Chemo Round 6

This week was round 6 of chemo, round 2 of the new drug. As you can see, my attitude has improved. Also my regular nurse, Aimee, was back after a couple weeks away for various reasons and I was super happy to harass chat with her again.

The entire thing went a little quicker this time since I tolerated it so well last time. I only had half the Bendaryl (It still made me sleepy enough that I napped through most of my infusion), and the chemo could drip a little quicker–one hour. So I was in and out in under 3 hours this time.

And just like last time, I napped in the afternoon at home, and was ready to rock today!

The boys had their last day of swim lessons for this year this morning, and then I took Eddie to school with me to get some things done in my classroom (the little two went to daycare).

It was pretty fun to spend time with him. He’s at an age where he is so helpful and fun to hang out with. Although he talked NON-STOP while he worked, so I had to busy myself with things that weren’t thinking-intensive so I could listen and chat back with him. The teachers who were around all commented, “well, he’s basically you, isn’t he?” Yes, yes he is. And I love it.

I am back to work on Monday, so it was important I get some stuff done today, and he helped with that. I have teacher time to work some more Monday and then meetings all day Tuesday. Wednesday I will be out for chemo, but kids will be walking through that door!

It’s hard to believe summer is pretty much over for me. I feel like I really only got two weeks, but I am grateful to have gone through the really hard, comatose days during the summer and not during the school year.

I’m grateful to my co-workers who have helped me move desks and work around some scheduling things for my students while I’m out to give them some routine. I appreciate how supportive the administration has been to find someone who can be a regular presence for my students and for me.

I’m excited to start the school year, but get some anxiety looking at the calendar since I know I have to work in time to do my PhD class and help bring kids to sports practice and scouts. Plus we want family time and fun time too.

I know some of you like specific things to pray for, so here you go: my anxiety, my body continuing to do well with this drug, and the kids as they transition to back to school in the coming weeks (we find out teachers tomorrow! Woot!)–especially Charlie who has some anxiety with change.

6/16 Done

Looking Forward

As my mom and Charlie would say, “Mom’s pep is back.”

Round 3 was hell. Monday I totally hit rock bottom. It was the perfect storm of fatigue, not leaving the house for 4 days, not eating properly, and a big dose of depression. I sobbed in the shower.

Then Cortney sat by me, affirmed my feelings were valid and just, and then told me to get ready because we were going to a minor league ball game with friends.

The laughter and adult conversation and fresh air did it. My smile came back.

Along with my smile, my ability to look forward to things came back with a rush. I realized that I only have a month before students will be walking through my classroom door ready (or not) for their 8th grade year of school.

Between now and then I will have my last dense dose chemo treatment, and two of the Taxol chemo treatments. In fact, because school starts on a Wednesday, I will be having a chemo treatment rather than meeting my students. I will be leaving a video of myself for the sub to play. I hate it, but I’m hoping to teach my students flexibility from Day 1.

This is the first summer I have not done an full inventory on my classroom library. I just haven’t been able to get into my classroom due to my health. I did go through my Book Check Outs and mark what was not returned and added those back to my classroom library wish list on Amazon. I also added some new titles that are either soon-to-be published or popped up on my radar as excellent.

When I don’t have chemo brain, I’ve also been reading a lot to try to make my own teaching better. Some of my main goals this school year are: better student engagement, more student-teacher conferencing, and more student-to-student talk. A classroom library goal is to make book check out smoother/student led, make my library even more inviting, and offer more options (audio books, magazines, etc.). I created a separate teacher wish list on Amazon for those things along with some other school supplies that we tend to go through super quickly.

I’ve saved up and ordered my favorite lesson plan book (it should be here on Monday!), and have already started planning the first few days in a notebook. I getting super excited about a new crew of 8th graders, trying new routines and strategies, and just being back to work.

So many people have asked how they can help me through my journey and I honestly don’t know other than prayers and positive thoughts. So rather than me, you could bless my students if you want to check out my wish lists. I will be out every Wednesday for treatment through October, so they will be affected by all this too. I’m looking at it as a lesson in empathy and flexibility for them this year. It can be a super positive experience for them if I can manage to put that spin on it.

Thank you all for having hope and strength and faith when I hit the pit. Thank you for always supporting my family, and the extension of that, my students. Because to me, they become little families each school year.

Chemo Round 3

I have been sort of waiting to feel better before I write about it this time, but the truth is that it’s getting harder.

After the first round, when I realized that I wouldn’t be barfing my face off or have horrid bone pain, there was a moment of relief. But as it came time to do it again, dread set in anyway.

This third time has been the worst so far.

I have some major chemotherapy depression.  (Don’t worry, I have an appointment this week with my therapist and an appointment with a specialized oncology therapist coming soon too)

As my chemotherapy approaches, I get a horrible sense of dread. I cry. I get tired. I don’t want to put myself in that chair of poison.

This time as I sat there, I wanted to barf or sleep. It made me nauseated to think about this shit being pumped into my veins.

I hate my bald head.

Thursday I barely made it until the boys were picked up before falling asleep. I used to love naps. Now I lose DAYS to naps and don’t feel better after.

Friday didn’t exist because I slept through it.

Saturday was more of the same, but more depression set in because it starts to feel like I will never feel better. Ever.

And I hate my bald head. I hate it.

I know that is shallow and it will grow back and it’s a sign of being a warrior or whatever, but I hate it. I want a ponytail. I want to be able to at least LOOK like nothing is wrong even though it is.

I’ve completely lost interest in fun because I just assume I won’t have any. I’ll be thinking about my stupid head. I’ll be worrying that I am tired or nauseated. I’ll be thinking about getting enough rest to deal with the children the next day.

Just typing that makes me cry.

I’m just so tired all the time. Part of it is chemo, part of it is depression.

I only have one of the dose dense chemo rounds left. The next drug they give me (up to 12 rounds) is not supposed to be this difficult, but it’s hard for me to believe that. It’s hard for me to believe I will want to go back to work because right now it feels like there would be no way. I feel unable to do my life at all.

And I hate it.

My positive attitude is waning.

3/16 done.

Chemo Round 2

Wednesday was my second round of chemotherapy. It took a couple hours extra because my port was blocked. Apparently my body was trying to heal it by putting a scab over it. It took a couple hours and some different meds to dissolve the scab. Gross, but necessary.

The bonus to having to sit in the chemo chair an extra two hours was that I was there when my friend the RN (with a bunch of other important letters after her name plus she’s getting her doctorate next for even more letters because she is a crazy school nerd like me. Boom.) came in to the clinic. I like the RN because she is sassy, knows my family well, and loves Pearl Jam. I love the RN because she is like best friends with my brother and still likes me.

Anyway, when you’re going through something like chemo, it’s one of the biggest blessings in the world to have someone like the RN on your friend list and in your contacts. She “gets” to answer all of my fun questions like, “is this (fill in the blank with something weird) normal?” and “can I take a bath?” and “should I keep my lip wax appointments during chemo?” The answer, by the way, to all of them is “yes”.

The last picture taken of me with hair.

The rest of chemo went pretty much the same as last time: Fluids and anti-nausea meds followed by the Red Devil chemo drug and then the bag of other chemo drugs. My hair had started thinning out the day before, so we talked about shaving it and head wraps and wigs.

Thursday the boys were home with me for the morning and early afternoon, then they were picked up for a sleepover and pool fun with some of their best friends since birth. They lived their very best life Thursday to Friday.

Thursday afternoon I started getting super tired, and I bottomed out on Friday. Just like last time I had trouble being awake for more than 20 minutes. It was good the boys were gone and Alice was at daycare because I barely woke up to even eat or pee.

Saturday was still pretty drowsy, but I started to come around a bit by evening. I had more nausea this time, but I think that is because I didn’t do as well drinking lots of water as I did last time. It’s hard to drink when you’re sleeping. And I only woke up enough to take another pill and fall back to sleep, so I am sure my body had a harder time bouncing back. I haven’t had a ton to eat either, so I’m sure that is not helping. Nothing sounds good.

I also had Cortney shave my head on Saturday.

My hair started falling out in clumps and it was getting unmanageable and sort of traumatic for me. I’ll write more about the process I’m sure, but there was crying and hugging and Cortney will say he did a terrible job, but it was quick and painless. I don’t love my buzzed head, but it is what it is for now. Charlie loves to touch it because it’s soft.

Today I’m still dragging a bit, but I haven’t taken a nap yet (although my yawns are getting long). Tomorrow Charlie will be home with me and we have one appointment in the afternoon we have to make, but other than that we can lay low. Which is good because the heat index is well over 100 and my body is NOT a fan of that (as if anyone’s is).

While this all sucks and I hate feeling so run down and depleted, I will say tears of gratitude sprang up numerous times during this round. From having a friend on the inside, to having friends love our boys so unconditionally, to having a place where Alice feels love and routine, to having so much food we actually skipped getting groceries this weekend–we are very blessed even in this time of trial.

2/16 done.

Peace in the Storm

I know this may come as a shock, but I would rather be the helper, then be helped. I’m not good at asking for assistance with anything.

In my marriage, I have had to learn to ask for things because, surprise! Cortney can’t read my mind. I’m still not always good at asking because many times I don’t like to admit I can’t just do things myself. Since having kids and going through depression and anxiety, I have learned strategies for knowing when I am getting overwhelmed and need to reach out. I still battle with feeling shame and apologizing when I ask for help.

Even in my career I have a tendency to take everything on. I love planning and scheming up awesome things to do, but when it comes to doling out responsibilities for making it happen, I will usually do it all (or most of it) myself. I know this is not just bad for me, but bad for my relationships with my colleagues too because we need to have a trust that we can rely on each other to make the awesome happen. I’m working to be better in this area, and honestly I have some of the best teammates in the world, which has made it easier.

When life turns crazy, and we journey through a storm, I get even worse. When other people are going through hard times, you can count on me to send cards, gift cards, and meals. I want to help. I want to make the storm less stormy in some way.

I am learning to accept–and even ask for–help during our storm.

Because as positive of a spin we are trying to put on it, chemotherapy is definitely a storm. I’ve only had one treatment, but having it wipe me out of commission for at least 48 hours is no joke. I lose energy quicker than usual, but can suddenly find myself dealing with insomnia. I can get sunburned while it’s cloudy and raining (ok, maybe that’s hyperbole), and my immune system is not as hearty as it used to be.

This affects my whole family, not just me, as you can probably guess. I would say other than me, Cortney is probably affected the most. He has to navigate how to pilot our family through the storm on his own for those days when I am pretty much just sleeping. Those waters can be rough, friends.

It means feeding the children, getting them to childcare so he can work, making sure my needs are met, and managing all his other normal obligations to our team. It’s a lot emotionally.

The kids are also affected. Mom looks normal (for now), but can’t stop sleeping. She seems normal, but needs to be careful of public places and germs and being outside too long.

I can’t speak for Cortney or the kids, but I have found peace in this storm in a way I didn’t think I would: the help of others.

Cancer takes a ton of control away. It feels like it should be life stopping, but the thing is, life does not actually stop. It keeps moving even when you want to push pause to be able to work through what cancer and treatment all mean. Life laughs at stopping.

So a storm brews.

And the only way to weather it is to reach out and know there are people there who will love you right through it.

My close friend, The Pastor (not to be confused with the Pastor’s Wife who is not the wife of this particular pastor. Follow?), said to me, “Create a meal sign up. Ask for help. If you take charge it will be empowering for you.” She was right. Naming the things that would help, helped me to feel at peace.

But it didn’t stop there. People saw those requests and went beyond.

We have received meals, yes, but we have also been blessed with

  • a prayer shawl from the knitting ministry
  • books and devotionals
  • coloring books
  • treats for the kids
  • treats for the adults
  • head scarves
  • gift certificates to food the kids like
  • gift certificates to get frozen yogurt
  • bluetooth earbuds for chemo treatments
  • notebooks
  • and other care package items you are all so creative to think of

I have been daily learning the power of reaching out and the power of letting grace and love surround you. They bring peace.

While our life is anything but calm, leaning on others and letting their prayers and good thoughts wash over us has brought soothing waves of peace.

Thank you.

We feel you standing, sitting, and walking with us.

 

 

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