Sunday, January 30, 2011

I had a little dose of sadness yesterday, because M talked about getting family portraits made before she starts chemotherapy. Another one of those reality go along with the news from the oncologists. Nothing new, nothing we weren't expecting. Just that dose of reality we all get every time she goes to the doctor.

I've heard several people talk about loved ones who battled cancer, whose hair grew back completely different than it was before. What if it grows back dark and curly like mine? That would be kind of a hoot. Anyway, if our tentative plan works out, some little ones who don't have hair of their own will have wigs made from me, M & Mom's hair. We'll all go sassy and short before M loses hers. And in my commitment to look at the good side of things...115 degree summer day, might feel kind of good without a head of thick hair! Not her first choice, to be sure. Or even her 400th. But you've got to get through it, right?

Another thing working in our favor - timing. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Phoenix is Sunday, Oct. 9. By our calculations, M should be finished with chemo and radiation by that point, and had a chance to start feeling normal again. Then - a chance to celebrate her being cancer-free with a 5K with family and friends.

This will give her, and all of us, something to focus on and plan for while she's going through treatment. I'm getting kind of stoked. Even though we will plan to walk the 5K, I got so pumped about it that while I was at the gym on Saturday I actually jogged on the treadmill. If you don't know me well...this is a huge deal. I barely get to the gym regularly and am carrying PLENTY of leftover baby weight. But by god - if my sister can muscle through surgery, chemo and radiation - then I can damn well jog a couple of miles. Muscles are a little sore today, but totally worth it.

So ladies, get ready to raise some money for breast cancer research, and be thinking of a killer team name. One of my ideas? "Juggies", like on the Man Show. Hubby and I are huge Jimmy Kimmel/Adam Carolla fans. Let's come up with something awesome. I am waiting for them to post the registration information so that I can get it all set up...

Still, a few tears in the shower yesterday, after getting all this week's updates. Just a few. Your mind just goes there sometimes, especially when you're reminded of all the realities surrounding M's cancer and the things that are still unknown. That damn waiting rearing its head again. But she clearly has excellent doctors, who aren't wasting a moment in getting her every test and exam needed to move her along as quickly as possible.

Going online now to hook myself up with some of those little pink bracelets. If you want one, let me know :).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So I got all excited when I spoke to M on the phone the other day, because she mentioned donating her hair. I had been thinking the EXACT same thing, and had even looked up the Locks of Love website to see what the locks requirements were. 10 inches…I might have that much by March or April, when she will likely start chemo and the hair starts to go. Colored okay, but not bleached.

I’ve been kind of holding out for something I could do to show my support. I’d been thinking lately, perhaps subconsciously because of M’s cancer, but thinking nonetheless, that I might be done with the whole long hair thing. This would be perfect – we could go to see her hairdresser together, before hers starts to fall out, and get sassy short cuts and donate our hair. But…foiled. M’s lightest color is bleached. So I don’t think her hair is donatable (is that a word?). Apparently they can pick the gray out of mine, but not the bleached bits out of hers. Back to the drawing board.

So I thought, perhaps a subtle pink bow I could get for my purse, or even some of the pink rubber support bracelets that I could buy and send out to some of our closest family and friends. I went online to look around for what I might be able to get my hands on.

Lo and behold – you would not believe the breast cancer merchandise out there. I found everything from Ugg-style boots with the pink ribbon logo, to pink camouflage support ribbon-shaped kitchen sponges. I am all for supporting the cause, and if buying the camo kitchen sponge gives more money to breast cancer research, well then I suppose that’s a good thing. But good lord. Just make a nice $10 donation to Susan G. Komen.

But I guess, too, that that’s just my style, and different people deal with their journey in different ways. Putting that pink ribbon on everything they own may just help them feel better and get through difficult days. And I have to be supportive of that. However I will not be buying M a handmade ceramic pink ribbon wind chime for her back porch.

Monday, January 24, 2011

So I was talking to my sister tonight, and shared with her that I was doing some blogging about her ordeal. Private blog, of course; although she said she was okay with me writing where everyone can see.

She actually said she might like to read it, as long as I called it "my sister is awesome" and didn't have any depressing things about dying. Sense of humor - intact. So today I am going to send her an invitation to read this - after I change the blog name, and take off the hokey background with the birds.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What a difference a week makes.

Funny how you know yourself so well, but you still struggle, even though you know what you need to do. And doing that thing is still hard. You'd think it wouldn't be so hard to open that door with your own sister, one you love and are close to.

All I needed was to hear her voice and have a conversation - any conversation, really. Many conversations. Even though there is one big thing going on that is NOT part of what we would have previously called our "normal" lives, we have to recognize that it is going to have to become the new normal. Then we still have our kids, school, families, jobs...and those things deserve our attention, too. They will be key in helping her keep the cancer in perspective, and not letting it take over. I know I was worried about what I could do for her - not any more. I think I get it. And it's not anything I can buy or touch or, right now, really articulate.

During these two weeks since the initial diagnosis, I think the shock of the news left us all reeling, wondering what seat we should take on sister's breast cancer bus. Everyone, myself included, who love M needed to do something, wanted - needed - a seat. (And a couple of folks really want that seat up front). But what we really needed to do, still need to do, is just wait and sit where she wants us to sit. I think she'd prefer a minivan...but that's never going to happen. Too many people love her too much.

What has been the hardest so far, other than the news itself, has been the waiting. She had her surgery yesterday, and we got exactly what we'd hoped for - no surprises. But we have to wait for almost a full week for pathology to come back and let us know if any of those pesky cancer cells have snuck out of that golf ball-sized tumor and wandered into the lymph nodes, or farther. I can't imagine how good it must feel, though, for her to know that mean old tumor is not in her body any more. I hope that she is finding peace in that as she awaits the next round of news.

Prior to the surgery date, I kept telling people that I wanted to be there for my Mom. Wanted to support her through the process. Ha. Who was the one who broke down when the surgeon was giving us the low-down? Me. Who lost it two more times before we left the hospital? Me. Sometimes that reality just comes crashing down on you, and no matter how prepared you are, and how badly you want to be the strong one, you just are who you are. And I think I'm learning that it doesn't matter who is there for who - we're all there for M, and tears are a-ok.

Little side note...I am trying really hard to take the negative out, when possible, when referring to M's cancer journey. Cancer stinks, and the tumor was an ugly unwelcome visitor in her body. However the cancer journey happened for a reason, even if we've yet to fully understand what that reason is. But now that it's part of her life, I refuse to refer to it in a negative way, because, well, it's hers. She is a beautiful and wonderful person, and now, this journey is part of that.

So in that spirit, I'm going to try to make mention of anything positive that comes out of this. I have a couple. One is that I talked to my cousin today, and because of what's happened, she has scheduled a mammogram (she is under 40, too) to take a look at something that has been bothering her in her breast. Praying that it's nothing - but thanks to our cancer journey she's getting it checked out.

Two, and this one is a little farther removed, is my own introspection. This will be an ongoing story for me, I am sure. Today what I found, in my effort to reprioritize and figure out what's really important to accomplish during my waking hours, was a new pasture of peace and patience that allowed me to interact with my daughter in the loving and patient way I've been striving for. Homework at 7:30, right before bed, a lovely 1/2 hour spent with my 7 year old - unheard of, right? It was heaven, and I need to find that place much, much more often. In an indirect but significant way, I have M to thank for that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

As the days go by, it feels a tiny bit less shocking each time I think about it. Although I don't think you can ever get used to having a percentage tacked on to the likelihood of a loved one beating cancer. I know it's the doctor's job to be conservative, as false hope would not serve anyone well. And I think the odds are going to be very good. But still.

All I know to do at this point is to try and be there for her in the best way possible. I know my sister; she is very private. But she also has an army of wonderful friends who will soldier through this with her. They have already mobilized to pool money to get her an iPad for her to use during chemo. And they are joking about the casserole brigade. They will buy her Kindle gift cards and beautiful silk scarves. So what can I do? They are all stay at home moms; they will be able to cook for her and watch her kids and help her with errands. I live almost an hour away, and work full time. I can't give her nearly the support they can in these ways.

I am just so sensitive to not wanting to bombard her with calls or questions. I don't want her to cringe when she hears the phone ring again. I wish so badly that I knew what I could do for her. I know that if it were me, I wouldn't want to have to tell the same story over and over again; but I'm not her. I just don't know. And I NEED to do something to help.

I have always had what I would almost call a phobia, of not wanting to be a nuisance to people. A fear of the telephone - that I will interrupt people, or that they'll feel obligated to talk when they don't want to. A fear of reaching out, worried that people don't want to be bothered. It sounds silly when I try to verbalize it, but the truth is that it extends all the way to the people I love who are closest to me, with perhaps the exception of my Mom and my husband. I think what happens, with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, everyone, is that I end up missing out on relationships or even close friendships because I've been afraid to reach out or reciprocate. But now, I can't let this fear get in the way. I have to work through it. If I know M like I think I do, I suppose I should just ask her.

Today was my first day back at work after a two week holiday break. Naturally there were a few people I had to tell, as I expect to be out of the office a little over the next few weeks. I still get weepy when I tell someone for the first time; it's hard for me to understand why I continue to have this visceral reaction, as I've gotten pretty used to the news and think I have control over my emotions. My family and home life obviously keep me very busy, and help to keep my mind off of things...but last night, as has been the case several evenings since we heard the news, once I lay down with my husband and allow my mind to wander, I find my way back to this, and I cry.