Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

10 Things That Don’t Suck About Cancer

10.) It’s an excuse to get a motorcycle! A motorcycle would go great with my new scars and tattoos, right?

9.) No more shaving! Let’s be real, ladies, we all know we stop shaving in the winter, but now I won’t have to shave in the summer.

8.) I get to try out a Brazilian–without the embarrassment of someone actually giving me the Brazilian. Who really wants someone waxing there?

7.) I may actually get to read a book. Granted, it will be with chemo dripping into me, but I can’t remember the last time I just sat down to read a book. I love to read.

6.) I don’t have to cook. My sister organized a “food chain” and I think it will take a U-Haul to bring down all of the food she solicited from friends and neighbors from my hometown.

5.) People will no longer give me shit for wanting to take a nap. I can play the cancer card. That’s right, cancer = my right to take a nap. Every. Damn. Day.

4.) I’ll get to see my family more. My extended family, that is. My mom and sisters are going to travel down regularly as I go through treatments. My children love all the family that has been coming to visit.

3.) No more itchies!!! I’ve been crazy itchy from the neck down for nine months. I wake up scratching myself bloody. They tell me this should go away.

2.) Cancer is cheaper than adoption. I actually repeat this one quite often (for example, every time I open my mail). My estimates put it at about 1/5 the cost of adoption, provided I can keep working and minimize any time on disability. The plus side is, even if I have to stop working, cancer is covered under short-term disability and leave, unlike my adoption leave time, which was unpaid. I’m pretty sure it will end up being significantly cheaper.

1.) I’ll finally meet my Weight Watchers goal weight. I mean, let’s get real. Cancer is probably the only way to hit THAT unrealistic number.

As an added bonus for my husband, he gets to be married to a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead at the same time. Behold, the power of wigs!

Who am I kidding? I’m pretty sure that just about everything is going to suck about having cancer. And that last one? Apparently, not all cancer treatments make you lose weight, and I might actually gain weight on my treatment. I feel like I’m getting ripped off.

Cancer without weight loss?

For a girl who has struggled her entire life with her weight, that’s just rubbing salt in the wound. Thanks, cancer, now fuck off.

 

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X-Rated

Give me a “Two”. Give me a “B”. Give me an “X”?

After the nurse shared the notes on the bone scan, we waited impatiently to speak to the ENT. After a week, we finally had our chance, and the meeting was a complete bust.

He confirmed that the tumor was about the size of a football and (previously) extended from my chin to below my heart basically. The PET scan also confirmed that the tumor did not extend below the diaphram or into the liver or spleen, which was definitely good news.  He too mentioned the bone activity, but refused to comment as to what this meant by stage – the oncologist was going to have to weigh in.

Another week of waiting.  We had actually scheduled our meeting with the oncologist as soon as the first biopsy came back and three weeks was the soonest we could get in.  The ENT kept plugging away at the necessary tests while we were waiting on that visit so that we could start treatment sooner once we were in with them.  And still.  We had to wait another week.

I googled, researched, we looked at the PET scan ourselves.  Everything we could find said that if it’s in the bones it’s stage IV.  We researched the different in treatments. If it was stage II, it was an “easier” chemo.  A chemo that tends to be better tolerated.  If it was stage IV the treatment was viewed as universally more difficult.

The difference in stage would make a world of difference in how I could take care of my babies.

Our visit with the Onc finally arrived. First he asked me a series of unending questions in detail about the symptom questionnaire I had filled out. Then he mentioned stage.  We held hands and our breath.  “You are difficult to stage. ” Not a good start.  “But I think we’re going to put you at IIB, because you appear to have some symptoms, and research has shown people with symptoms often need to be treated as if the cancer is more advanced.”

 IIB?

We were elated!  “The radiologist is going to have to weigh in as to whether or not your are considered an X as well, because your tumor is borderline.  I’d like to know more about your sed rate……..” I’m not sure I caught everything he had to say here. My mind was stuck on  STAGE II!!!! I finally worked up the nerve to ask about the bone activity.  The Onc explained with lymphoma it’s pretty common to see bone activity on the scan, but they look for signs of bone involvement.  Basically with bone activity the bones show up pretty evenly on the PET scan. With bone involvement there are bright spots in the bones that show active growth of cancer. Bone activity is normal, bone involvement is bad news.

Thank God.

We finally landed at me being stage IIBX for treatment purposes.  My tumor is slightly shy of the size requirements for “Bulky” which is the X, but because it’s borderline, they looked at my sed rate (rate of inflammation) and it was 29.  Over 30 would make me Bulky.  Basically neither the Onc or the Rad Onc was comfortable NOT treating me as if it were bulky, because if you under-treat and it comes back, you have much more difficult treatment options for a recurrence that are tolerated far less.

We are proceeding with caution when it comes to staging. The difference between just II and IIBX is an extra month of chemo and three weeks of radiation.  I’ll take it if it means the cancer will be gone.  I’d rather be cautious to avoid a recurrence.  It’s also not so much additional treatment that potential long-term effects increases exponentially.

As we left the appointment we were giddy, laughing and hugging each other. Stage II! Never thought I’d celebrate having Stage II Cancer, but celebrate we did.

 

 

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Don’t worry, it’s the good kind.

Being told this makes my head want to explode. After the radiologist’s verbal throw-up, breaking the C word, we quickly had another visit with the ENT where he also confirmed I had cancer and he went on to explain:

But it’s the good kind- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s considered curable in almost all cases.

Don’t get me wrong this was a huge relief,  I had already researched the various types of lymphoma and knew this was the best news we could ask for. Having this type of cancer gave me the best chance of getting what I prayed for- a chance to watch my babies grow up.

But somehow being told cancer is “good” when you know that you will have poison injected into your body to kill the cancer, and know that it’s likely you’ll have radiation that will burn your skin and can damage your organs, is incomprehensible. Both treatments may lead to  future cancers or additional long-term complications. If you ask me,  “it’s the good kind” is a load of crap.

This phrase should have been stitched on a pillow over the next week. We broke the news to family and friends and used it shamelessly to reassure them.

At same time, when someone familiar with this type of cancer says it to me, it raises my hackles.  I know my odds of survival are phenomenal, but I feel like this phrase trivializes the fight that is ahead. It’s survivable only because they know exactly what treatment it responds to, you still have to do chemo and radiation. You don’t get to push the easy button.

The survival rate lets me know that my fight should be worth it and I plan on clinging to that in my darkest hours. I appreciate that I know going in my fight will be worth it, and I love having less uncertainty.  But I don’t doubt for a minute that there will be a very real battle with some pretty shitty days.

It may be the good kind, but that doesn’t make it easy. It’s still cancer.

 

 

 

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C.A.N.C.E.R

“You have cancer”.

Because we knew things were getting serious, my husband had accompanied me to the CT and biopsy.  I never expected a radiologist to utter those words.  Typically, a radiologist doesn’t tell you ANYTHING. They dictate a report and your doctor calls you with the result.  The ultrasound tech looked at us with shock after he uttered those three words and walked out the door.

“Did you have any idea? Are you okay”

I can’t speak for my husband, but after all my years of infertility treatment I know how to work Dr. Google to my advantage and had poured over the literature and knew the small list of what this neck growth could be.  Cancer was a surprise, but not totally unexpected.  Being told without a biopsy to support it WAS a surprise and a concerning one.

The radiologist came back into the room and was apologetic.  He must have realized the news was new to us, and he explained that my tumor on the CT extended from my neck to below my heart. It was a very large tumor, and in his experience, he thought the results of the biopsy would show that I had  Lymphoma.

More was said, but my husband and I just held each others hands. All I could think about was that I needed to be here to see my babies grow up.  They are just babies! They can’t grow up without their mama! How is my husband going to handle three kids under three all by himself?

 

 

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Death by Dresser

We splurged and got a dresser for Baby H, and now we are being punished.

Thanks to a sale and some coupons, we were able to get a dresser for a steal from The Store That Will Not Be Named. We were so proud when we made the initial purchase. I’ve been scouring websites for over a month looking for the deal of the century. We have a white crib and need a white dresser. Brand didn’t matter and we were reasonable about looks; it was really all about functionality.

Baby H’s room is actually pretty big, but it’s awkward. There are several funky walls due to structual items and the closet is the size of a thimble. This makes a dresser key. And we fully expect this kiddo to wake up a million times a night like our other ones, so we’ll kill two birds with one stone and throw a changing pad on the dresser. Seems simple enough, right?

This is where the death part comes in.

After calling and confirming the store had the dresser we wanted in stock and would honor our coupon, we took the seats out of our super-sexy mini-van. I drove to the store, filled out all of the paperwork to get the special hutch to go with it (another coupon worked–yeah!) and then waited for them to load the dresser.

And here’s where it starts to get tricky.

Toddlers and heavy furniture don’t mix. So we dutifully unloaded the dresser in the dark of the night and left it in our walk-in basement. It took us another week to find the time and energy to attempt to move it up two flights of stairs (tri-level house–damn you, Kansas City-split!). We huffed, we puffed and we proudly got the world’s heaviest dresser into the baby’s room with minimal cussing and without waking the kiddos.

And then we started to unbox our white dresser. Except it wasn’t white. It was ESPRESSO! After two days of calling and dealing with The Store That Will Not Be Named, we finally confirmed they had a white dresser in stock. They would not, however, send someone to change them out. We had to carry the world’s heaviest dresser back down two flights of stairs. Grrrr.

So carry we did. And then trek back to the store to load ANOTHER dresser. We were wiser, and the store opened this box to confirm it was white. This time, we had an evening blocked out to move the dresser up the stairs. We unloaded it and started to move it up the first flight of stairs, when I felt a “Pop!” in my lower back and pain began to blossom. I dropped my end of the dresser.The dresser went crashing down the stairs toward my husband. Luckily, my husband was able to withstand the weight. He stood the dresser up and rushed to help me move.

I threw out my back! The pain was excruciating. And the worse part was, the dresser is STILL in the basement. We still have two flights of stairs to go. It’s enough to make me want to cry.

This dresser will be the death of me.

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 Baby H will be home soon!

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