Fox and Broom

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

Archive for the tag “Cancer”

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

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 26

Ok. I got behind on these and I really want to finish them. I only have 5 days left. I had gotten sick and I am still recovering, but I am finally feeling well enough to sit at my computer.

Fox & Broom|30 Days of Thankfulness

Day 26: Charity

I will need to mention two. And yes, they are both cancer related. You will have to forgive me if that is pretty much constantly on my mind.

The first is The Warrior Sisterhood. These women are amazing and have helped to give support and even some normalcy with activities such as going to the pumpkin patch, painting, and family roller skating. I really can’t express to them how much their support has meant.

The second is the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. These folks are fighting for more research and understanding about Stage IV breast cancer. There is surprising little research about MBC. The number of people living with MBC is even unknown. We just kind of get pushed to the wayside.

So, if you have a sudden need to support a charity, think of one of these. The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network is one of the Amazon Smile charities, so you can donate and shop.

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 21

Fox & Broom|30 Days of Thankfulness

Day 21: Disappointment/Fear

This is something strange to be thankful for. I guess I would have to say that I am most thankful for my fears about my children. When I was at my lowest in my early cancer treatment, it was the thought of my children that got me to choke down food when I just kept gagging. I thought of them as I lost my hair to radiation. I am afraid of leaving my kids. I am afraid of the idea of Max never having any memories of me. I fight the hardest for my own life because of my children.

A Sober Post About Drugs

So a little break in between my gratitude posts. I have always been someone who never really imbibed in drugs or alcohol very much. I like an occasional glass of something, but it is occasional. On the subject of drugs, I barely took Tylenol. Until I got my cancer diagnosis.

I know this seems like a totally random post. I just started to think about this today. Today was the first day I went totally pain-med free. Since September. I was on some pretty hefty stuff. As in I was actually afraid to drive myself around for about a month. My body became dependent on it, so once I was ready to stop taking it, I had to slowly lower my dosages. Then I looked at all the other meds I am taking:

Fox & Broom|A Sober Post On Drugs

This is not including the D3 I have to take to go along with the calcium, the mouthwash I need to use so I can taste food, or the four other medications that I have stopped taking in the past month. I have to use a list to remember where to put each medication. It also took me forever to remember what each pill was. I will also be stopping a few other medicines within the next month. Which will be nice. Mostly because I hate taking so many pills, but I also miss the occasional beer or glass of wine and there are a few pills in there that will not react well with alcohol. I can wait. I am getting down there.

My New Life

Cancer. This is my new life. Metastatic Breast Cancer to be more specific and to even narrow it down more, metastatic breast cancer of the bone. I was officially diagnosed August 25, 2016. It has taken me over a month to not only get up the energy to think of a way to write about my new life, but the courage to write.

Something had not been right since at least May. I had been running about 2 miles once per week, then suddenly I started falling apart. In May, I thought I had pulled a back muscle… except pulled muscles do not usually take over two months to heal. I just knew that I was in a great deal of pain and had no idea why. My doctor had me go in for more blood work in July and I had some pretty strange results. Due to the results, he had me get a CT Scan which showed a mass in front of my sacrum (seeing the image, it looks like it is between my pelvic bone and intestines). We thought it was lymphoma.

I was sent to a hematologist. He had a bone biopsy done which showed that I do not have lymphoma. I had breast cancer. Which had spread into my skeleton. Which had made my skeleton very fragile. I am no longer allowed to have massage, chiropractic care, jog, or ride roller coasters. That last one actually upset me the most for a while.

I am now receiving a bone-strengthening treatment every 4 weeks. The first treatment was a doozy. I was unable to walk the next day. I felt as if all of my bones were crushing into each other. The pain was so bad that I had trouble talking. It was just as bad as un-medicated childbirth. I started my first radiation therapy the day after the bone therapy and I actually felt almost an instant relief. They targeted the mass in my gut which had been dancing around in my nerves, causing huge amounts of pain in my legs.

These early weeks were really dark for me. And I mean that on a lot of levels. When I look back to just two weeks ago, my whole world was just dark. I felt like I could not see the sun. My appetite was way down. I lost more weight than is healthy is for anyone, and which was dangerous for someone trying to survive with cancer. I was in constant pain.

A week ago, on September 20, I was admitted into the hospital due to a blood culture showing positive for either staph or some sort of infection. It was the best thing that could have happened to me at this point in my life. While I was staying in my super expensive hospital-hotel waiting for more blood culture results, I met with a team of doctors who helped me to get my pain managed. They also helped me to start eating again. Turns out I needed an anti-nausea pill. I now have a palliative team. I met with an amazing Chaplin, Rainy. And I felt like a totally new person by the time I was discharged.

I also had some good news while in the hospital. I already knew that I had two of the three breast cancer markers: progesterone and estrogen driven. The third, Her2Nu, took a few more tests to figure out. Her2 is extremely virulent and would have only given me a life span of months. Especially with my really advanced cancer status. I do NOT have the Her2Nu marker. I am now able to look ahead at years with my cancer. As long as we are able to keep my cancer under control.

And it is that last sentence that is hard for a lot of people to understand. My cancer will  not go away. It will not go into remission. I can not have surgery to remove it. I essentially have Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. It is not something that my doctors will even say. And maybe the thought of it should put me into a puddle of hopelessness, but it hasn’t. Once I was able to get my pain and anorexia under control, I actually started to feel stronger. And angrier. How dare this disease invade my life? How dare it interrupt my family? It might cause my death in the future, but I will be fighting it.

My cancer has brought out some pretty awful things, but it has also brought out the best in my friends. The kindness and generosity of my support system has just blown me away. As has the newer support systems that I have been introduced to. The Warrior Sisterhood in particular. My local chapter has monthly meetings and I was given a lot of information and resources. I actually burst into tears with the booklet they gave to me. It contained a gift card which I will be using for new clothes. With all the weight that I have lost, none of my pants and most of my shirts do not fit me anymore. It seems like a silly thing to cry over, but it is nice to be able to have a little extra money to get a few shirts and jeans.

The worst part of this whole thing, for me, has been my kids. In fact, I still find myself struggling just to write about this. So, I am not even going to try.

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