Sunday, December 27, 2015

5 Years Later

Here we are again. It's the end of December. The year is 2015 (sounds so futuristic, right?), and it has been exactly 5 years since I last entered the radiation room for a zap. Technically that means I am cured. 5 years post-treatment with no recurrence = cured = wonderful, superstar fantastic.

I'm not sure it's that easy. 5 years does not mean I don't still think about it coming back. Or having a new kind of cancer as payment for the rads I took to kill cancer #1. As my onc always says, "there's no such thing as a free lunch." And those words ring in my ears.

During chemo, I remember thinking about this giant dance party we would hold after treatment had ended. We would invite all of our friends and celebrate the end of cancer! There would be loud music, and cupcakes, all of my favorite people, and maybe some glow sticks. But then we got to the end of chemo, and I realized I might need radiation, which indeed I did. Then I had to wait another 3 months for a scan to find out if the radiation had been effective, which, thankfully, it was. There were more tests and scans to follow. The results were positive but felt awfully temporary. And there was not much I could do to change that fact.

For me, that's what is so scary about having cancer. It's a brutal reminder that all living things are temporary, and mostly out of our hands.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I am obviously quite glad to be here to celebrate my 5th cancerversary, the whole ordeal still doesn't feel over. The question lingers: when will I have to pay for my lunch?

***

How has life changed since 2010? The two biggies are of course different job and new baby. The rest is just stuff. Judah is a big kid - no more toddler - in 3rd grade. He even wrote a story about a baby bird named Beaky whose mother was diagnosed with lymphoma. Our experience together comes up in unpredictable ways. Gratefully, he doesn't seem too worse for the wear. Zev is our newest miracle. Standing tall at 10 months, he uttered his first intentional word last week: "Judah" (was there ever a doubt?) and loves to make all kinds of sounds, crawl, eat, sing, kiss, and snuggle. We cannot stop eating his pudgy arms and legs, and nibbling his round, soft cheeks. Tfu, tfu.

My favorite time of day is between 7 and 8 when we're on vacation and snuggling in bed together. The gratitude can be overwhelming.



I won't go into too much detail about the worries that pop up on a daily basis - mainly they have transferred from being about me back to being about the boys. It's so easy to give into the anxiety and let it run me over, but Dan is good about trying to bring me back to Earth. Mostly. Plus we are lucky to have a solid pediatrician (who is also a friend), who both takes me seriously and quells my nervous, new-again mama fears.

I come back to write this update to make sure that those members of the club who stumble upon this blog see that the story does continue past the last treatment. There are plenty of challenges along the way, but oh, the rewards are sweet.

None of us know what the future holds - and that is MY scariest part - so for today I will eat something delicious and toast to how far we've come. L'chaim!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Turning One-Half

photo credit to Judah B.
 We have made it halfway through little Zevi's first year! Cookies for all! This milestone calls for an update in numbers:

2 - teeth currently poking through those little baby gums
3 - naps taken (by Zev) each day
11 - hours slept at night (though not uninterrupted)
26 - weeks since birth
4 - times he's rolled over (months ago)
6 - foods he's tasted (peaches, sweet potatos, avocado, bananas, watermelon, and of course PRUNES)
3 - usual paci replacements throughout the night
24 - cloth diapers purchased
7 - visits to the beach
57 - calls to the doctor (roughly)
8 - types of formula attempted

It has been a roller coaster 6 months for sure. Zev is a sweet, happy, snuggly boo boo, who adores his big brother, and is happiest in his nightly bath.

beach nap

Feeding has been a struggle, especially recently, as he seems to be dairy intolerant, refuses the special (expensive) formulas, and is stopped up by the soy. He's got an appointment with a GI specialist next month to help us out in that area. He enjoys standing up (all the time), and shoving anything within reach into his mouth. We all smother him with kisses and will do anything for a giggle, though a good night of sleep comes in a close second.

wake up! wake up!
Never a boring baby, Zevi likes to keep us on our toes. He hasn't been rolling over (since he did it a few times many months ago), so we've been on the hunt for a reason he doesn't want to put weight on his arms. It was decided at today's appointment with one of the top pediatric orthopedic surgeons in the country that we are going to give him PT and OT and see if a bit more time will do the trick. He is doing a great job stressing out his mommy (Dan is much better at not worrying than I am).


Judah has been growing into a caring and helpful big brother, and it's delightful to watch them together, cooing at each other behind us in the car. It's fabulous when Judah can reach the pacifier and put an end to screaming in the backseat.

ridin in the car
In a nutshell, that's been our summer: Judah at camp, trying desperately to get Zev to nap/eat/roll over, hit the pool, visit the beach, the mountains, the family members we don't get to see very often. Now that we're venturing into the second half of the year, the start of daycare a few days a week, Judah to 3rd grade, and a return to work for the grown ups, I'm hoping to get into that routine I've been wishing for the past 6 months. I actually enjoy some sameness in my every day life - predictability at its finest.

For tonight, breathing in the end of summer air, counting my blessings and heading off to bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Moment to Debrief (aka Birth Story Details Ahead)

As most of you probably already know, our long awaited miracle baby has arrived! We welcomed baby Zev into the world 1 month ago tonight, and I haven't had a minute to write about it since then. Today, I have approximately 5 minutes while the baby sleeps (uh oh, he's starting to wake..) and Judah watches movie #3, as he's home sick.


You may recall the baby was breech at our week 38 check up. We did everything we could think of to get him to flip back head down, and found out we were successful at the following check up. I was thrilled to be able to cancel the scheduled c-section, as I feared I would have to undergo general anesthesia, to which history has proven I do not respond well.

In order to get things moving as quickly as possible, I went in the next day for some aggressive acupuncture and an induction massage. I figured if they didn't work, at least I would be relaxed. But that night, I sprung a leak and it looked as though labor was beginning. Mild contractions kept me up most of the night and at 4:30 the next morning, I woke Dan and told him it was time to head over to the hospital. I had called my doctor several times with no call back. (That's a whole other story and a half.)

my husband brought tools to the hospital so he could assemble my birthing stool there. and I had to snap a photo.
I'll make a very long story short. The hours that followed involved an absurd number of interventions, and cords and wires being hooked up to me (IV, pitocin, oxygen, lead attached to the baby's head, intra-uterine catheter to increase fluids in the uterus during labor, 2 epidurals... did I miss something?), but baby Zev was finally born around 9:00 that night. I still can't believe it happened, and we have a small -and very cute- creature now living in our house.

a first glimpse

proud papa



happy mama

One major part of mothering that I had been looking forward to was nursing this baby. I was pretty determined, as Judah had refused to nurse and I was devastated. Well, don't you know it, baby Zev is such a good little nurser! He didn't have the same issues during delivery as Judah did (um, with getting stuck in the birth canal for 3 hours), so he had no problems turning his head. All was going great with breastfeeding until we discovered 2 weeks after birth that my supply is low. This is probably due to the radiation I had to my chest - the fact that my left side only has about 1/2 ounce of milk is the biggest clue - but his birth having been induced probably didn't help either. This low supply issue was even more distressing when I think about how much milk I had when Judah was born, and he wouldn't take any of it!


I was very upset when we first found out that we needed to supplement Zev's diet with formula, but am now in a place of acceptance, especially since he has been gaining weight nicely since we started. After a checkup at the oncologist's office, I was reminded to prioritize. Baby eating is most important. I am still nursing and then offering a bottle after each feed.

We're working on that whole sleeping at night thing. Some nights are better than others, and Dan is a huge help. We're both pretty good at dropping off to sleep at a moment's notice, but I would not put our level of functioning at an all time high.


not so bad

To answer questions about Zev's big brother, Judah is doing great. Except for today, when he woke up with a fever, he's been an amazing help. He is understanding about our need to give attention to the baby, and seems to be quite relieved that the crying and diapers aren't as bad as he feared.


little brother
Thank you to all of you who have sent delicious meals, gifts, advice, and warm wishes of joy and encouragement. We feel very very lucky (and did I mention still in shock?) to have been given this incredible gift, and most precious addition to our family.

our little love


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Fish Who Swims and A Woman With Low IQ

We are now 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant. Just yesterday, we found out that our efforts were successful and Little Fish has turned back head down! Now we need to have him fast before he discovers he can swim back the other way.

For future reference, we exhausted the following list of ways to turn a breech baby last week, but I cannot say which did the trick:

- burned moxibustion sticks near my pinky toes
- swam/did hand stands in the warm therapy pool at the Ambler Y (don't believe me? I had a witness)
- placed a bag of frozen peas on the top of my belly while playing lovely music and shining a flashlight near the bottom...
- acupuncture
- massage/reflexology
- chiropractor/webster technique
- inversion positions c/o spinning babies
- visualization

Thus the c-section, previously scheduled for tomorrow, has been cancelled and now we are back to the regular waiting game. I promise to keep the world posted. Hopefully we will have a February baby!

*****
And on a completely different note, I present to you an exchange I had with a woman I never met in an elevator this afternoon.
Stranger: Oh, I was just about to ask you what you were carrying, but then I realized what you’re carrying! Ha ha ha.
Me: Ha ha.
Stranger: When are you due? Tonight?
Me: Tomorrow.
Stranger: What are you having?
Me (thinking – Um, A BABY?): A boy.
Stranger: Oh, I had three boys!
Me: Yes, I have a boy at home.
Stranger: How old is he?
Me: Almost 8.
Stranger: Oh, I did it better than that (yes she really said that), I had mine all within 3 and 1/2 years of each other.
Me: Well, we started trying for this baby 6 years ago.
Stranger (ignoring me): One of my sons has an 8 1/2 yo and a 3 1/2 yo. It’s bad because they have different interests. One wants to play baseball while the other one wants to color.
Me: You can have that with any 2 children.
Stranger: Hmm. Well, good luck!
Please excuse the all caps but SERIOUSLY, LADY?? WHO SAYS THIS TO SOMEONE THEY’VE NEVER MET? THE DAY BEFORE THEIR DUE DATE? HOW DO YOU TIE YOUR SHOES IN THE MORNING?? Any explanation you can offer as to why some people have no filter would be appreciated.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Life in the Ninth Month

One day and one week away from our due date, yesterday we were surprised at our weekly OB checkup to discover that our little peanut thinks he is a salmon and has decided to flip into a breech position. Upon checking via ultrasound and seeing his head appear at the top of my belly, my first utterances were profanity laced. After all, he'd been head down since 18 weeks. This was an unexpected turn of events to say the least.

Initially, we chose to schedule an ECV (where the doctor attempts to manually turn the baby head down from the outside) for Thursday, thinking it was worth a try. Once getting home and doing some research, I began to fall apart, assuming this was a setup for disaster.

Since then, I've scoured the interwebs and asked friends for suggestions to help turn the baby back where he belongs. Using Spinning Babies last night and today, seeing a chiropractor experienced in helping breech babies to turn head down, getting started on moxibustion, back to acupuncture tomorrow as well as attempting headstands in the pool, turning him back around is now my full time job.

I cancelled the risky ECV procedure and decided instead to schedule a c-section as our backup plan for next week. I felt uncomfortable trying to manually force him into a position he - for whatever reason - was uncomfortable in a few days ago. And with a mild success rate at that!

If we he refuses to turn on his own, we will simply yank him. A c-section is not my first choice for many reasons, but whatever is the safest for everyone is what will have to happen. Having consulted my cardiologist, he feels I can trust my doctors to take care of both the baby and me. I'm trying to keep that in mind and regain some sense of balance. After working hard the past few months to psych myself up for labor and delivery (which did not include a head up kid) and actually even feeling prepared for it, I now feel thrown off course.

I do not like surprises. Not very good at rolling with the punches. And this breech business is just one more reminder to me in a series of MANY that I have very little control over major events in my life. Cancelling the ECV made me feel just a teensy bit more in control and gave me a few more days to try to get him to turn on his own. If I go into labor on my own before that happens, I'll still end up with a c-section. But *hopefully* it will be on our terms, and no one else's.



The bottom line (no pun intended) is that I still have no idea how this will play out. Stay tuned, hope to meet this little fish sooner or later. Whichever works best.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

4 Years Later

On this date in 2010, I honestly don't remember how I was feeling upon waking up in the morning. I had my final radiation treatment planned for that afternoon at 4, and I'm sure on one hand, I was ready to be done. On the other hand, once you get to the end of a treatment plan, a terrifying wait lies ahead. You must wait to find out if the treatment worked.

don't move. this invisible burning beam won't hurt a bit.

hair is growing back. candles are lighting the darkness.

we made it.
When I first started out in chemo, I recall wanting to throw a huge End of Cancer dance party and invite the whole team to join me. But as I moved closer to the end of treatment, I realized that you cannot predict the end of cancer. And that is terrifying. We never went through with that dance party, instead settling for impromptu kitchen dance parties, and trips we won to Disney and Hawaii.

this just might be the happiest place on earth


no, wait. I spoke too soon.
As much as things changed after that, life went on, thank goodness. I changed my job (a few times) and Judah started school. Dan and I continued to work on growing our family, very uncertain as to how it might/if it might ever happen.

It feels as though every month of the year there is another cancerversary - diagnosis day, first day of chemo, last day of chemo, end of radiation, scan results, and on and on. You cannot know what seeing those dates on the calendar will feel like until you get there. And they seem to change meaning with each blessed passing year.

This year, December 27th brings exhaustion (and disbelief) of being 31 weeks pregnant. I'm not sure I've really accepted what is on the horizon as I was way more prepared for a different path. That being said, the whole "dark cloud" feeling hasn't fully passed either. Once scary things have happened, it's hard to believe they won't happen again. The scariest thing staring me in the face on today's cancerversary is, of course, labor. I've got 8 more weeks to go and the promise that delivery #2 won't be as traumatizing as #1 (a whole other can of worms). Note: no horror stories please. Not helpful.



In the meantime, tonight we are enjoying 4 years cancer free, looking ahead to 2015 and the many new adventures about to begin. Thanks again to all of you on Team Mama Mia - without a doubt the best cheerleaders there are.

Sending wishes to all of you for a very happy and healthy new year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Latest

I've been kind of quiet on the blog the past few months. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I have written posts, but not published them. Didn't feel right.

But I guess it's time I did publish one. So here goes. What is happening in the life of this cancer survivor?

It's October and it just dawned on me that a few weeks ago, we passed the 4th anniversary of finishing up chemo. Sometimes it feels like every month holds a different kind of cancerversary. Fortunately, they are going more and more unnoticed.

School is in full swing, I am working in 3 different schools, and trying to keep up. We are on our last day of no screens and no sports for Judah after his scary concussion last week. It was up there in my top 3 most panic-inducing experiences since my journey with parenthood began. I don't even want to go into detail reliving it, I'll just say he is back to himself in all aspects. I'm not sure I'm ready to send him out into the world of recess and gym and soccer and outdoor play without a helmet, but I'll do my best.

Which brings me to The News in our house at the moment: if all goes as we are hoping and planning for, we are quite thrilled (as well as shocked and slightly terrified) to be expecting a baby brother for Judah to join the family in February. It still doesn't feel possible, and there are still some moments when the excitement turns to fear. After working on this for the past 5 years - through cancer and surgeries and procedures and medications, more blood tests than I could ever count - I was much more emotionally prepared for this to NOT happen. So I'm still getting used to the idea that it IS happening.

I finally feel movement each day (this baby already moves more than Judah did...) and that is reassuring. But I haven't lost the nagging suspicion that something bad is lurking around the bend.

While I am very, very glad that things are progressing well and the baby is growing right on target, I do not, by any means, feel safe or certain that everything will continue in that direction. The cancer ptsd definitely rears its head at times like this. Not even that I'm focused on the cancer returning (or a new cancer sprouting), but more that life is so unpredictable. There always seems to be a new danger to fear, waiting for the moment my guard is down.

I've been fairly protective of this information for the past few months, mainly sharing with people upon seeing them. Dan would describe me as pessimistic, anxious, and irrationally superstitious. But I have made some progress in the spirit of being optimistic. I knitted a blanket (Judah's idea). And I have even written a few times in a journal. Ha!

I can recognize that no matter what happens, I would regret not enjoying this time.

Choosing hope.