Fox and Broom

A mom's adventures in keeping healthy, keeping her sanity, and making stuff.

Paris Part I

Excited for our second honeymoon.

This is really just about our flight and arrival in Paris. Our trip took about 14 hours altogether. We had a quick flight to Seattle, then a layover for somewhere around four hours. The flight from Seattle to Paris was about 9.5 hours.

When we arrived in Seattle, we were just too exhausted to do much more than just sit and eat a small breakfast. Then we sat some more. An exciting beginning, I know.

Our flight was finally ready for boarding, so I put on my awesome face mask. My white blood cells had been so low the week before this trip, that my oncologist had me get two shots of Neulasta to get my WBC up to a more normal range. Or at least out of the very dangerous range I was in. My count went down due to a new treatment I had started. I will probably write about that in another post.

Anyway, my new mask is quite pretty. It does get warm, but it does not fog up my glasses like the paper ones do. It has an N99 rating, which means it should keep out 99% of contaminants. For those who are curious, it is a Cambridge Mask Company in the Austen style.

The Austen by Cambridge Masks

Side note: medical masks make people nervous on airplanes. Or at least a lot of people give you strange looks. Whatever. I am not getting your dirty germs today, bitches!

Our flight was 9 1/2 hours of sleeplessness. We did try to sleep, but the sick baby two rows behind and to the side of us was super miserable and let everyone know it. The poor guy had a terrible cough (I was super thankful for my mask) and he just cried for the entire flight. Which also caused all of babies in our area to wail for the entire flight. So no sleeping.

We were not near a window seat, but I did get a few outside pictures of Mount Rainier.

Otherwise, I had a selection of shows and movies to view. Which I didn’t. I spent my time playing silly games and reading The MagiciansI got up a few times to walk around. I watched our trip as we advanced over Canada, then Greenland, skimming past Iceland, going over Scotland and England, to finally arrive in Paris.

It was a relief to get off of the plane. However, our journey was not done yet. We took the train to a Metro station, the Metro to a stop near our hotel, then we walked with our suitcases to Hotel ATN. We got turned around while trying to find the correct Metro. We looked like obvious tourists, but a young man took pity on us and helped us find the one that would take us where we needed to go.

We were greeted at the hotel by cute statues and a really nice woman. The nice woman told us we could not check in yet. It was about 11 am and we needed to wait until at least 2 pm.

So, we wandered around and had lunch. We still aren’t sure what Gabriel had. It was mislabeled as Quiche. It was some sort of ham and grilled cheese sandwich with more cheese fried on the outside. I was still having a few issues with nausea, so I just had strawberries. While we were wandering around, I admired the buildings. Even the fast food places are fancy.

I had my first taste of all the random Paris art that can be found everywhere. The artwork became one of my favorite things about walking around Paris while we were there.

After a few hours, we went back to our hotel and checked in. The rooms are very chic and adorable. Our window looked down into a small square. I had images of women who might have washed and dried their laundry in this square with children running and playing around them. Everything is so old that this could be a possibility of the area’s past.

The ceiling

The courtyard.

We pretty much crashed after getting our luggage into the room. We did wake up a few hours later to eat dinner at the little bistro at the end of our block, Le Comptoire de l’Europe. It became our favorite place to eat. I always ate almost everything that was served to me. It was one of the first places that had me actually enjoying food again.

We went back to sleep after dinner. We had some big adventures planned for the morning.

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The Day

I have been working on blogs about my Paris adventure, but I wanted to put up a quick post for today.

A year ago today, I found out that my pain was definitely not caused by a pulled muscle. A year ago today, my life turned upside-down. A year ago today, Dr. C told me that I had metastatic breast cancer that had spread to my bones. Stage IV. No cure. A death sentence.

It isn’t an anniversary that I want to remember. I was in agony and losing weight. I had gotten to the point where I was having trouble walking. I was exhausted. I was angry.

My first thoughts were for my kids. I couldn’t leave them. Not yet. I very much want to see them grow up. I very much want to see what kind of humans they become. I also, maybe selfishly, very much want them all to remember me. Really remember me. Not just hear about me from other family members or friends.

After my diagnosis, I went downhill fast. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it to my birthday in October. I believe my children and my anger brought me through that time. The radiation treatments helped with my pain and my hormone treatments helped to get my cancer somewhat under control, but it was my children who got me through the other things. I thought of them as I forced food down my throat. I thought of them as I forced myself to reclaim my muscles and start walking again. I thought of them as the worst of my symptoms started to fade and now, a year later, I am not the skeletal, sickly, creature that cancer wants to make me.

Now, I enjoy eating again. I have been working on taming my garden that went out of control. I walked miles and miles in Paris. I took my oldest son to Disney World and Universal Studios. I walked a 5K, which I didn’t think I would be able to do again. I have hope that I now have years instead of months. I have met a lot of the goals that I set for myself last year at this time. Every time I cross one off, I get a feeling of vindication. Fuck you cancer.

Living with cancer means fighting everyday. I am a warrior.

The Gift

It all started on Christmas. Well, maybe before that. For me, it started on Christmas Eve at my in-laws. We had gone over to celebrate, have dinner, and exchange gifts. I was given a beautiful, small, gold box. The bow was perfect. Bobi really does the most wonderful bows on gifts. I like to use her bows as decorations on my tree. It means I get new decorations every year.

I opened the box and the first thing I see is a small card that says “I love Paris.” I started tearing up. I had an idea as to what might be under that card. It was two small airline tickets. My in-laws had given me their airline mileage to be able to visit Paris with my husband. I ugly cried.

I have wanted to travel to France with Gabriel for forever. I kept trying to save up for this trip, but, well, life happens. Along with the kindness of the tickets, both sets of in-laws made out a schedule for keeping my boys. We ultimately decided to go in May as the June flights were double the mileage cost (and double to triple the hotel costs). We also received a surprise gift of travel money from Gabriel’s coworkers. If any of them are reading this, thank you so very much. The money covered our hotel expenses and allowed us to buy gifts for the boys and enjoy the Parisian food and sights.

I spent five months working on DuoLingo to learn French or at least enough to get by. Turns out that I didn’t use it as much as I really kind of wanted to. I did use it a little and it was fun to be able to communicate a little better. I also understood someone who was talking about my mispronunciation of a place. I butchered Montmartre. I knew it and I practiced saying it while at breakfast. The woman across from us said something in French to her friend that basically translated to, “She needs to learn to speak correctly.” Yes, I know I do. Which I was trying to do. It amused me that I was able to pick up on what she was saying. I guess I had learned more than I thought I had.

I also ordered two months of News In Slow French. I’m actually considering just subscribing to that for a year. Or more. It has a lot more international news than my local news media outlets give me.

My trip was huge and I want to document as much as I can, so I am writing a separate post for each day with lots of pictures. I won’t be able to actually post all of them. I took over 700 pictures. A good number of photos will be in each post.

 

What Kind Of Cold Is This?

From April 6 up until the morning of April 10, I have felt like shit. It has been hard to eat. Hard to walk. Hard to move. On Saturday, my temperature spiked to 100.4. I am supposed to go to the ER if my temperature goes above 100.2.

So, to the ER we went. I had a lot of blood drawn and tests done. I was given some sort of heavy-duty pain medication that made me loopy and tired. They did not find anything that antibiotics would help, so I was eventually sent home with orders to take Tylenol. I was told that I had some sort of virus working its way through my system.

Holy shit. If this is what it feels like for me to get a cold now, I am tempted to just wear a medical mask everywhere I go. That was some crazy, awful, painful nonsense. But, now I understand why it is soooo important for normal people to keep their viruses away from folks who have a compromised immune system. Colds do not affect me in the same way. They completely knock me out. I don’t just get sniffles and a headache, I now get a full body ache, lose my ability to lift or move anything, and lose my appetite completely.

I am feeling better this morning and my appetite has returned, but that episode brought back flashbacks from my troubles just after I was first diagnosed. I seriously thought I was backsliding. It was scary. I am seeing my doctor today for a checkup and for my monthly bone treatment. I am hoping that this virus does not set back my treatments. It would seriously mess up some future plans if I have to delay getting my injection.

So, PLEASE be cautious of your friends (and newborns – newborns need a few weeks to buildup their immunity) who have compromised immune systems. “Just a cold” or “only a sniffle” becomes so much more for someone with no defenses.

Goals

I have two slightly different sets of goals. “Local goals” and “worldly goals.” The local goals are things that I need to either do to myself or can do in my area. The worldly goals are bigger or more expensive to achieve. In the past three weeks, I hit two local goals and one worldly goal.

I was able to finally walk around my block now that the weather has gotten friendlier. My block is pretty big. It is about the size of three blocks all together. In October, I was barely able to walk to the corner and back. This small feat was a big deal for me. April 2, I walked to the top of Garfield Hill. Garfield Hill is a part of the road that goes from 19th (at the base) to 27th (at the top), so it is a decent few blocks to walk. Especially if you are walking up a 17% grade.

Garfield Hill

The view from the top is really nice. I always forget how pretty it is up here. On a really nice day, you can see mountains in that direction.

The view from the top of Garfield Hill.

I had a lot of trouble trying to get a good picture of just what this hill looks like. It is daunting no matter if you are at the top of it or at the bottom. My kids always do the roller coaster “wheeeeeee” when we drive down it. I didn’t drive up or down it at all while we had snow and ice.

Garfield Hill from the top.

Garfield Hill from the bottom.

My walk ended with me looking goofy while admiring this willow tree’s flowers. They were so lovely.


The Worldly Goal that I hit was seeing the Pacific. I hiked so much that I could probably say that I hiked Badger Mountain, but I want to actually do that before I cross it out. It was a pretty amazing trip and I will be forever thankful to Abigail for setting it up. We saw a ton of sea lions, a mama gray whale and her calf, weird tentacles on the beach, sunset over the ocean, and a few really neat geological formations.

My first view of the Pacific. We were still driving to our cabin.

It was misty like this for almost our entire drive to the Oregon coast.

The Shelley Cabin. Our little home for a few days. It has a path down to the beach.

We had an amazing, sunny day. We took the Hobbit Trail to the beach.

There were a few of the tentacle-like things on the beach. I suspect they are actually some form of sea weed.

Picture from a viewpoint. This is the same viewpoint from which we saw hundreds of sea lions and a gray whale with her baby.

Hundreds of sea lions.

A couple of sunset pictures. That day was so beautiful and perfect.

These are pictures taken from our private beach access.

Sunset.

Sea lions inside of the Sea Lion Caves.

A view from inside of the Sea Lion Caves.

My final picture of the Pacific before we drove away from the cabin.

We stayed in a lovely little cabin between Yachats, OR and Florence, OR. If you ever need to rent a cabin in this area, I highly recommend searching for The Shelley Cabin. The Pacific was everything I thought it would be and more. It is definitely more powerful than the gentler (sort of) Atlantic where I grew up in Florida. It was very chilly out, so I did not even try to dip a toe into the water. I just can’t handle cold the way that I used to. All in all, a wonderful trip.

Oh – on our one sunny day, Abigail made me dress up and we had a photo shoot:

A Last Unicorn theme

Unfortunately, the horn broke.

Six Months

Well, here I am. I am still around. Six months ago, on August 25, 2016, my life completely changed. I had a really rough patch after that and have been working on getting my body back. Cancer takes a lot from a person. Strength, health, daily routines. My family has been amazing in supporting me while I was really down for the count. I honestly can not imagine surviving as long as I have without them. It makes me want to find the people with no support system and show them the same love.

I have now been able to tentatively plan trips. I have two upcoming trips that I am very excited about. I will be going to the Oregon coast with my sister and my other trip is a secret. I am seriously looking forward to posting all about it once we are back. Both of these vacations are something that I have been trying to plan and save for for at least 15 years.

My hair is starting to grow again. I have to laugh at it. It started with about six little hairs poking out of my head. Just six. It took weeks for more hair to start showing up. Now it is coming in with patches of blonde and patches of light brown. I guess I am a calico.

I am still having some issues with food. I really miss enjoying food. I eat because I need to, but there is no pleasure in it. I used to love the taste of a good rare steak, sushi, falafel gyro… Now it is just mundane. I choke on the weirdest things. I can’t eat lasagna anymore. Well, I can’t eat most pastas. I just start to gag. What is really strange with all of this, is that I have started to crave fish. I don’t even like fish. I have been cooking or buying fish 1 – 3 times per week. I don’t know what to make of this. Broccoli is another food that I can’t seem to get enough of. I guess it is good that I am craving healthy things, but I still don’t enjoy eating them.

In all, I am keeping mostly steady. My hemoglobin has been low, but above the danger zone since December. My white blood cells are still dangerously low, which means I try to stay away from large groups of people. With my immune system so compromised, a common cold could do a lot of damage to me. My tumor markers had dropped drastically, but are trying to climb again. I am not sure what that means, but if it keeps going up, there will be more scans done to see if I need to change or add to my current treatment.

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Mom and Max

Mourning Celebrities

I mourn celebrities. I know some people do not understand this. It actually took me by surprise. Why mourn for someone you never actually knew? Except I feel like we did know them. They shared their art with us and that is a very private thing to share with the world. The one that first hit me the hardest was Robin Williams. Celebrities I loved had, of course, died before him, but when he passed, I couldn’t watch any of his movies for over a year. I think his death hit me so hard because he had ALWAYS been a part of my life. From Mork and Mindy on up. I’ve watched Jumanji and Hook more times than I can count. I love his stand up and the episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway” with Robin is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life.

Then 2016 started off with David Bowie’s death. I cried randomly for three days. I had also just had a baby, so that probably added to the emotional part, but Bowie was an important musical figure to me. I feel like I discovered him late in my life – after high school – and couldn’t get enough of him.

And now we are leaving 2016 with the passing of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. I am having a lot of trouble with the loss of Carrie Fisher. She was a bad ass princess who only needed help her rescue. She was an advocate for mental health. She was hilarious. Princess Leia was a role model for how I played with the guys. There was only one other girl in my neighborhood and we were both tomboys.

This has been a hard year for a lot of reasons. The death of our heroes has just added to it.

One Year Ago

One year ago, I had my most wonderful little gift. My 6 lb 2 oz Maximilian. His birth was incredibly traumatic. I still only have still images in my head during that whole thing.

He is now a very opinionated almost-toddler. We celebrated his birthday on the 18th with friends.

Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom Fox & Broom

I love you so much, Mr. Max.

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 30

Finally. The last day.

Fox & Broom|30 Days of Thankfulness

Day 30: What are you MOST thankful for?

All of the amazing people who have made themselves a part of my life and my circle. I can’t think of anything more wonderful.

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 29

Fox & Broom|30 Days of Thankfulness

Day 29: Something At Home

I could be obvious and say “my family!” because, of course I am most thankful for my family at home. So, I think I am not going to say the obvious. I am going to say that I am most thankful for my home. I love my house. I love my yard, my 2300 square feet of 5 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. It’s a pain the ass at times, but I am thankful that we found this home.

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