Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Will They or Won’t They- Treatment #2?

It’s been a whirlwind- all those many, many bottles of pills did not turn my bowels into an obedient child as promised. This is a problem. Wednesday rolled around and my every other day calls, turned into daily updates.

Operation bowel watch- it’s real.

And somehow in the middle of this, we had a gross miscommunication.  I was told my chemo treatments would be on Thursday, but my “sheet” had my appointment for Wednesday. I missed the change.  So as Wednesday rolled around, imagine my surprise that I am calling my onc for my daily update as they are calling me to find out where I was.

Given operation bowel watch- was a watch, not a status update, the determination was made to cancel my chemo for the week. This came as a huge surprise, I didn’t imagine a treatment would be canceled this soon, and due to constipation.

I called the nurse, and clarified under what conditions they would be willing to go ahead with a treatment. It was pretty simple, my bowels had to cooperate.  They finally cooperated at the 11th hour and I called the nurse bright and early Thursday morning to beg to have chemo this week. Can you believe I was begging to have Chemo?

They couldn’t do Thursday (as we had originally discussed but they could do Friday).

Chemo #2 was a go!

 

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The Staging Game

There is this strange time of limbo after you receive the diagnosis of cancer and before you know just how bad it really is- aka your stage. For me, this was an agonizing period full of tests.

First the yes-no-maybe biopsy as I like to call it. If you’re into details it’s a fine-needle aspiration. Basically they numb the hell out of you and then tap on you with something that looks like a pen. Since mine was on my neck, I couldn’t help but think of this scene from Gross Point Blank. GPB Kill

Mine, was a bit less bloody, but you get the idea. The sample is really small with this, so most people get a no or a maybe. Our ENT was very surprised that they were able to get enough of a same to not only to get a “YES!”, but to confirm it was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Apparently because this test gives so many maybes, type from this is not enough for an oncologist to treat based on it.  You also have to know the specific subtype of your cancer.  I also had to have an incisional biopsy where they take a sample to basically DNA test the type of cancer. The ENT had mentioned this on our first visit and explained it as, a biopsy to remove about an inch square so that they can make sure if it’s cancer or not, if it is, we’ll use that to know exactly what kind.”

A lot had changed since that first visit.  We knew it was cancer, but it didn’t occur to me to ask the doctor more questions.  We scheduled the second biopsy and away we went. As you can see, it turned out to be much more than a one inch incision.  The ENT decided to give me a leg up on treatment and removed all of the tumor he could above my collar bone, which turned out to be the diameter of a baseball.

IMG_5861

Much to my surprise, I came home with a drain.  Now imagine for a minute that you are a ten month old baby.  Earrings fascinate you… necklaces are the stuff dreams are made of…

A drain? Mommy is just carrying around a new toy for you. All. The. Time. The struggle began.  I dodged, I weaved, I held Baby H strategically, and still we sruggled.

Trust me, someone pulling on a tube that’s stitched into your body HURTS.  The girls did okay, I was able to explain “Mommy has an owie, and it hurts if you touch her pouch.”. There were a few hiccups with things like bedtime.  Trying to feed Baby H was a bust, my drain was too fascinating for him to even think about sleeping, so I was on twin duty. Rocking two girls with tubes and a pouch full of blood, and I don’t want to know what else is tough, but not undoable.

We muddled through.   Getting the tube out was a major relief though.

And still.  These tests where nowhere near enough to tell me my stage.  That required more blood work and a PET scan.  Compared to the incisional biopsy the PET scan was a breeze.  It was a little surreal.  They inject you with a radioactive sugar so that the cancer can eat the sugar and then the parts of your body that absorb the sugar will glow on the scan.

The nurse came in wearing full protective gear and carrying a little silver chest that he then opened after entering a code, completing a retinal scan and offering up the secret handshake – it seemed like that anyway.  After opening it, he removed a syringe that looked like it belonged in Austin Powers.  It was huge and silver and so over-the-top it couldn’t be what they were actually going to use on me.

PET

Much to my surprise it was. I was injected, then simply waited an hour for my cancer cells to get their feed on.  After an  hour, they completed a quick scan and I was done.

And now we were back to the norm with this process. We waited.

The results from the 2nd biopsy trickled in first- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Nodular Schlerosis.  All good news.  A very treatable cancer with the most common subtype which keeps it very treatable.

We didn’t get a call on our PET scan, so I decided to phone the nurse and she read me the radiologist notes.  I only really heard one part of it. “Bone activity detected.”

My heart dropped to the floor. All of my online research, only mentioned bone activity with stage IV.  I asked the nurse if she could tell me more, and she basically said, she really didn’t understand the results.  I’d have to wait until I talked to the doctor.

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Unraveling

We are nearing the due date, and Tim and I have had to narrow our focus to the essentials in these last few weeks: working on the baby’s nursery (it’s a de-wallpapered disaster), building our relationship with the birth mom and really working to define how our open adoption will work, and spending quality time with our girls.

Those are the essentials. The nice-to-haves are a clean house, healthy meals for the girls, and some sleep. Everything else has been stripped as non-essential. There is only so much of us to go around and we need to focus on what matters most.

I thought we were doing much better at this. After some additional conversations with our birth mom, we decided a trip with all of us was in order. It was last-minute, so Tim and I spent a frantic Thursday night and Friday morning packing. The difference is we now have several trips under our belt. We have begun to feel that we are getting good at it. Diaper bag: check. Pack-n-play: check. Clothes, food, medicine, coats, shoes…The list is endless, but we finally felt as if we had it down, right to the big blow-up ducky tub (since my girls are terrified of my mom’s whirlpool tub).

We should have known better than to get cocky. Three hours into the drive, we realized we forgot the diaper bag. So there was an emergency stop for wipes and no diaper cream to be found at 10:30 at night in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t until we got to my mom’s house that we realized that we had forgotten the most critical item–the pack-n-plays. Since most people have babies one at a time, my mom only has one pack-n-play from the years of my nieces and nephews staying. We always bring one from home.

Always Make that usually. We forgot the pack-n-play. It made for a miserable night. Luckily, my mom had a toddler mattress we could use, but poor Hazel fell out in the middle of the night. Our forgetfulness was even more apparent in the harsh light of day. One of Phoebe’s inhalers was missing and the nearest pharmacy that could fill it was 30 miles away. And then there were the coats. Somehow, we managed to forget one of the most critical things for a Kansas winter.

I felt like a terrible mom. If I ever needed a sign that Tim and I had spread ourselves too thin and weren’t functioning at our best, this was it. Luckily, after a very short night (Hazel didn’t sleep much at all), we were able to solve most of them. The DG was having a clearance sale on clothes and our girls now have two very Valentiney tracksuits to help keep them warm. Blankets solved the rest. Vaseline is a great emergency diaper cream. We were getting our mojo back.

And, after a little sleep, I think we also started to regain parts of our minds.

Despite the chaos and forgetfulness, the visit was worth it. We had some great conversations and talked through the birth plan for when we are at the hospital. It was a really great chance to make sure we are all on the same page. It was exactly what we needed.

 Want to help support our adoption? 
Visit our youcaring page and make a donation. Until March 1, each $20 donation will get you entered to win a 3 night stay at the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach Missouri. View here for more information.

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Rumor Has It

The Negative Nelly side of myself has been researching failed adoptions. I just can’t help myself. My research has actually been making me feel better about the chances of our adoption going through. Based on what little I’ve been able to find, my greatest fear actually has the smallest chance of occurring. From what little I can glean from the interwebs, just 1% of adoptions fall through after the baby is born. Instead, most adoptions fall through in last two months of the pregnancy.

As I write this, we have 65 days left until Baby H is expected to make his screaming debut into the world. This is the window we are in.

I mentioned previously that I am from a small town. Our birth mother is currently in a small town, and well…small towns are like any other part of the world. Rumors get out. Rumor reached our ears of the birth mother possibly having a distant family member wanting to adopt the baby. Talk about your punch in the gut! We hope it’s not true, but as we’ve researched adoption, we’ve certainly run across adoptions where something like this has occurred. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Tim and I tried to put on a brave front for each other, but after we put the girls down for the night, we started talking it through. Our hearts were shredded at the possibility that there could be some truth to this rumor. But we still have hope that this will all go through. The one shining beacon we hold on to is that our birth mom has continued to reach out to us several times since this rumor reached our ears, and has talked through the adoption more with us. We’ve even talked a little bit more about the delivery and she reaffirmed she likes the counselor. She continues to call us, and we have to have faith that we are the parents she has chosen for this child.

We know it’s not as simple as someone just adopting the baby. They would have to jump through just as many hoops as we have even though it’s a relative adopting the baby. They could keep the baby, but without going through all this legal mumbo jumbo, it wouldn’t be an official adoption.

We’ve debated them, we’ve weighed them, and at the end of the day, we’ve decided to give little credence to the rumors. We can only focus on what we can control in this journey. The rest relies on the beauty, strength and resiliency of the human spirit. Again, we have to have faith that we are the parents she has chosen for this child. That she sees in us two loving parents with built in older sisters for this child. We have to pray that she has the strength to follow through on her conviction that this child needs a new home with us. We have to assume she is being open and honest with us.

Because sometimes, rumors are just rumors.

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School’s in Session

In the normal scheme of things, you meet someone, fall in love and have babies with them. There is no qualification or license to be a parent. In a lot of ways, infertility makes you feel like you have to prove yourself worthy to be a parent. Somedays, you feel like you have to get an approval stamp to magically become a parent.  Adoption takes that approval process up about ten notches.

The 30+ pages of questions and essays Tim and I just filled out, are apparently not enough. We have to take classes. The fact that our adoption is transracial makes us subject to more scrutiny with the adoption agency. Somehow that hadn’t occurred to me when we started the process.  I guess it’s because adoptive children will always have to come to terms with being adopted and also because I will never have the same experience or perspective that my son will. These classes are intended to open to our eyes to some of the challenges we may face raising a child of a different race.

I have not been in his shoes. I don’t know what he will face or deal with.

But in some ways this is also true of my daughters. I was an odd child: a tomboy and proud of it. I was so rough and tumble, and any teasing that went on because of it pretty much rolled off my back. I didn’t grow up in today’s world of selfies, Snapchat, and a slew of fashionable children’s clothing stores. My girls’ hair is already longer than mine has been for most of my life. They cry when I take dresses off them.  I used to cry when I had to put one on.

I guess Tim and I will just learn as we go. Hopefully these classes give us food for thought and give us the ability to talk through how we would handle potential situations. Since we have to take 16 hours of classes, I sincerely hope we learn something from them!

So much of parenthood can’t be taught in a class. It’s trial and error, it’s a willingness to grow and change. There will be times when I do not know what to do, or I do the wrong thing. I just need to make sure that my children are secure in our love and know that whatever comes up, they can come to us, and we’ll figure something out together.

 

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