A girl needs to have a little fun!

A few months ago I purchased an eyebrow conditioning serum to help with my thinning eyebrows. When it arrived, I excitedly opened the package and read the instructions  (yes, I do that!). The fine print stated that it had not been tested for use by patients undergoing chemotherapy. Sigh. Not wanting to take the risk without asking, I emailed my oncology nurse. She stated she needed to do more research and asked me not to use it for now. She also shared with me that there is a program called Look Good, Feel Better that would help me learn how to do makeup while undergoing treatment. It would also help teach about how to wear head wraps and wigs. I googled and read about the program and decided to sign up.  I am not a fashionista by any means, so I need all the help that I can get. Especially now!

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending. I had anticipated that it would be a room full of people and not a whole lot of one on one time. My goodness, was I wrong! There were 3 of us lovely ladies, a cosmotologist who has been volunteering with the program for over 17 years and the coordinator. We were each given a bag of goodies, filled with makeup for each step of the makeup wearing process (apparently there’s an art to this makeup wearing stuff!). We were taught, hands on and even with demonstration help, how to apply all of the makeup. The cosmotologist gave us tips and explained why we should do certain things a certain way (like only using disposable tools while in treatment to avoid infection while the immune system is down).

The makeup bags fit our skin tone (light for me, please!) and a lot of the goodies forced us out of our comfort zone – like wearing lip liner and pink lipstick, something I would never be brave enough to do on my own.

After the makeup fun, we were taught how to easily tie some head wraps and how to bulk them up to make them look like an accessory and not a cover-up.  Next, was wigs. We all had some fun with wigs and totally ventured out of our comfort zones.

It was a great experience and a lot of fun! It was more than I ever expected from the event. And while the free goodies and wig were awesome, the best part of the experience was spending time with these women.  The 3 of us each had cancer of varying forms and stages but we didn’t need to talk about that. We learned about how to feel better about ourselves through the art of cosmotology. We didn’t talk about the side effects in a negative way but instead focused on how to help those side effects by using things like moisturizers and foundation. And we had fun!

This is a nationwide program and is FREE to anyone currently undergoing treatment for cancer. I strongly encourage anyone undergoing treatment to look into this program in your area and sign up if you can.  The time spent with these ladies was priceless!

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Pumpkins

Behind their yard, my grandparents grew a vegetable garden. My grandfather would plant rows and rows of all types of vegetables and they grew like weeds, thanks to the love and care that he gave them. I’ve never seen such a massive vegetable garden. My grandfather would send home anyone who visited with a basketful of the freshest vegetables. Toward the end of the vegetable season in New York, he would grow pumpkins.

Every year, a few weeks before Halloween, all of the cousins – dozens and dozens! – would venture over to my grandfather’s house and pick out their absolute favorite pumpkin. The one that would be theirs this year. There were dozens upon dozens of pumpkins to choose from; more than enough for everyone. But there was always that one…the one that we each knew was perfect for us because we were able to pick it out ourselves.

I remember running amongst the rows of pumpkins, determined to find the one that I loved the most. Sometimes it was small and round, other times it was fat and heavy. I would move it around in the dirt to see if it had any imperfections. I would try to lift it and it would take all of my might to pick it up – and it wasn’t even done growing yet! Once I was convinced that I found the perfect pumpkin, the one that was just right for me, I would let my grandfather know. He would pull out his pocket knife and carve my name in it. Not too deep, as to pierce through the pumpkin, but just enough for my name to be visible. Over the next few weeks, the fresh carving would start to heal and the pumpkin would continue to grow with it.

When it was time to start carving our pumpkins for Halloween, my sisters and I would return to the vegetable garden. We would run through the pumpkins once again, past the names of all our cousins etched into the bright orange skin, trying to remember exactly where our perfect pumpkin sat. By this time, our names had become a part of the pumpkin. No longer an open wound but instead a brown scar, healed by time.

Today, we cut open one of the pumpkins from our hayride (late, I know). We scooped out all of the seeds and set them out to dry overnight to bake tomorrow. The other pumpkins? They’ll be placed out on the side of the house to decompose, with the hope of growing new pumpkins next year. Perhaps one that is just right for Jacob’s name.

A compassionate Saturday…and a small world

When we attended the K92.3 Survivors Meet & Greet last month, we met a wonderful warrior named Dixie who is a 4 year survivor. In an interesting twist, her husband is currently employed where Joe used to work prior to his current position. We all became fast friends and exchanged contact information. Earlier this week, Dixie invited us to be guests at an outreach event for a local breast cancer organization – Compassionate Hands and Hearts.

Today we attended this wonderful event and met dozens of incredible women – survivors, supporters and their families and friends. Every month these women get together and open their homes, their hearts, their stories and their love for local women battling breast cancer. Each and every one of them is a story of strength, courage and hope – filling a room with that much love can easily bring a person to tears. We spent the morning making new friends, enjoying delicious food and sharing stories.

In an interesting twist of fate, we were even able to meet a supporter of ours in person for the first time! My baby sister’s soon-to-be aunt-in-law has a sister who lives about an hour from us. She sends us cards regularly and prays for us every morning. Today, after seeing little man in his Red Phoenix shirt, she realized that she knew us and introduced herself. I immediately started bawling and hugged her. How cool is that?! What a small world…

As if the tears weren’t flowing enough already after spending time with these amazing, inspiring women, we were we able to witness this organization provide 6 incredible women fighting the fight with goodies and a financial gift. And then we were surprised at the end with a financial gift as well. What an amazing day.

I’ve heard there is strength in numbers. Although each of us has fought or is fighting this battle, I find strength with them.

I’ll share pictures once they’re posted!

Day 4 – DONE!

Day 4 - DONE

Better late than never, right? Treatment #4 is DONE! It feels super awesome to see the progress and have only 2 remaining aggressive treatments. So. Close.

I’m beginning to feel better today, though still quite tired. The fatigue hit a lot harder this time around and I tire easily when moving around. But I’m getting through it and that’s what matters.

I saw my oncologist today, as I do every week. I expressed concern that the tumor and my lymph nodes don’t appear to be shrinking lately. He examined them both and agreed, though he also doesn’t feel like it is growing, which is good news. While it is not typical that the tumor would stop shrinking with the treatment that I am undergoing, we don’t know what is happening inside the tumor. It’s possible that there is a mass of dead cells hanging out in there, waiting for surgery to remove them. I’m disappointed that I can’t feel the progress being made like I did in the beginning but I am confident that my body is reacting the way it needs to. I also feel, as my oncologist does, that I need to continue on the course of treatment that we are on currently.

So. Though this isn’t the greatest of news that I have to share, I will not let it deter my faith that I will beat this horrible disease. I took a moment in the car ride home to dwell in my anger at the situation and now I’m done. I won’t let it bring me down and I won’t waste my energy worrying about it.

Because today I ate a cupcake for breakfast that didn’t taste like metal.

Because today I picked out little man’s school pictures – and his shirt wasn’t dirty!

Because my husband is running out to grab me a strawberry milkshake.

Because tonight I will catch up with a dear friend when she brings dinner for my family.

Because I am grateful for today, and every day.

Because I am doing the very best that I can and that’s all there is to it.

Wake-and-clap

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For the last few days, little man has been waking up and immediately starts clapping. He is usually smiling and continues to clap for a good 30 seconds to a minute. He loves to clap and always joins in when he hears someone else doing it – even when he is half asleep. The wake-and-clap is new though and I can’t help but wonder what is going through that adorable head of his first thing in the morning.

Is he excited to be awake? Happy that the sun is up? Did he have sweet dreams filled with fresh fruit and cold milk? Does he have big plans for the day and he is prepping himself to tackle the excitement? Is he just happy, in general, for a new day?

The last few days have been rough, which is expected. I caught another cold the day before treatment so that made this weekend a little tougher than usual. I spent the vast majority of the days sleeping, which has its own challenges when experiencing hot flashes regularly (blankets on, blankets off, blankets on, blankets off…I never knew how much my head could sweat with no hair).

This morning, I am choosing to take a page out of little man’s book. I don’t know what it is that excites him first thing in the morning but I am embracing that happiness. Despite the challenges that the last few days have brought, today is a new day filled with new beginnings. I am grateful for this day and the fresh start that it brings.

Have a wonderful Monday, everyone – and an even better week!

Sister snuggles

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Growing up, I was often known as Sarah B’s little sister. My big sister was my protector, my confidant and my go-to for advice or tough love. She was always there when I needed her, even during the times that I didn’t realize it was exactly what I needed.

When I was first diagnosed, Sarah didn’t hesitate. She immediately began making plans to care for me during treatment, making the phone calls to our loved ones to share the news and researching how to best help me through it. I have always admired her strength and ability to attack whatever comes her way. She has always been, and will forever be, a woman I look up to whole-heartedly.

Yesterday at my hydration appointment, we had a new (to me) nurse. While hooking up my fluids, she looked at me and asked “Are these your parents?”

Joe, Sarah and I stared at each other for a good 30 seconds before we all burst out laughing. No response seemed appropriate other than laughter. When we caught our breath, the laughter was followed by Sarah stating, “Well, I act like her mother so it’s fitting.” That made us crack up even harder. We continued to laugh about it throughout the entire stay at the center.

After the fun of the hydration appointment and my shot, we ended the day with sister snuggles on the couch while little man slept between us. There is nothing quite as wonderful as sister snuggles!

Losing time

The morning following the accident that I mentioned previously, I woke up unsure of where I was or what happened. I knew that I needed to ask about Joe & Mike somehow but the details of that night are lost somewhere deep in my mind. I once pursued the possibility of hypnosis to recall those memories but eventually decided that my brain was hiding them for a reason. The moment in time is lost on me.

Though the effects of treatment on my memory aren’t quite as severe as that, it is my closest correlation to the time I seem to lose during chemo. The week of treatment is a period of slight chaos as we try to ready ourselves for the upcoming week.  Trying to catch up on passed due chores, paying bills, and organizing our life the best that we can. It is necessary for my own peace of mind to know that our household responsibilities are ready to be put last for at least a week.  While the world continues around me, I am at a standstill while recovering. 

We have been incredibly blessed to have family travel from out of state to help care for me during each treatment, in addition to the help we have received locally through meals and help with little man.

My sweet husband has been a sense of strength for me throughout this, as he cares for all of the day to day responsibilities to keep our home – and our life – afloat during these times.

So while we ready ourselves for the big day tomorrow (number 4!!!), I am reminded that each moment that I feel good is a blessing and that I am one step closer to recovery.