Friday, May 28, 2010

Special Stuff....So Many Blessings

It is quiet right now. I am quiet right now. It is Friday afternoon. The sun is shining. I am looking out the window and seeing the beautiful green of spring and reflecting on the events of this week.

At the beginning of the week I was holding myself together as I anticipated Sarah's third chemo treatment. Her second chemo treatment was so awful and the side effects were so many and pretty much constant that the thought of heading into another treatment was pure dread. There was no choice but to go toward it one step at a time and just get through it and hope for the best.

That part of my week was hard. I know all about having a good attitude and not getting ahead of yourself. Don't project. Think positive thoughts. Take things one day at a time. Oh, I know all about those things.

And, you know what? Sometimes, you just can't talk yourself out of your feelings. Sarah and I both felt dread from the inside out.

So, one might wonder why the title of this post is "Special Stuff....So Many Blessings."

Well, you see, good things happen too! And, good things happened this week. So, as I sit here being quiet on a beautiful sunny and green spring day, it is the good things I want to write about.

First of all, last weekend, our dear friends, Steve and Kathy, called and asked if they could stop by. Steve and Kathy are the kind of friends that even if you haven't seen them or talked to them for months, you just pick up where you left off. Now, if you are me, that is with kisses and hugs and I love you's.....thennnnnnnnnn you talk about other things.

Steve and Kathy brought us a beautiful gift. They know what we are going through. They know Sarah. They know Dave and the kids. They know how to love and they give from their hearts. They are two of the kindest people I have ever been lucky enough to meet. We have been friends for over twenty years.

Below is the lovely lovely gift they gave Tom and me. I hope you can read what it says because it is perfect for what is happening in our lives right now. If you click on the picture it will enlarge.

Kathy and Steve holding their gift to us

The gift close up

And, that wasn't all the special stuff to happen either. Remember, I said Sarah and I were dreading her third chemo treatment because the second chemo was so awful?

Well, chemo number three turned out to be great!! It was just great! Sarah, Kara (Sarah's sister), and I think it is because we had them slow down the chemo drip. Sarah didn't experience any side effects during the treatment and we talked and laughed with other patients for the several hours we were there.

As you can see in the next picture, Sarah and one of the other chemo patients, Lynn, were really having fun. Oh, yes.........a lot of fun. I am not sure there have ever been any other patients who have done a pole dance during chemo!

Sarah and Lynn doing a pole dance with Sarah's IV pole

The next picture is of Kara, Sarah and me during chemo. Sarah was relaxed, a little tired, but so happy. The dread was washed away as we realized this treatment was going to be better.

But, the special thing about this picture is that all three of us are wearing necklaces that a friend of mine made and sent to me all the way from Texas. Her name is Sylvia. And, she is a special person.

I have never met Sylvia. We met online and yet we feel like family. She has followed Sarah's story and asked if she could send her something. Little did I know Kara and I would receive such a beautiful gift too.

Sylvia made each of us a special necklace with the cancer ribbon on it. Sarah's necklace says Sarah on it. Mine says Daughter on it. And, Kara's says Sister on it. I was so touched by this gift and felt so blessed.

We all wore our necklaces to the chemo treatment. Here you go Sylvia! A picture of us wearing your necklaces.

Kara, Sarah and me wearing our necklaces

And, the week and the blessings still weren't over. On this quiet and beautiful Friday morning as I sat and drank my coffee, the phone rang. It was Davey. Here is how our conversation went..

Hi Gramma...

Well, hi are you?

Good....Gramma, I want you to come to school for lunch today...

Well.....that might work...I haven't talked to mommy yet to see how she is feeling...

Ohhhhhhh, right...someone has to take care of mommy today...I forgot about that...

But, maybe it could work punkin.... you like cinnamon rolls gramma?

I love cinnamon rolls...

Then, today is your lucky day! We are having homemade whole wheat cinnamon rolls for lunch today!

Well, punkin, do I have to tell you right now if I can come or not? I have to wait and talk to mommy first....


How about I talk to mommy and see how she is feeling and then I can call the school and tell them if I can come to lunch or can't come to lunch and they can get the message to you?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that is a great idea!

And, off Davey went to school. As it turned out, mommy was feeling great when she woke up today........we suspect it was a steroid high.........but it lasted long enough that both she and I were able to go to Davey's school for lunch today and it really was my lucky day (the cinnamon roll was fabulous)... thanks made mommy's and my day very special!

Davey (punkin to me) wearing one of mommy's head wraps which he loves to do

I am blessed....I am so and friends surround me....I sit here in the quiet and the stillness and my insides are calm....yep....special stuff...pretty special stuff....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What I Wrote In Sarah's Caringbridge Site Today

Thursday, May 27, 2010 7:22 AM, CDT

Hi everyone...this is Judy, Sarah's mom...

Sarah is sound asleep and I will be waking her soon. Today is chemo day. Today is chemo day # 3. We are ready for it!

She had a great visit with Dr. Migliori yesterday afternoon. He gave her a double injection and a lot of his time. She just loves him. He always makes her feel good and yesterday she really needed that.

Sarah mentioned in her post yesterday that she had a blood draw in the morning. It was a hard experience due to some apparent miscommunications within the hospital and where the blood draw was to take place. When Sarah did get to the right place the nurse who did the draw missed the port and Sarah ended up in tears. The nurse felt horrible because she had to poke Sarah twice. She said that rarely happens and she felt so horrible that if Sarah wanted to hit her, that would be ok.

Sarah didn't hit her. Funny thing...the experience was a little traumatic and when Sarah talked to Dr. Migliori about it, he said that shouldn't have happened. We are all human beings and things like that do happen, but it shouldn't have and he is going to follow up on it.His understanding of what anyone going through this is like is wonderful.

I have to stop for now. It is time to get ready. And, something really nice just happened. My sister, Linda, called. Bri's mom. Bri died of cancer in February. She just wanted to say she was in prayer for Sarah and me today. Some things just make you cry. That is all it took.

We are going to do this today. Resolve is unmistakeable. It takes such consciousness to walk this path. There is a goal out there. We are keeping our eyes on it and walking this path. We will reach the goal. We will look back and say...we did this!

For today...we are taking the next step...Chemo #3 here we come!

Let's do this!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Here Today Zoo Tomorrow

Sarah had plans for this weekend....big plans....plans that were going to make her last weekend, before her third chemo, fun.

She wanted to go to the Milwaukee Zoo with Dave and the boys. They would drive to Milwaukee Saturday, stay overnight and then visit the zoo today. It would be a nice getaway before chemo on Thursday.

She made the plans and told the boys Friday night, when she was feeling good. Excitement was in the air....something to look forward to....something they would do if things were normal.

But, chemo changes things. Chemo changes everything.

Chemo creates a new normal. Chemo creates a new reality....a reality that creeps up on you and changes your understanding of normal.

"The Friday night feeling good normal" became "the Saturday morning I don't feel good at all new normal."

She couldn't do it. She couldn't go. She was too tired. She didn't feel good. She had to tell the boys. The boys had woken up at 4:15 a.m., waited until 6:15 a.m. to wake Sarah and Dave up. They had packed their little bags and were ready to travel.

She had to tell them she couldn't do it....she couldn't go...she didn't feel well enough.

They made other plans. Daddy could take them to the Minnesota zoo while Mommy slept. But, Mommy could take them to Target for a little while in the morning.

We are never prepared for what children understand....and how they are able to think things through and come up with the things they say.

When Sarah was at Target, Derek (5) asked Sarah if he could buy something. Davey (6) leaned over to Derek and said, "Derek, we aren't thinking about ourselves right now."

No, we are never prepared for what children understand.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Two Things That Make Me Smile

I love the differences between what we call things here and what they are called in Ireland...

Two new examples of this are.....

The other day I was talking to Joe, our friend in Ireland, and he said he had to change the clock in his kitchen to say the correct time. It is high on his kitchen wall and he said he would have to stand on the "hop up." I thought...what? Oh, a step stool. Still makes me smile!

Then, a while ago, we were talking about roads. Joe said something about the dual carriageway. That is what we call a two lane highway. And, what we call a freeway, Joe calls a motorway.

Why does dual carriageway sound so much more romantic than two lane highway?

Now, only moments after I wrote this, I stand corrected.

Dual carriageways can also have two lanes of traffic in each direction with a median (or central reservation) between the lanes.

The new piece I just learned is the lane on the left, closest to the central reservation, is reserved for "overtaking."

Here we just pass the slow cars.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I don't know what to write. I want to write. As soon as I write something I delete it. Nothing looks right when I sit here and look at my words on the screen. Yet, it feels like there is something that wants to come out.

I love sleeping because when I am sleeping I am not thinking or feeling.

I look out the window as I sit here and see the sun shining through the trees. The leaves aren't moving. There isn't much of a breeze.

I wonder if I will see deer today. Maybe I will see the ducks that visit and eat the bird seed that has fallen from the bird feeder.

My thoughts wander. I am trying to keep my feelings at bay.

The day looms out in front of me with no doctor appointments to keep me busy and my mind occupied.

In the beginning, when Sarah was diagnosed with cancer, there was a feeling of we are going to take care of this. We did. Sarah did.

There were things to do. Get an MRI. Meet with the surgeon. Meet with the plastic surgeon. Meet with the oncologist. Have a double mastectomy. Heal from the surgery. Go to chemo class. Get a port. Go look at wigs. Buy a wig. Buy head wraps and cozies. Watch while Sarah shaved her head in stages because it was inevitable she would lose her hair. Watch while Sarah got injections for her reconstruction.

There were things to do. There was so much to learn. There was so much to remember. It felt like we were doing something. It felt like we were doing the things that gave us some control.

See, this is where I don't have the words. I want to delete now. But, I won't. Because if I did I wouldn't have any better words to put on my screen. It is like when you want to throw up but can't. Maybe this is the cancer dry heaves.

We are waiting now. Chemo has started. Sarah has had two chemo treatments. And, she is feeling worse than she did when she didn't know she had cancer. She felt fine when she didn't know she had cancer. Now that we are doing everything in our power to make her as well as she can be, it feels worse. She feels worse.

I want to delete.

I can't be inside her skin. She can't be inside my skin. There is a powerful sense of us sharing this because we are going through this together.....each from our own side. In this togetherness there is a loneliness.

Now, I really want to delete.

Because all of a sudden I feel.

I guess that is what wanted to come out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Little Story

Dave and the boys came over tonight. Dave brought a meal provided by one of their friends. They had a mission to take care of. The mission was to take Sarah back home with them. She has been staying with me for eight nights since her second chemo treatment.

The side effects from her second chemo treatment have subsided now and she feels might say she feels normal....or is normal relative?

All we know is she was missing her family and they were missing her, and she was well enough and strong enough to go home with them tonight. That is so good!!!

The tradition is that before the little boys leave my house they always get a little snack size baggy of Pringles to take in the van for the ride home.

I was getting the Pringles ready and Davey, (6), was standing by me.

I said, "I love you punkin."

He looked at me.

I said, "Someday, soon , I will tell you that with my whole voice."

(I have bad laryngitis tonight and can hardly make a sound)

He looked at me and whispered, "It doesn't matter."

The look on his face had such love and compassion and understanding.

Was it before or after they left I felt a tear in my eye.

Sarah's Mother's Day Letter To Me

Thank you, Mom, for being the kind of mom I want to be.

Thank you, Mom, for taking me into your home, willingly and lovingly, while I recover from a double mastectomy, port surgery, and 4 rounds of chemo.

Thank you, Mom, for turning your living room into a recovery room for an unknown length of time.

Thank you, Mom, for taking care of me. For helping me with my drugs. For making sure I eat right. For making sure I sleep when I should.

Thank you, Mom, for coming to all of my appointments, for taking notes and asking questions. Then telling me what was said, even though I was there.

Thank you, Mom, for bringing the fun to the appointments.

Thank you, Mom, for being a great mother-in-law.

Thank you, Mom, for being a great grandma, and for making my boys feel special.

Thank you, Mom, for loving me. No matter what. Through thick and thin. Through cancer and chemo and hair loss. Through laughter and tears.

Thank you, Mom, for listening when I talk and when I cry. And for hearing me when I don’t.

Thank you, Mom, for saying that it’s OK that we didn’t get to celebrate your birthday or Mother’s Day this year. Because I’m alive.

I love you, Mom. I praise God for you!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sharing and Shaving...or...Sharing the Shaving

Sunday was Mother's Day. Sarah has been at my house, since the Friday before, when she had her second chemo treatment. Dave and the boys came to visit and we were able to get a few pictures that make it clear why Sarah is doing chemo.

Her cancer was removed when she had her bilateral mastectomy, but with a 19% chance of recurrence, there was never a doubt but that she would do chemo.

Davey (6), Derek (5) and Jackson (22 months) make it worth whatever Sarah has to go through to assure them she is going to be around a long time. And, Dave is behind that 100 %. It is a life event, cancer and chemo, that has altered all our lives every minute of the day and night.

Below are some pictures and a video from the last few days.

Sarah with Derek, Davey and Jackson on Mother's Day

Dave with Derek and Davey on Mother's Day

Ah, this is how picture taking usually goes : )

Sarah shaving her head yesterday...she woke up and the little bit of hair remaining had started to off it came

Sarah with Jackson yesterday...the kids don't even seem to notice anymore
And, here is a little video of Sarah shaving her head

Welcome to my world everyone! I mean that with pride and gratitude and true appreciation !

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Update On Sarah....Post Second Chemo

Sarah's second chemo treatment was very different than the first one. The first chemo treatment was like a party. It went so well. Little did we know that the second chemo would be so different.

Sarah is NEVER cold. Sarah is ALMOST ALWAYS too hot. Well, Sarah was cold almost the whole time during the second chemo. In the picture below you can see that Sarah had on a quilt, a little blanket, a heated blanket provided by the nurse and something on her head to keep her head warm.

Below is the Caringbridge entry I wrote on Sarah's behalf today. I wanted to post it on my blog, as well, for those who don't go to Sarah's Caringbridge website.

Dr. Migliori, Sarah's plastic surgeon, said it would hit her someday. The feelings would hit her. And, he was right.

Sarah is riding the low part of the roller coaster the last couple of days.

Sarah is sad....mostly about losing the last of her hair. She used some special tape to hold her wig on securely last week and, when she took her wig off, the tape took some of her remaining hair off as well. That has left some splotchiness on her head. And, her hairline at her forehead is losing hair. We thought about shaving her head, but we can't do that. It is too risky as she has to avoid anything that could possibly give her a scratch or a cut that could get infected.

There is something final about losing the last of her hair. She has had fun with taking charge of losing her the mohawk...but this is different now. Her hair doesn't hurt like it did when she had the mohawk, but she hurts inside. I see it in her eyes and she tells me.

Dr. Migliori said it would hit her. It is. I told her she can take some time to just just nothing...let her feelings have a voice...and she is.

On the physical side she pretty much feels like she has the flu 24 hours a day. She wants to eat but nothing sounds good. She is starting to have the muscle aches today and we learned from the nurse practitioner that she can take Oxycodone for those. That was great news! And, the yukky taste in her mouth started today. The nurse practitioner recommended making a mix of water, salt and baking soda to gargle. Sucking on sugar free mints helps too.

She also has a cough. She called Jayne, Dr. Zander's nurse and Jayne called in a prescription for an antibiotic. Her blood levels will be dropping in the next week and after the last chemo her while blood cell count went down to zero. She had NO infection fighting cells. So, caution prevails right now!

She looks at me and says, "I'm sorry mom. It is harder for you. If I were sitting where you are it would be hard to feel so helpless. I would hate to see you going through this."

I would take this from Sarah, in a heartbeat, if I could.

Sarah ends her posts with.......

Let's do this people!

She is doing this! She is my brave, strong, courageous, inspirational child with such a big giving heart and a wonderful attitude.

Somedays are just hard and that is ok to let it show.

I love you Sarah!

Let's do this....all of this....feelings and all!