My First & Only Cancer-versary

Just this once will I note the passing of the day that changed my life and my family’s life forever – May 18th. That’s the day I received the phone call that my biopsy results were in and I had invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. Looking back it seems like years and years ago, but I clearly remember I wasn’t too upset or shocked. I had already decided if I had the breast cancer gene (which I don’t) that I’d do a double mastectomy and get new breasts as a little bonus. But a few days later, while sitting outside the community center waiting for my son, I got another phone call. I was HER2 positive. What? That meant chemo. And an entire YEAR of immunotherapy treatments. That was not a good day.

I’ve detailed all the ups and down so won’t rehash any of those disasters but also realize I didn’t understand exactly how long a year was. Sounds funny now, but I was very focused on “just get through chemo.” After those 12 weeks ended I was so relieved knowing that I’d finished the worst part.

Everyone said the immunotherapy would be a “walk in the park” compared to chemo. Well that’s mostly true, at least physically. But the hardest part of this year is not the physical side effects. It’s the emotional roller coaster which keeps dragging on and on. It hits me every 3 weeks when I return to the same infusion lab, sit in the same rooms, with the same stupid port in my chest, getting hooked up to the same IVs, talking to the same wonderful nurses, waiting for the same medicine (minus the chemo). Each time I think that I am SO over this!! 

I’m not a “patient” patient. I want to move forward, put this whole thing BEHIND me. But every three weeks I get a friendly reminder it isn’t over. Everyday I look in the mirror and see my heinous port.  I feel it each time I toss and turn at night, put on clothes or grab my purse. I won’t feel like I can move forward and say “I’m cancer free!” until the port is gone and the last drop of Herceptin has entered my body. My oncologist thinks I’ll wrap this up in September but we only schedule 3 months at a time so no set date yet. 

2017 is and will continue to be a great year. I got to see my beloved Tar Heels in the Sweet 16 along with my youngest Mack who saw his first UNC college basketball game. And of course we got to celebrate the Tar Heels winning the national basketball championship!!!! AGAIN!!!

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I had my final reconstruction surgery so can finally exercise woohoo! Who knew I’d be excited to exercise? (Other side note: apparently the chemo + steroids + tamoxifen causes some i.e. Me to gain weight. Yep that’s me keeping my Murphy appetite throughout this ordeal!) 

I get to go to France in July with great friends! I will turn 50 (GULP) in August. And I get to see Hamilton with the family! 

But the best part of this year – and really last year too – is the new appreciation I’ve gained for friends and family. (And of course health insurance but that’s another topic for another day.) I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with my two amazing sisters on the KMZ Foundation and give back to many worthy nonprofits. (Check us out at http://www.kmzfoundation.com!) My husband has gone above and beyond in supporting me, and my boys are the same crazy 11 & 13 year old boys from last year which is EXACTLY what I wanted to see. My mom has continued to be the ultimate positive thinker and makes everyone around her happy. And friends seem to reach out at the precise time I’m feeling low and need a pick me up. And Rudy my beloved dog is just as cute and cuddly as ever and helps motivate me to get OUTSIDE which always makes me feel good. 

So I mark the passing of this pivotal day just once and look forward to the real celebrations to come this summer and fall. And I’ll continue to say #FU2cancer especially when trying to get my sorry butt to workout! (remember F can be for forget!) 

 

 

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Don’t judge a dog by its cover

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This is Sadie.  She is a gorgeous pit bull who probably weighs close to 120 pounds.  When she’s not smiling she can look scary, and when she’s loose roaming the streets I know many people would shy away from her.  But not my 65 pound, 9 year old son.  (Excuse the parental pride here!)

As many know I’m a dog fanatic and I’ve passed that gene onto my children.  And this week Mack had his first “rescue”!  Woohoo!  He was upstairs playing when I heard him screaming “Mom! Mom!”  He does a good Stewie (Family Guy) impersonation so at first I ignored it.  Then he was louder running down the stars.  “There’s a loose dog outside we need to get him!” Continue reading Don’t judge a dog by its cover

A Lesson from the Dog: Anticipation

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I finally snapped this photo of Rudolph in his daily pose – full of anticipation awaiting the arrival of my husband.  If I could, I’d Insert the vintage Heinz commercial music here 🙂  He always knows when he’s coming home and runs to the front door, bumps up the curtain and stares out waiting for his human daddy to arrive.  It’s so genuine and yet another reason to love our dogs.  Who else is so happy to see you day after day?  For Rudolph, anticipation is almost always followed by pure bliss.

As I was working on this post, I realized how much time I’ve spent waiting these past few days as well.  Although I don’t have a cute photo of myself waiting because I wasn’t always a happy camper!  My youngest was finally diagnosed with walking pneumonia after eight days of high fever and no energy, and so most of the past ten days all I’ve done is check temperature, administer medicine, and wait.  And go to the doctor multiple times wondering why he was getting worse, why the “sinus infection” wasn’t a sinus infection, and why the antibiotics weren’t working.  Then we’d go back home and rest.  He’s missed the start of school, practices with his new soccer team, and the Tennessee Titans first preseason football game: the small, yet important, things an eight-year-old waits on all summer.  As parents, we’ve been waiting for that spark of life to jump back into his eyes, waiting for a sign that he’s back to his old crazy self.

He’s recovering slowly but surely, and I feel so lucky and happy that his illness is treatable and temporary.  The time we spent waiting in Vanderbilt children’s hospital for his chest X-ray this week was a true life lesson.  Mack’s eyes were wide watching all the little kids wait for their scans.  We saw a family wearing t-shirts that said “Cancer Sucks!” and heard them talk to another mom about her son who is 3 and in remission.  Mack innocently asked me if kids can get cancer.  We’ve lost a grandfather to cancer, and have my sister (his aunt) who is a cancer survivor, so he is well aware of cancer as a disease.  But he’d never seen the disease affect a child, someone like him.  Our small time waiting to find out if he had pneumonia pales in comparison to what these families are waiting on. Their strength was amazing.

So we’ve learned a lot about waiting this month.  Hopefully, we can also learn from Rudolph and spend a little time each day full of anticipation, followed by joy, as we run to our friends and loved ones.

Luna’s future is so bright…she’s gotta wear shades

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So Luna had a fed bad days after vacation and was limping and sliding on our hardwood floors. I honestly was worried her time was ending and she was in a sharp decline. She wouldn’t leave the carpet in our bedroom (which resulted in a nice accident right where I put my feet down when I get out of bed), and I was having to carry her up the back stairs to go to the bathroom.  So I called our vet who came over (a mobile vet is a blessing to an elderly dog), and her recommendation was: a chiropractor. What? Yes a doggy chiropractor!

Ironically, my husband has been going to a chiropractor for years and begging me to go. I have abstained so far, although I am intrigued. Just scared after suffering a serious car accident in my twenties with lingering neck and shoulder stiffness that never seems to go away. But would I take my dog to a chiropractor? The answer was – of course.

I knew people would laugh, but forget that. It wasn’t like my vet was making money off of this referral – it took the care to someone else. And I trust her.

Okay so why the photo? Well, the chiropractor suggested this newer cold laser therapy to help Luna’s back and hip heal faster. I thought it may be a little over the top, but after some research found it had been around a while and was extremely helpful to older dogs. I consulted with my vet, and got the go ahead. So here is Luna with her googles on, getting ready for her laser treatment. The funniest part was as soon as the glasses were on and I shrieked, the vet tech turned to me and said: “Go ahead and take a picture. I know you want to!”

And the best part, well the second best part:  the bill. Yes I said the bill. The laser therapy was a whopping $45! (I know Nashville prices may be slightly lower than the national average!) And the adjustment – $65. But the real best part is getting Luna back.  She’s all smiles again, trotting along on our nightly walks, and letting Rudolph know through a few growls that he is not welcome to eat her food.  She’s also off her pain meds, although I think she may miss the chicken flavored pill pockets.

Really wish we had this therapy years ago when I had to replace knees on both of my dogs (for a cool $2,000 each).  But at least now I know a new treatment exists for aging dogs with hip and arthritis issues.  She may only need monthly or quarterly tune ups, depending on how often Rudolph tries to jump on her or wrestle.  But it’s a small price to pay for her quality of life and mobility.

So rock on, Luna, you still have some good years left after all 🙂

Luna’s Story

Sometimes we focus on the new shiny object, or the new baby, or puppy and unintentionally overshadow someone special.  I am guilty of that – mostly because my youngest pup Rudolph has given me so many things to blog about!  So today we hear Luna’s story.

School is out and so my boys are all about staying up late and sleeping on the couch.  Yes good parenting I know!  The other morning I woke up early to see my 10 year old snuggling with Luna.  This is such a rare occasion I tried to snap a photo, and apologize for the quality.  I was so touched to see his hand over her and her looking back at him, because I know she doesn’t always get equal attention.

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After I lost Cato back in 2006, I wasn’t sure I’d want another Siberian husky.  But I slowly became (slightly) obsessed and would yell every time I saw a beautiful husky walking in our neighborhood.  Another year or so passed, and I realized I was ready for another dog.  And it had to be a husky.  I went on pet finder and saw a picture of Luna – then known as Lollipop.  I just about cried and thought that’s it.  I packed up my two toddlers and drove over two hours to go see her.  We were just going to look at her – yeah right – and of course we came home with her.  The night drive back was gorgeous with a full moon so we decided to name her Luna after the moon (and her white face also resembled a moon).

Luna was found in a Wal-Mart parking lot outside of Jackson, TN a few hours from Nashville.  No idea what happened to her but she was very thin, and not ready to share much when she came home.  Her tail appeared to have been broken; her back right hip was slightly weak from genetic problems or possible trauma. She fought several times with our older dog Solo – who also was a rescue – but we knew she just needed time. After Solo passed away, she got her day in the sun, but that time was limited because soon thereafter came Rudolph, a 6 week old Golden Retriever puppy who was ridiculously cute.

But Luna didn’t fight with Rudolph.  She embraced him, acting as his mother, cleaning his ears, and watching out for him.  DSC03386

She took on a new role, and it was obvious by this time that her estimated age was probably a little off.  We thought she was 2-3 years old when we got her but feel sure now she is much older.  Flash forward several years and Luna is a polite, sweet older lady. Her only flaw is her breath which, even after having 12 teeth pulled, is beyond death 🙂

Rudolph is 4 now and full of energy, and therefore gets more attention.  Luna is probably between 10-12, and starting to slip and slide a little, but always up for a walk. And a treat.

We are blessed to have Luna, and so when I saw Murphy snuggling with her, I made a new resolution to make sure we give her what she deserves.  We know her life was hard, and yes we have spoiled her over the years. But this old lady needs some more loving.

And we will make sure she gets it!

Why Dogs are Better Than People

I’ve been struggling recently with the realization that a close friend was not the person I thought he was.  I won’t go into details, but it involves infidelity and much heartache, and impacts not only their entire family, but also us friends who are their extended family.  Many times it’s so easy to say these situations are just between spouses, but when you see firsthand the impacts on the kids and grandparents, you realize we are all in this life together. 

As usual, I find support in my love for animals.  Animals are honest – they don’t pretend to be someone they aren’t.  They don’t hold back resentment over years.  Each day they are truly happy to see you.  And if they’re mad at you – you know.  They growl, snarl, maybe even snap.  But wouldn’t that be better sometimes to know where you stand?  To not hide your emotions, but to express them? (Assuming, of course, that we humans keep the normal social behavior standards and not bite or hump in public!) 

Which brings me to Lance, one of the VICKtory dogs rescued seven years ago from Michael Vick’s disgusting dogfighting ring.  See the cute photo below.  Those animals were subjected to unmentionable pain and torture.  I was brought to tears by Lance’s heartwarming story (to read more click here: http://bit.ly/VicktoryDogLance) – because now after six years of therapy and support he has found his forever home.  If ANY animal deserved to hold a grudge, and lash out at people, it would be Lance.

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Because in life sometimes, dogs ARE better than people.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Who Dances on Table

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For most of us across the country, it’s been a long, long winter.  And COLD.  In addition to us humans being locked up inside, our dogs also suffered the same fate.  So in comes the guilt – why didn’t I make more time to walk my dogs?

We finally have welcomed spring here in Nashville and thankfully my dogs do NOT hold a grudge.  This photo was taken a week ago while walking my crazy golden retriever Rudolph, and my beloved husky Luna.  I stopped to try and add some exercises into my walk (no one could see me so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed) and Rudolph literally jumped up on the nearby picnic table he was so excited.  The sheer pleasure of being on a walk, being able to jump up and down without being scolded too much (well I did encourage him to get down) was awesome to watch.  It’s one of the best qualities in dogs and small children – they are so sincere.  They wear their emotions on their face, in their bark, growl or kisses.  

Why aren’t humans more like dogs when it comes to their emotions?  Seems we are taught to hold things in at a young age, which definitely has its good qualities [insert memory of heinous toddler temper tantrums here].  And growling at work or dinner parities would probably be socially unacceptable.  BUT I do wish sometimes we could all release our feelings and not hold things in so much. Even if it means every once in a while we need to dance on a table…