Monday, September 17, 2018

This just in

You guys, you'll never believe this. I'm so excited! The day we've all been wondering about and waiting for:

Today I feel like myself!

I've had my most productive day in months and don't feel like I need a nap. My spirit is high and I've been singing along with Pandora. Damon's closet is reorganized, I'm on my second and a half load of laundry, the dishwasher is reloaded, the kids all made it off to school on time, and I'm looking around for what to do next.

Whoop whoop!

Thanks for all your prayers and well wishes and yay God for getting me through chemo. It's been three and a half weeks since my last Taxotere and Carbo, and I feel like meeeeee! Yippiiiiiieeeeee!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Another misty morning

We had a two hour delay due to fog today. It is kind of fizzing outside, as Liam likes to say. Happy Friday!

Naturally, I'm sitting here listening to Led Zeppelin's Misty Mountain Hop, which you can hear here if you so desire. I had nothing to do with it, just borrowed the link from YouTube. 

Anyway, misty mornings are fabulous for finding spider webs. There were various filters used on these photos, notably Vivid and Dramatic Cool, for visibility purposes. 

We have very industrious spiders. If only my children could take lessons, heh...

These are the lovely flowers PaPa planted for me. I had picked out perennial, shade loving, native plant seeds and he planted them for me... and then we had a torrential downpour in which the gutter overflowed and all my seeds washed into the pond. 

This pond.

You're saying, "that's not a pond. That's a jungle." While you are correct, don't judge. We rarely go in and out the front door and I forget about the pond (obviously) and should probably throw what we call mosquito donuts in. They're these donut shaped crisps (a bit denser than a Samoa from the Girl Scouts and minus the chocolate stripes, but that'll get you close enough) which knock off the mosquito larvae or whatever so you don't have bugs from the standing water. I can still hear the pond pump running, but it sounds asthmatic and I'm not sure that it isn't full of algae or baby lily pads. 

And then there's the back forty:

Lalaith Havens, signing off and wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"How does your garden grow?"

Uh, well, ours is a complete disaster. Thanks for asking. 

I guess we had other things going on this summer. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Here is our garden jungle: 

I can hear Ray Stevens in my head, "embarrassing." So let's have a closer look at things.

Here are the tomatoes:

We planted Cherokee Purples and either Big Boys or Beefsteaks, but I haven't seen anything other than teeny cherry ones come up...

The strawberries are still doing their thing:

And we have a humungous basil:

The borage I planted for the bees is hanging in there:

Heh. That would be the purply blue flowers in that mess. As ever, you can click on any photo to have it open in a more eyeball-friendly page to better investigate.

I have no idea what these adorable yellow flowers are, but they have carroty-looking tops/stems so I purposely didn't weed them as I wanted to see what would happen. Anyone have a name for them?

Cilantro has gone all to coriander:

Butterflies are visiting the apple trees:

Spiders are everywhere:

This particular one is either brave or crazy, having built a web just outside our back door. I can't tell you how many times I've opened the door just a few inches to holler out to the boys and/or the dog, remembered the spider too late, and have had to apologize. It's a good thing I have no hair, or this poor thing would have to redo the web several times a day. And it's right at face height, so it's usually, *door opens, I take a big breath to begin to holler, pull head back a little bit as spider takes cover, apologize to spider, commence hollering while keeping door as closed as possible lest any bugs make it past the web and into the house, slam door shut* The spider is doing a good job as I've only seen one stink bug make it in so far...

The zinnias and marigolds did well! I even saw a hummingbird enjoying the zinnias.

And this, my friends, was lettuce in its former life:

The back "garden" was overtaken by the ghosts of last year's veggies. Apparently we'd tossed zucchini out to die and they reincarnated, took over, and had to be chopped back by PaPa during his last visit:

We did get a few zucchini out of the deal except they were so huge by the time we found them that they were really seedy and not much fun. I guess that's why Aldi sells little skinny ones, haha.

And it's almost apple season already! Eeeep!

Dada bought some fun shades for the deck this summer, which give a whole new resort-ish feel to the place:

Yes, that would be Virginia Creeper, creeper-ing along. There's also poison ivy in there, which all the menfolk currently have as they just can't stay away from machetes and chopping vine-covered branches and oy vey...

And my lovely, tough, good thing they take care of themselves hostas. Hosta? Hmm.

Those poor guys were completely dug up and tossed aside when the geothermal install happened. The guys doing the digging asked what they were and then shrugged, "well, they'll probably figure out how to come back." And they did! Yay!

I sure hope nobody was depending on us for tomatoes (unless they're cherry ones) or cucumbers or anything this year. None of my cucumbers tasted like anything much, and I can't tell if it was just because of chemo affecting taste buds or if it was the ridiculous wet spell followed by months of hot and dry without being watered or what, and nobody else in my family eats them to compare notes with. If nothing else, we helped birds and bees and butterflies, which is half the fun anyway. Uh, I mean, sorry I didn't get out there to weed very much, honey...

New arrival and the less than desirables

So sorry. I forgot to update you. Yes, our new dishwasher has arrived and is definitely pulling its weight. I had forgotten how fast we can fill a dishwasher, haha! It is a black Kitchen Aid with a towel rack and it works. In other words, it is just about perfection.

Now the dryer is on the fritz. Poor Dada has it taken apart and is waiting for a piece to arrive...

Since I don't speak Dryer I can't tell you what it is he is waiting for, but I can say that I am wholeheartedly grateful for the sunshine we are to have today and tomorrow as our clothes are drying outside:

I can also tell you, just as wholeheartedly, that I am a firm believer in the adage about "no good deed goes unpunished". In this particular case, it would be because the rescue dog, AKA Bosley Underfoot the Dunderbutt, found mud and poop to roll in this morning as I was picking tomatoes. Why Bosley, how thoughtful of you; I would just loooooooove to give you a bath and then have an entire bathroom to clean" said nobody ever. 

Do not be fooled by the dotty eyebrows. He is an idiot. And so am I for letting him free range. I know that I can't trust him as far as I could throw him, but did I clip him out there? Noooo, I didn't, because he looked cute and innocent in the sunshine. More fool me.

Thursday, September 06, 2018


Where to begin?

Titles are hard for me. I either have one in mind before I write the actual post (rarely) or I struggle to sum up what I've written into a concise title. I dislike reading passages and "telling the main idea" because, for me, life is about all the little things more than it is about the big things. Big things, to me, tend to take care of themselves whereas little things can be wrangled and finessed and pondered over. 

They say the devil is in the details. I am firmly in the camp which knows it is God who is in the details. 

A tiny for instance? My bedroom growing up was wallpapered in Holly Hobbie forever. Like from second grade until about 9th, maybe even longer. At some point, you couldn't see any Holly Hobbie because I had so many animal posters and Johnny Depp posters and my own artwork up that there was no wallpaper visible. My parents finally caved and repainted it Bermuda Blue, which is exactly the gorgeous deep blue of the Caribbean, and they let me paint a mural on one wall.

We weren't in our first home long enough to do any painting, but our second home PaPa helped paint Carrie's room a lovely blue. Our third home, we painted our master bedroom Mountain Lake blue. PaPa quipped about it being the third time he'd painted blue bedrooms for me. I remember musing, "I might like a green bedroom next time."

Guess what color our bedroom is right now, and has been for the five years we've been here? A soothing green. We didn't do it. Details. I've heard it said that God cares about the things which concern us. I believe it, because he loves us, and when you love someone, what worries them doesn't usually sit well with you either because you don't want your loved ones to be stressed out. Sure, it could be a coincidence. It could be the previous owners thought, "green is soothing in a bedroom and we're trying to sell, so... green it is." I prefer to think that God used them to get it ready for us. 

At any rate, I am one indecisive chick. It takes forever for me to pick out a movie (don't even get me started on the endless choices Netflix offers) or a meal at a restaurant. Oddly enough, I manage okay at ice cream shoppes- just a small hot fudge sundae, please. I judge books by their covers constantly and often end up with colorful, captivating outsides which may or may not reflect the quality of writing within; then I can't decide which one to begin with. 

So you can pretty well imagine how hard it was to make a decision which will affect my next 40 or so years, God willing. Yes, here she goes again with the talk about boobs. She's like a junior high boy! For those of you sick of the subject, feel free to Prince Humperdinck, "skip to the end."  And for those of you scratching your heads, you simply must see "The Princess Bride" for your own sake. How many fun references are you missing out on if you haven't seen that classic? But I digress...

The final consensus is that later this month I'm going to go flat on both sides with no reconstruction. In more medical terms that is called a bilateral (both sides) mastectomy (loss of boobage, I guess). Those of you who want to be done reading now have your answer and may be excused. Thanks for the prayers: please keep them coming as surgery is kinda a big deal and we're back to school so that means lots of germs coming home and it'll take time to heal including exercises and lifting restrictions and all that. Seriously, huge thanks and please don't stop. 

If anyone wants more details, here they are. It was a really hard decision that took way longer to make than I thought it would. I had a strong feeling from the get-go that I didn't want manmade materials inserted into me (implants) which had the potential for extra surgeries down the road and/or leakage. After consulting with a plastic surgeon who had us hold them, squeeze them, see what they actually looked and felt like, I felt better about the options but still no great desire to go that route. We were especially reassured that the "gummy bear" ones wouldn't leak even if we squeezed them. However, I'm not enthused by the fact that they're new enough that I can't be sure they won't leach anything into me over time. Those suckers gotta last me into my 80s hypothetically and they simply haven't been around long enough in this form for me to feel like anything other than a guinea pig. Not a great feeling. At what point do small statistics of problems make it okay to try something, you know?

We initially met with him to discuss a procedure where he would potentially use only skin and fat from my abdomen to shape me a new right side boob. He had me stand there and he pinched my excess and said, "you don't have enough you to do what you want to do, which is good because you're thin, except that you only have enough here to make about a third of what you have up there." So there went that option. Since I couldn't make one from myself, and I have never wanted only one- and to those of you (not my term) uniboobs out there, ladies, you are amazing. I don't feel I would be happy like that. I feel there'd be a lot of pressure to wear a fake one and I don't have any desire to go that route either- because I think having one would be harder on my personal self image than having none at all. Having none means no bras,  no underboob sweat, and perhaps I'll weigh less, haha. 

Reconstruction would mean sticking an implant in, layering  an acellular material over that, then replacing the layer of fat and skin on top of it all and then create a nipple out of, I guess, whatever is left over? No idea. But mine are beyond saving, so they'd be newly created nipples. Apparently they can be tattooed, also. Who knew? The whole thing is fascinating. And not for me. The feelings and sensations would not be the same as the originals I have now and it can take (depending what you're reading) two to five years to restore most feeling as it is. What you have then is pretty much what you'll have forever. I'm hearing that massaging the area as much as possible helps keep things looser instead of too tight and keeps the scar tissue from being hard and weird. Let me state for the record that I am no expert on any of this, but I am learning a lot. The amount of information out there is amazing. What we ever did before the Internet, I'll never know. I can't imagine going back. 

Reconstruction from yourself takes the longest time to heal because you have more than one incision site. I was seriously thinking about it because I liked the idea of all the raw materials coming from myself. They nurse explained that thin women and very large women both often walk out disappointed; the thin women because they don't have enough material to work with and the very large women because fatty tissue is not the best replacement material. They said the ratio needs to be more than one to one. Oh well. 

So I decided that:

I've already nursed my babies for 15 months, 20 months, and 22 months, respectively. We're not in the market for any more, so I don't need them for feeding anyone else. 

They've never been that big of a deal for me. In fourth grade, my mother took me to my annual doctor's visit and I was asked if I wear a bra every day. My mother answered, "yes" and I angrily piped up, "nuh uh! I wear an undershirt as often as I can!" It was true. I preferred the undershirts with the tiny strip of lace along the front and the skinny little straps to any of the training bras I had. 

I don't want anything perky and bouncy and ridiculous when I am 80 and everything else looks like... I'm 80. That would be weird. Ew, no thanks. 

I don't want anything leaking or leaching into me. I don't want more surgeries. Yes, I understand they can put them in during the same surgery my originals come out. They're still manmade and I don't trust them. I am not in the market for fake.

I feel relieved that the decision is made and that, since I can't have the ones God gave me, I won't have any at all. I don't see me having a change of heart and desiring them down the road. I simply don't feel like fake ones are worth the potential risks down the road. I am not convinced that I need boobs to, one, look womanly or, two, feel sexy or, three, to be me. 

Three strikes and you're out. The girls are being banished. I reserve the right to mourn them and I'm sure there are moments or times or seasons where I will miss them. That's how life is. God won't love me any less if I have boobs or not. My family and friends won't either. Dada is supportive and plays an excellent devil's advocate to help me think everything through. Have I thought of everything? No, I'm sure there's aspects which haven't occurred to me. Am I scared about it? A bit, but most of the fear was about making the right decision. I am convinced this is what is best for me and my long term health. In the end that's what all of this is about anyway- my best shot at living my life while becoming and then staying cancer-free. PaPa pointed out that I can honestly say, "we threw everything at this health crisis and held nothing back." If I have a recurrence, God forbid, it will not be out of negligence on the part of my medical team or out of holding back and simply hoping for the best on my part. I will have gone through 6 rounds of chemo, surgery to remove the troublemaking breast and the at-this-point "good" breast, five and a half weeks of radiation five days a week, an entire year of IV meds roughly every three weeks as a preventative, plus an additional 5 to 10 years of maintenance medication. If you put that in terms of kids, I will be done with meds either when Carrie turns 20 or when she turns 25. She could be married by then. Liam will be almost done with high school or almost done with whatever college or vocational school he heads off to. Damon will be Liam's age now in 5 years and will be 18 in 10 years. That's a long time. I have a lot to do in those 5 to 10 years and am not willing to be popping back in for surgery to fix things back up should they fail or should I decide they're not working for me and need removed after all. I have better things to do.

Thank you to all of you who have been praying so faithfully as I waffle over what is, still, to me, a ridiculous choice. I told Dada that we are not meant to have to make choices like this about our bodies. If we were, when we're born we would come with a kit like Mr. Potato Head and could add pieces and parts however we chose. How do you balance "your body is a temple and belongs to the Lord" with "insurance will cover whatever because there is so much psychological weight attached to these particular body parts that society says are important"? Thank you for praying for wisdom and for being there to bounce ideas off of and for knowing when I was tired of talking and thinking about it and changing the subject and just for being your wonderful, supportive selves. I am blessed beyond measure, boobs or no boobs. So I'm going flat and not looking back. 


Stealing lines from fictional characters

"Ain't often you see a guy that green have the blues that bad..." muses Rowlf the Dog about Kermit the Frog after they finish singing "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along." At least, that's how it went on the tiny little record (!) my parents used to let me play. The other side featured, of course, "Rainbow Connection." 

I've been feeling greener around the gills than usual these last few days and once again it is hard to determine what is psychosomatic versus what is really happening. Am I greener because it's back to school and I'm now inundated with three buildings' worth of germs? Am I greener because "it's cumulative"- probably my most hated words at this point- and I'm full of chemicals I need to continue to flush out? Am I finally just worn down enough that the smells of grease from yummy bacon are overwhelming? Does it perhaps not help that Bosley ate one of Liam's pink erasers yesterday and then threw up his breakfast? Well, perhaps we all know the answer to that one... Ick.

At any rate, can we get a big hoorah that chemo is over?!

I continue to be struck by how closely my time in chemo resembles pregnancy. I'm probably beating a dead horse, but the smells/odors/aromas and the brain fog/tiredness are especially rough. I have no problem sitting down with a good book, but to be told repeatedly to behave myself and be still and let my body heal is hard. I'm an impatient patient. All I can hear is Inigo Montoya: I hate waiting. 

But that's where I am right now, in a season of waiting. I have to wait for my numbers to come back up before surgery. I have to wait for my kids to get on the bus and then off of the bus. I have to wait in lines, for replies, for the bus to get here so that one kid can turn around and hop in the car of a friend who's helping get said kid to the next destination, for bedtime, for the microwave to beep or the toaster oven to ding, for the surgeon's office to call me back, for a turn in the bathroom (and never mind that we have more than one). 

I still hate waiting.

I remember being told during each pregnancy to be good to myself and to not do too much because I was growing a human being and all that. It's still waiting. And boy, was that waiting. Waiting to see who each child would become. Waiting to see if they were healthy. Waiting to see the gender of our third child. Waiting is work. Waiting can make you feel like you're going crazy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Kilauea, chemo, and the dishwasher that wasn't

Today is the first day of school which means summer as we know it is over, never mind that there is still an entire month to go before autumn officially begins. Apparently nobody told Mother Nature to check her calendar, or else she also runs on school schedules, because it was a brisk 62 degrees with a playful breeze this morning. Liam made a quick change from shorts to sweat pants, all the kids left in hoodies, and I just about froze my poor naked bean my first trip out to the bus.

Which was understandably late by a few minutes. First day of school often has hiccups, I get it. The big kids had almost declared, "we missed it; it's too late" when I sent them back down the driveway. Within two more minutes, their bus trundled up to take them away.

We have a sophomore this year.

And a seventh grader.

No, PaPa, they're not 10 and 7. We can just hear you laughing.

Then it was the third grader's turn to catch his bus. 

Someone was absolutely delighted to learn the nature trick of using a stem to pop the flower off of a plant (and into unsuspecting victim's hair, face, etc) and was practicing earnestly. His bus is supposed to collect him at about quarter after 8 and we were out there before 10 after. We waited until twenty til 9 when Dada, bless his heart, decided to take him to school. I have no idea if we missed it because it was really early despite being late the first round or if it was really late from being stuck farther back in the queue. Again, first day is rife with snafus, I get it, but tomorrow is my last chemo and I will be half an hour away and therefore unable to take him if the bus fails...

When we look back on this summer, especially as I am terrible at remembering dates, it will be the summer Kilauea erupted and kept going, the summer I had chemo (which also felt at times like it would be never ending; I would swear it has been 100 days since the last round when tomorrow will be exactly 3 weeks, like every other round has been), and the summer we were without a dishwasher. The one that was part of the house when we bought it almost five years ago started limping along this winter and early spring. The button for "smart wash" stopped working, so I switched to using "normal wash." That one was next to give up the ghost, but "light wash" would light up... alas, then the "start" button quit. 


Nothing to be done once your "start" button goes, folks.

So there we were at the  Memorial Day weekend sales. We picked out a spiffy (we thought) new black one with a towel bar which would be delivered in a reasonable time as it was a special order. Said day comes and goes, no dishwasher. Eventually one shows up and has no towel bar, but at this point we decided we didn't care that much and we were happy to have assistance washing dishes for a family of five plus visitors. It's installed, installers leave, I load it, add soap, push buttons, and get "E 24". Google tells us that's an error regarding draining. Great.

After some phone calls and more days, that dishwasher is unloaded, dishes washed by hand, and the installers eventually come to remove it. They realize that the second new dishwasher they've brought to our home is not black but stainless steel. Oh dear. They don't even unload that one but do take the new/old black one sans towel bar which doesn't drain and apologize.

We go back and peruse more dishwashers, select a different brand and model, and now still have the gaping hole in the kitchen where a dishwasher belongs. Carrie is incredulous that she's been washing dishes all summer. First world problems. 

Feel free to place your bets as to whether we will have one by Labor Day or not. I never would have believed that all my chemo would be done before we received a working dishwasher. I guess time is relative. 

*Update* Ugh, sorry all the photos spewed into the middle. I guess that's why I don't blog after bedtime generally! Apparently they tweaked the bus schedule and Damon is to be picked up at 8:04 instead of 8:14. Now we know. Cross your fingers tomorrow is smoother! And while you're praying over my hopefully very last chemo ever, toss in some prayers for the good folks in Hawaii that Hurricane Lane downgrades and isn't as absolutely awful as it could be, please. It hasn't been the best year, that's for sure.