolutely fantastic and if you have Instagram, you should follow his shenanigans at @sirbarkleyelkins It’s mostly pictures of him sleeping because he’s a pup and that’s what he does, but he’s ADORABLE! And tomorrow he is 7 weeks!

Our family grew by four feet!

First, thanks to the friends who reached out on Friday. I was feeling pretty blue, and you all made me feel better. We all have those days when we feel terrible about everything, and that was me on Friday. Everything sucked. I napped, exercised, and had dinner at Cici’s Pizza. It was perfect.

But now, drumroll please…

This is Sir Barkley “the Trash Panda” Elkins. What’s with the name? Lemme break it down for you.

Sir Barkley is for Charles Barkley because this little guy is our rebound dog and Charles Barkley was a rebound dude. And Trash Panda is a Guardians of the Galaxy thing…Drax calls Rocket (raccoon) a trash panda. Our Barkley has a mask over his eyes, like a raccoon or a panda.

Barkley is a chihuahua blue heeler mix. He’s 5 weeks old. His mom stopped nursing, which is why he was released earlier than puppies usually are. He is a little ball of energy who goes bananas for 30 minutes to an hour, then crashes for 30 minutes to two hours.

We are feeding him powdered puppy milk and he was getting some watered down dry puppy food. He prefers the puppy milk, though. We’re going to keep trying the puppy food every now and then.

He’s playful and handsome and stealing the hearts of everyone he meets. He fits in the palm our hand. He’s also very smart. He loves his toys and hates his crate.

He’s a momma’s boy. When he hears my voice or sees me, he takes off after me. It’s the absolute sweetest thing, if I do say so myself. Daisy was a daddy’s girl, so it fits that this little man is a momma’s girl.

I’ve been calling him a Puppy McNugget since he’s so small. His mom was typical chihuahua size and his dad was about knee-high, so he’ll be somewhere between, which was about Daisy’s size, too, which is perfect.

We’re happy to have him, and we see things in him that make us think Daisy would approve. We fully intend on spoiling him rotten and capturing every moment. Brad joked that we should start an Instagram for him. I guess we’ll see. I have one I barely remember to use, so maybe we’ll just use that. He goes for his vaccinations in a week. Wish him luck!

As for me…I’m getting some teeth yanked on Friday, so wish me luck! We’re supposed to go to see Old Dominion, but I’ll have had IV anesthesia so we’ll see if I can join. Talk about crappy timing…

Today isn’t a good day, and that’s OK.

I put on a brave face and a smile 90% of the time. Then there’s that 10% of time when I perseverate on everything that has ever gone wrong in my life. I’m not alone in this, I’m sure. I think everyone has one of those days when everything sucks and they just want to crawl back into bed and stay there.

Today is that day for me. I felt it coming on yesterday, but couldn’t do much about it. I tried to exercise it off, but that didn’t help. Now I’m going to try to write it out.

Before Brad and I got married, we talked about wanting to have lots of kids. We both have a few siblings and we wanted our kids to have siblings, too. Unfortunately for us, we struggled with infertility. We found the bright side, though. We saw it as a sign that we were meant to adopt kids. We’d enjoy just being us for a few years (and we did enjoy it!) and then we’d look into adoption. But that was still a huge emotional hit. The one thing we wanted and planned for was crushed, no matter the silver lining.

Life was good, but for whatever reason, we kept taking hits. All three of our cats passed within a year of each other from unrelated illnesses. Loco, Buster, then Phantom. It was horrible. We were so sad. We reasoned it out because they were older and it was “their time,” but that didn’t take the suck out of it. With each passing fur-kid, we said “we still have X,” and so on.

Then I got cancer. I mean seriously, who did we piss off? I don’t really think I need to expand on that, this blog has said enough.

I took a step back from work because I was so sick and then I had my surgeries, and we took a huge financial hit. Our savings account was empty and we couldn’t find any assistance. We couldn’t self-sustain any longer. We had to move out of our home and in with my parents. We were lucky to have that opportunity, but imagine being 36 and having to move in with your parents. Also, imagine losing almost all of your autonomy while you’re at it?

The hits just keep on coming. 2019 started off with a bang by us losing Daisy. It was horrible. It still is. Every day it sucks a little more, but we’re managing. We still see her everywhere, look for her everywhere. It sucks.

Brad and I have talked about this and, some days, it feels like we have lost everything. These have been some of the worst years of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had good times…we’ve been blessed by so many things…(I’m alive, yay!!)…but things have also sucked a lot.

So I’m not having a good day.
And that’s OK.

We’re getting ready for a new beginning.

It’s the little things

I think I’ve used this title on a post before, but it still apples! It always applies. Sometimes the littlest things mean so much.

The polish on my toes had faded pretty badly, it was also Christmas themed, so ta-da! I went with something bright and sparkly, something happy that would remind me that spring is coming.

It also reminded me that I am badly in need of a pedicure. Chemo dried out my skin so horribly and I swear my feet suffered the brunt of that. They’ve also become super sensitive and ticklish, so having someone touch them is going to be interesting. In the meantime, I’m gonna get my foot bath out of storage and soak in some Epsom salts.

Phrase of the year

I’ve seen a lot of my friends post on their blogs or on social media that they have discovered their word of the year. It’s a word they’ve chosen (or a word that has chosen them) that will guide them throughout the year.

Well, I’m not sure about a word, but I’ve found a phrase that I’m pretty sure defines me.

“She believed she could, so she did.”

What does this mean to me? Exactly what it says. If I believe I can do something, I do it. I’m not wishy washy about it, I’m confident. If it fails then it fails, but at least I tried.

  • I believed I could write, so I did.
  • I believed I could raise money for a cause, so I did.
  • I believed I could become a BCBA, so I did (in process).
  • I believed I could organize a major fundraising event, so I did.

I’m not sure if this phrase could equate to just one word. I keep thinking something like “determination” or “unstoppable” or “fearless.” But those words can mean so many different things, and I feel like this phrase leaves no room for interpretation. It’s straightforward, and I like that about it because I’m also straightforward.

Anyway, do you have a word or phrase of the year? Or if your life? Do share.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

It may be cliché to say that, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe how I felt letting Daisy go yesterday. People said she’d let us know when she was ready, and she sure did. She was a dog with so much spirit, and it was just gone.

This is how we will forever remember our girl…

I can’t say enough good things about Charleston Veterinary Referral Center. From when we took Daisy for a late night ER visit, to the oncology department who helped evaluate her and keep her comfortable and deal with my incessant canine cancer questions, and finally to the evening ER visit last night…they were absolutely wonderful. I honestly don’t think Brad and I would have made it through last night if it wasn’t for them. It was different from any other veterinary experience I’ve ever had with her or any other pet. Hell, they were better than a lot of human doctors I’ve met. They are compassion, plain and simple.

Brad and I got to hold her and rock her, and she fell asleep in our arms. We were the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes. She was snoring peacefully and looked like the little snoozing baby dog we remembered. The doctor took her to the back to put her fully at rest; we weren’t sure we could handle that. I mean we’re pretty strong people, but we’re not that strong.

As difficult as it was to make that decision, we knew it’s what she needed and, among the emptiness in our hearts, we feel an odd sense of peace, too, because we know she’s at rest. She’s probably playing with her friends and fur-siblings on the other side. She was always a happy dog, and she always bounced back, and I have no doubt she’s causing some trouble as we speak.

She was the best girl and she’ll forever be in our hearts, and the hearts of those who knew her and loved her. Thanks for all the kind words. ❤

Daisy Update

I realize I sort of left everyone hanging about Daisy, and for that I apologize. It was a busy week dealing with the start of a new semester at work and an ailing dog.

So we’re doing supportive care and she’s hanging in there. She has meds similar to what I had when I had cancer: steroid, pain killer, anti-nausea, and anti-diarrheal.

She hasn’t been eating voluntarily, so we’ve been using our NutriBullet to grind up some food and vitamins into mush that we can put in a small medicine syringe and squirt in her mouth. She’s been drinking a lot of water, and when she’s a bit doped up, we use the syringe for that as well. She mostly sleeps and chills out, checking things out.

We had a ultrasound guided aspirate done (biopsy) and the pathology came back with her tumors most likely being hemangiosarcoma. It’s not what we wanted to hear as we were hoping for a lymphoma that could be quickly treated with chemotherapy.

Hemangiosarcoma can be a hit or miss with chemotherapy as sometimes it responds well and quickly, and sometimes it does not. The other difficult part is that the fine needle aspirate is only able to sample a small part of her liver, so it’s not representative of the entire thing.

We’ve decided to try one round of chemotherapy to see if there are any positive changes. Her oncologist said we would definitely be able to tell after one round of chemotherapy, maybe two weeks time, if the chemotherapy is helping. She’ll be going in on Wednesday morning, so please keep her (and us) in your thoughts.

Chemotherapy for dogs is much different than chemotherapy for humans. According to the vet, dogs handle the drugs much better than humans do, and the side effects are usually just nausea and diarrhea, which we are already treating her for. So hopefully she’ll feel minimal changes/ discomfort there. She also may have metabolites in her feces, so for the first few days following chemotherapy, we will need to use gloves when cleaning up after her number twos.

This is sort of our “Hail Mary,” last ditch effort to see if she can be treated before we make the decision to rely solely on supportive care. Every day she shows a little bit of the feisty personality we know and love, so we want to give her a chance to kick this, even if that chance is small.