Forgive me for Gushing


But last night I went out in public for the first time with my wig... AND no one could tell. Then I took a shower, IN MY WIG. Then I went to bed, and SLEPT IN IT. And then this morning I put it up in a high ponytail.

That's right, a wig in a high ponytail. I'm not sure how to express how good it feels, even for a just a few minutes, to get to be normal. To not feel like a sick person. 

So sorry for gushing but please consider this yet another thank you note to the generosity of the people who helped me fundraise for this amazing, special head covering and also, for any of you out there who might be going through something similar, seriously give Sheila a call. #cancercanttouchme

Being Sick Doesn't Mean Looking Sick

Ok, let's be real here people. I have SOBBED myself to the point of dehydration about my hair falling out. The idea of spending the next 4 years at the lowest version of my personal self image and self esteem, waiting for my hair to grow back, well it's enough to reduce even a positive thinker like me to pits of despair. I don't care how cute I look with a shaved head, it wasn't MY CHOICE to get that way and so it's just one more way that cancer is f#$%& with my control of my own damn body. Whew, sorry, angry voice.

So today, instead of going backwards and feeling angry, let us look forward. Forward to the wonder of all that technology and people who get it can produce.

 Because yesterday I shaved ALL OF MY HAIR OFF. (I donated as much as possible first, DIY coming soon)




And yesterday I finally decided not to put myself through the slow torture of having my hair fall out. I didn't even shed a single tear.

PS. A big, big, big, big, Thank you so much for all of you who made this possible (#somuchlove)

I think instead of telling you all about it, I will let the photos (and some captions) speak for themselves.

xoxoxo Princess Chemo


Post donation, on the way to the shave...


Me & mama, entering the house of magic


mama shaving my head, not so fun for her












Sheila preparing my new hair!!!!


BZZZZZZZZ




It's a "hair shower"








This was fun for about one minute....




And on goes the new hair!!



















YUP - that's a WIG. UNFREAKINGBELIEVAB:E


BEFORE & AFTER








You Don't Need to Suffer

Chemo therapy is broken into cycles. Each cycle is made up of days. Day 1 is the day you receive your injection. My first 4 cycles are known as "AC" - Adriamycin doxorubicin and Cytoxan cyclophosphamide.
This is a very standard protocol for Breast Cancer and the most common side effects are nausea and hair loss. Unfortunately, the nausea, for whatever reason they don't understand, tends to be more pronounced "in the young ones" - as they say. The young ones, of course, meaning me.

Day 1 wasn't so bad. There were popsicles and good company. I was feeling pretty fine, except a little tired, right up until the end of the Cytoxan (which makes you weirdly congested - suddenly I felt like I had a sinus infection). They gave me an extra bag of fluids (at my request) in addition to a great IV anti-nausea medicine which lasted ... until I hit rush hour traffic heading home. (I immediately called the nurse and rescheduled my next appointment so THAT never happened again.) By the time I got home and took an Ativan & a benedryl to counteract the allergic reaction I was having to my compazine (clenched jaw - ouch) I was fully, totally, passed out. I slept through the night. It was awesome.

Day 2 also wasn't so bad, parts were almost normal. Mama came over and lay down in bed with me and this effectively forced me to stay in bed all day. I did some writing (have you seen my chemo guides?!?) I even ate some toast and some mashed potatoes. When handsome boyfriend came home I had enough energy to do some light stretching and my arm PT AND best of all snuggle up and watch some TV while eating pasta. I could text with people without feeling dizzy. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad??


2:30am - WOOF. Do not throw up, do not throw up. You have 60 short minutes till you can take another ativan and try to go back to sleep.


4:45am - OK, distraction. Yurts. Handsome boyfriend's birthday, we need yurts. Do not throw up.


6:30 - 7:30am - Semi-sleep. More like lying curled up in a little ball, but it feels very restful. Also, like it would be harder to throw up in this position. 


8:00 am - Fenway is whining. He must feel as gross as I do. Let's try a walk.... BIG MISTAKE


By the time I got home from the walk I could barely get myself back into the bed. I don't even know what happened in the interim hours except lying in bed trying to distract myself from the nausea and waiting to take another ativan.


Mommy came to pick me up (I was in NO shape to drive) and I cried on the phone to ATT because of course now, with my brand new phone and my brand new IOS 6 would be when my phone decides I don't actually have service in my apartment. You know my phone, which also acts as my lifeline to my doctors and nurses, and also AS MY DOORBELL. You might cry too. Especially if 95% of your energy is going into trying not to throw up.


By the time I got to Kaiser for acupuncture I was a husk, red rimmed eyes, greyish/green skin. Everyone who saw me looked sad eyes. The receptionist sat me down and handed me a bucket. The acupuncturist ushered me in - "If it's ok with you I'd like to start you immediately - you don't look like you feel so good, we can talk after the needles are in". Me - (whimpering) "Yes, please."





The acupuncture helped A LOT. Like enough that I could actually talk instead of just cry and whimper. 


So once the acupuncturist was done I was moved to a chemo chair. Sitting down my BP was normal, but when I stood up it went through the roof. DEHYDRATION. The Onc Pharmacist came and gave me a whole new set of medicines to replace the one I was allergic too. I also got an IV drip with some Zofran and two bags of fluids. About halfway through I could stand up without teetering like a bobble head.


My ride came up to keep me company. It could not have felt good for her to see me like this: (FYI, to me this felt amazing...)





By the time I left, giant lunch bag of pills in hand, I felt almost like a human being. My incredible generous friend took me to get "clear broth & noodles" from My Grandfathers Kitchen (a pho place conveniently located in hospital alley). It was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. I kept it down. 


Then, I was even renewed enough to run a few errands with my very generous caretaker that mostly involved sitting on couches. 


By the time I got home the IV meds were waning but I felt really ambitious and decided to pick up the small, pasta bag disaster that Fenway had made in my prolonged abcense. Sadly, this was a big mistake. I was done. Depleted. 


But I also reaked of hospital tape and hand sanitizer and sickly sweat. So I laid down on the shower floor and showered. Then I curled like a burrito into a pile of towels and dried my hair lying flat on the flour (FYI this worked really really well, I would recommend for even non-chemo depleted ladies) then it was time for my dose of my new anti-nausea meds, and guess what? I almost totally slept through the night. I def wasn't nauseated and this morning, as long as  don't move too much I actually feel better than I did on Day 2 (although maybe not better than I did on the day before I dumped my body full of super toxic chemicals)


I now have regular bi-weekly acupuncture appointments (covered for free by Kaiser! You rock!) and before my next injection I will be given a super potent anti-nausea injection that is supposed to last 7 days (usually it lasts more like five but I'll also have my discretionary pills) I would not have had any of these things If I didn't ask.


THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

You do not need to suffer in silence.
Ask for help when you need it.
Whether you are sick, or healthy
Stubborn, or a magnet for affection
ASK FOR WAYS TO ALLEVIATE YOUR SUFFERING
Whenever it can be avoided it should
(It's not good for anybody, especially you)

Stay tuned - today is hair shaving/donation/wig day! whoo hoo!!



lots of love
xoxoxoxox
Dena




Day 1 of Chemo: aka Overpacking

(Please note, while writing this this morning I can feel a distinct sense of "chemo brain" so please be gentle with me)

I'll admit it - I over prepared for yesterday. I pretty much bought out the gatorade at target. I had a pre exercise shake, another bottle while waiting in the waiting room, and then I asked the nurse to give me the full saline bag (hydration is my jam).

I brought a cooler full of supplies, which I know refer to as "HB's arm workout" because all we ended up using were the popsicles and a single ice pack.

Right about the end of the injections I literally turned green and started to feel awful and nauseated with a bad headache. By the time we hit rush hour traffic I was clutching a bag and praying not to lose it. Thankfully I made it home in time, took something the doctors recommended, slept until about well, now. And this morning I feel tons and tons better (not amazing, but def not as bad as yesterday).

My nurse was awesome, my friends were awesome. Natasha's head scratches are like magic and Kate's sense of humor had me laughing so hard it hurt...

So, I guess all in all it really wasn't that bad, I can think of 3 things that have happened to my body in the last month that were worse.

Now my goal is to just to keep getting better and better everyday!

Here are photos to document my journey. Guess what - I am 1/8 done with chemo! whoot whoot!






Handsome boyfriend called this my "celebrity chemo paparazzi can't leave me alone look"
I just thought it was stretchy & snuggly 


Are we going backpacking? No. We are going overpacking! 
See guys! Not so bad! 










My (Jewish) New Years Resolutions


Every year on the Jewish New Year I make resolutions (FYI Fall is a much better time to make changes and stick to them then high pressure January!)

These are mine this year:


  1. To be gentle with my body whenever possible and to own the strength that comes from knowing my own limitations and not trying to push them in an unsafe way. (Chemo, here I come)
  2. To find fun, wherever it may lurk in whatever surprising places on my journey. (Just because I'm sick, doesn't mean I am not allowed to have fun, right?!?)
  3. To acknowledge my fears, so I can own them - and not let them own me. (Hairloss * Missing Out * Dying)
  4. To be grateful, every single day. 

I am still open for suggestions - so let me know if you think of some good ones or have any awesome ones of your own...

xoxoxoxo
#somuchlove







Being OK with not Being OK

So, here's the thing. I am strong. I have always been strong. Strong is a word that has been thrown at me since I was a 14 year old girl, when my dad (who was also my best friend in the whole world) passed away.

The problem with being told you're strong all the time is that it becomes hard to be weak. To let people see that you are having a hard time. To ask for help, especially help of the emotionally supportive kind. My natural instinct is to default to happy. And like 98% of the time I am.

Here's the thing. I have cancer. Real cancer. I have a 6cm tumor in my body and doctors who want to rip my body to shreds and build it back up again. All my "ultimate detox" jokes aside, I am about to basically be destroyed from the inside out and then hopefully, put back together again better than before.

I will have 8 cycles of chemotherapy. The 2nd cycle is notorious for causing extreme bone pain. I will need injections every 3 weeks for a year. I will have yy third surgery in a year**. Also, countless painful biopsies for the rest of my life and 6 weeks of radiation.

Yes, I am strong. But I am also freaking terrified. Rarely a night goes by that I don't have nightmares. I hover somewhere at about a 4 on the pain scale everyday since I was diagnosed (first from the biopsies,  now from my healing arm and my poor, overworked lady parts) I am not OK.

I mean I am OK. I wake up in the morning, I walk my dog (or beg handsome boyfriend to walk the dog if I didn't sleep well the night before), I brush my teeth. I only cry about once a week, and that's usually because of a sad movie I make myself watch because I feel this giant lump of sadness in my belly and frankly, I've had enough lumps to last me a lifetime, so I force myself to cry it out.

But then I go to a doctor's appointment, or I call the doctor, or I curl up in a little ball with an ice/cold pack.  I hoard items that I have been told/read will help alleviate the most painful/uncomfortable symptoms of chemo. I make plans, and more plans, and plans on top of that, in hopes of making what's about to come less painful, less disruptive to my life and the life of Fenway and handsome boyfriend and my mom.

I am really OK but like, in a way that is less OK than I was a month ago when hurricane breast cancer torpedoed my life. My life is not normal. I miss my life before.

I might be the most prepared girl ever to undergo chemo (I title I proudly elicit from my nurses and doctors) but I am also just a freaking girl who is scared out of her mind.

The thing is that my natural inclination is to be positive. To look for the silver lining on every freaking cloud. To be "STRONG." But I am already freaking exhausted and I have no idea how I am going to get through the next 8 months.

Being alone gives me horrific panic attacks. I faint from IVs. I faint from panic attacks. I have a recurring nightmare that the doctor finds cancer in my cheek and tells me he has to cut through my mouth to get it, with only general anesthesia, while I am wide awake. I can't find a comfortable way to sleep because so many different parts of my body hurt all the time.

I have stopped writing on my blog because I have such a severe case of "medicine head" from the hormones that today I had to use a calculator to subtract 8 from 15. I can't retain information. I try to read articles and I know that I recognize the words but I can't remember what they mean. I sit and listen to conversations with my friends and I can barely keep up because I find it hard to follow them. And this is just from the hormones - imagine what "chemo brain" is going to be like. I miss my mind.

I am scared of missing out on 8 months of my life, of the pain, the horrible side effects, of my friends moving on from me, of over-using the friends I have because I feel like I need so much right now and never what they want to give me.

Yes, I am strong, yes I am so freaking lucky and SO grateful, yes I am going to be OK, but right now things kind of suck.

That's right - I admitted it. This SUCKS.

Usually when I write something I try to take something positive from it, something that will make me feel better about publicly ranting about my situation. Something warm and uplifting. But today all I can say is that sometimes it's OK to not be OK. Now I'm going to watch a movie to make myself cry on purpose and tomorrow I'm sure I will be back to my normal, perky self.





**
#1 Lymph Node Biopsy - where they cut through my arm muscle to remove two lymph nodes
#2 Egg Retrieval - where they extract somewhere around 40 eggs from my ovaries
#3 Lumpectomy - to remove the tumor (even if chemo shrinks it down to nothing, they will still cut out the clip they inserted during my first biopsy)


Checking In: Labor Day Weekendish




I know I haven't written in awhile. The fertility treatments hit me a lot harder than I expected and my brain has been on overload. So here's the recap in all it's glory. Like everything cancer related there's good news and there's bad news:

(BAD NEWS) I feel like a swallowed a spiked volleyball. I can't close any of my "real" pants. If real pregnant women cramped up this much I'm pretty sure we never would have survived as a species. In fact I'm trying to come up with a new, more accurate word for cramp since it doesn't seem to capture the nuances of this feelings. Something like ouchiehorriblepainouch

(GOOD NEWS) I have developed a fun new habit of rubbing  my bloated volleyball belly and murmuring words of encouragement to my totsicles. This is just as creepy as it sounds. (you can do it little guys! Keep on juicing up! I love you already!) **However the doctor tells my I am still overperforming "fertility wise" - so clearly I should keep doing what I'm doing.**


(GOOD NEWS) My skin has never, never looked better. Thank you Susannah for the spay day! )

(SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE) I spent an hour yesterday doing my make up and playing with fun Benefit products (thank you Al) in anticipation of handsome boyfriend coming home because I felt totally disgusting. When I finished I promptly fell asleep and woke up a smudged disaster. Sigh.

(GOOD NEWS) I'm completely obsessed with my fertility nurse and wondering if it's appropriate to ask her to be a godmother to one of the totsicles.

(BAD NEWS) I had a panic attack Saturday night, hyperventilated until I fainted on the bathroom floor (I had just gotten out of the shower) It was terrifying but also, not wholly unexpected. I have bad, scary days just like everyone else and I recovered quickly. But what I really want to know is, where can I get one of those pill teeth spies have? You know where they bite down and get a dose of arsenic or whatever? No, I am not suicidal, I just think this would be an excellent xanax delivery system. The hardest part was I was alone and I wasn't functioning enough to find the pills. And of course, after getting the panicked phone call my mother may never let me spend another second alone for the rest of my life...

(GOOD NEWS) Besides this rogue panic attack I had a freaking fabulous weekend. Seriously, JUST what the doctor ordered. I had some amazing puppy walks, spent some restorative quality time with two of my favorite people of all time and feasted on treats, brunch and a farmers market bounty that would make Alice weep (baked figs with goat cheese! Fresh heirloom tomatoes with basil leaves and mozzarella! Dill smoked salmon with slivers of sweet red onion, capers and cream cheese! Purple chicken with thyme, basil and garlic!)

(NEWS) I have a date for my first chemo treatment (September 24) and I can sort of/kind of start planning for my life again **with the caveat that my ability to do anything, except maybe napping, is subject to change at a moments notice. On the 24th I will learn my specific cocktail (I know, some of you are dying to know - I'll let you know as soon as I do) and the current plan is a treatment every 3 weeks pending any delays, which can be pretty common (go white blood cell count go!) 

This week of treatments has given me just a small taste of what the months to come will be like. My body doesn't feel like my own anymore. I'm at the will of some very powerful drugs and they are impacting everything from my brain to my emotions to well, my body, in a much more profound way that I could have imagined.

In a way I am grateful because I see now just how hard it is going to be to keep up like I was doing before. I can start to ease into a life that is more gentle, less go-go-go, more focused on healing and emotional health than my five year plan.

I am also so grateful, even more so than I was before (Is that even possible?) for the support that has allowed me to stop working because being sick really is a full time job. I may not have the energy or the physical ability to do everything I did before, but I will again someday and until then I am sending so much love into the universe (thinking of you Rhonda!) because while my body might be a little less strong I feel like I have love to spare.

Xoxox


Gold Metallic Moto Jacket - perfect for my 8am labs! 
Beignets num num num