Friday, March 30, 2012

Bigger Than

My new boobs would be one day old today.  I was supposed to wake up in ICU, and after THIS surgery, instead of peeking under the sheet and seeing a chest as flat as a counter where two fat bunnies used to live, I was supposed to see my new "foobs" as we call em in the business.  Foobs = fake boobs.

I woke up this morning in my own bed, still no chest, and a tummy like Pooh Bear waiting it's turn to donate fat and tissue for the cause.

Seems to me I've been on one hell of a roller coaster these last couple of years, and hit a major crescendo when my dear Uncle died, and unbelievably just when I thought this can't get worse, our Cara is diagnosed with leukemia, and my surgery cancelled again.

Three months off work and nothing to show for it except a couple of herniated discs and a pinched nerve, a kidney stone, and a broken heart.

That's how it feels sometimes, especially when I think about Cara.  It's hard reliving this whole thing, up so close, it's hard seeing her go through the grief and fear and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis, hard seeing her go through the rigors of chemo and all its brutal side effects, hard not having her home and coming to visit.  Hard to see her hurting, sick, scared, losing her hair, and stuck in a hospital bed in a hospital room for days and weeks on end.  She's 20 years old, just 20.  Why did this have to happen to her?  Why?  It's just hard hard stuff, and there is no way to take the ouch out of this.  It hurts.  Bad.

Every single day I look for sanctuary, sometimes taking it minute by minute, other times feeling as if I'm just dragging my heart around on the ground, aching for Cara, and her Mama and Step Dad, and her Dad, and her Sister, and my son, her boyfriend.  I ache.

There is no way to take the ouch out of this.

and that's when I remind myself
about the "C" bigger than cancer.
Way bigger.

I get lost in my worry, and He finds me.
I feel heart broken, and He arrives, the Heart Mender.
I feel helpless, and that's when I realize I need to let go and let Him.

I can't do this.
This hurts.
I don't think I can.
I really don't think I can.
I can't.

and then,
a peace comes over me,
as if someone who loves me whispers in my ear,
as if someone who loves me pats me when I cry,
as if someone who loves me says -

There there now.
There there now sweet girl.
Have faith.
Trust in My timing.
I am at work.
I was at work before you even had a hint
of the bad that was coming.
There is a plan.
There is a plan for all these things to come together,
bringing you closer,
to each other,
and Me.

There there now.
I've got this, He reminds.

"K" I say in a small voice.
"K" I whimper.

There is a "C" bigger than cancer,
bigger than my heart ache,
bigger than my disappointments,
bigger than my life.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another Furry Angel, Rapunzel Revisited, and We're Sorry - No Boobs for You

Thank you so very much for all the prayers and support for our girl Cara, who continues her battle with leukemia.  Cara is half way through her chemo induction, which requires her to remain in the hospital the whole time.  She is a real trooper and a fighter, and has continued to show courage and cheerfulness throughout this difficult and unbelievable challenge. 

I have posted often about all the angels that came into my life after diagnosis, and especially during treatment.  Some of those are furry angels.  I don't know how I would have gotten through treatment without my at home nursing staff of Hallie, her sister Cassie, and Little Muffin.

Cassie and Talking Hallie

Five months of chemo and doggies never left my side

Little Miss Muffin, the cutest rascal poodle diva ever.
I thought you would enjoy these photos of Cara with a special Angel who comes to visit her in the hospital.  Her name is Nilani and she is a service dog who visits the pediatric oncology ward where Cara is residing and receiving treatment.  Oh how it brightens Cara's day and makes her so happy, content and relaxed when Lani Dog comes to call and cuddle.

She even has her own security badge!

I can't say enough how these furry creatures are God's angels, especially during challenging or heartbreaking times in our human life.

This was a difficult week for Cara, as her beautiful hair started coming out in clumps and covering her pillow.  This is such a hard hard side effect of treatment, and with every handful it is such a loss and a shock.  I wrote a blog post titled "Rapunzel" when I really started to lose my hair, I know many of you will remember it.

Here is an excerpt from that post from May 2010, and I refer to Cara as Baby Bear:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

No problem.

I know what you're thinking. When is this girl gonna lose all that hair so we don't have to hear about it anymore?

Pretty quick here folks.

It is my new parlor trick. Some people have all kinds of stupid human tricks they can do. I finally have one. I can run my fingers through my hair and huge bundles of it come away in my hand. Then I curl it around my finger, and the little curled bundle stays. Unless I roll it into a meatball that is.

Remember that Oprah show "You get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car..."

I gave out all kinds of little bundles today. Raise your hand. Who didn't get one?

It is getting easier now. Not so hard as those first couple of days. I didn't cry this morning when the biggest skein of it came out. [For you non-knitters, when you look up skein, it is not the flock of geese in flight definition.] I had lunch plans for today. I decided after that first run through with the comb that I better stop combing unless I wanted to go to lunch bald. Not yet. There will be plenty of bald lunches.

I will miss the sparkly hair combs and barrettes and scrunchies and bobby pins with rhinestones. I will miss my blow dryer, hot rollers and flat iron. The shampoo and conditioner. The sprays and mousses and gels and waxes. The spray in glitter at Halloween.

I will miss braiding it, teasing it, and combing it. I will miss the pony tails, the up do's, the work do and the morning after do.

Lots of lovely things happened to me today. I will tell you about them maybe tomorrow. Not tonight.

Tonight I still need to talk to me about my hair. This is like the wake. I think the service will be on Sunday.

I showed my trick to this house full of boys I live with. They all seemed to have the same reaction. Kind of cool, kind of wicked Mom.

I waited for Baby Bear to come over. I knew she would understand. If you need a reminder, Baby Bear is Batman's girlfriend. She has a beautiful thick long head of hair and she wears it in all kinds of styles. Straight and curly and corn rowed and you name it.

I showed her my wicked trick.

"Aw" she said with just the right mixture of horror and sadness; her pouting lip punctuated her reaction. That's what I needed. From one big hair girl to another. My old sisterhood. Alpha Gamma Delta Diva of Big Hair.

I'm part of a new sorority now.

This is my wicked hazing.

One curly bundle of gold at a time.

Here I am, after my wicked hazing into cancer sorority was complete.

It's still so hard to believe that two years later, Cara faced this very challenge.  This is Cara now, wearing one of the hats lovingly made by Kimberly's gang!

Cutie patootie with or without hair!
For those of you starting chemo, and facing the loss of your hair, I highly recommend you get a cute short haircut the first week of chemo.  My hair started coming out ten days or so after that first infusion.  You can hold on to your hair as long as you feel comfortable, but I found that once it starting coming out in huge clumps it was just too depressing.  I needed it gone.  I reminded Cara of this, and that as difficult as it is to willingly buzz your own head, it's much easier to start dealing with once you do.  She made the decision for herself when she was ready, and with my son and her Mama present, an oncology nurse lovingly buzzed Cara's head on Tuesday evening.

Cara's Cure is a website where you can support Cara and her family with donations to help the exorbitant cost of her treatment and care.  Even the smallest donation is a blessing for this family.  

Those of us who have faced a major health crisis know that even with the best of insurance, the unanticipated debt and financial hardship of cancer treatment can be overwhelming.  This is a great way to chip in and show your support for Cara and her family.

I will keep you posted on her progress, we are hoping she will be home for Easter.  If not, her step Dad Brian has offered to dress in a bunny suit and deliver Easter eggs to her hospital room.  We all want Cara home, but we sure would enjoy that!


The bracelet says "Cara's Cure - Pray Believe Hope"
I've got my bracelet on.  When my oldest son got home from visiting his girl in the hospital, he had the bracelets for our family with him.  It was very late, and he went into his sleeping brother's room and placed the bracelet on his wrist.  He told his brother who woke slightly "You probably won't remember this..."  I had to laugh when the baby bro woke up the next morning, looked at his wrist and thought "hey, what's this?" until he remembered his brother placing it on him.  We all love Cara in this house.

In the meantime, my reconstruction journey continues to take harrowing twists and turns that often gets the best of me, but I'm trying to get back up on the pony.  The highlights?  After having to cancel my surgery in January, I've had three months off of work and all I have to show for it is a pinched nerve and a kidney stone.  No boobs for the foreseeable future.

Lord help me see your tender mercies new every morning, and give me the strength and sense of humor to live in this body altered by cancer treatment until you clear the way for



I'm trying Lord.  I'm trying to keep the faith, but I already had my whole new Victoria's Secret bra wardrobe picked out!


Thursday, March 8, 2012


There are so many things you go through after a cancer diagnosis and treatment, things real and imagined, stories you tell yourself, sometimes lies, so you can do what you have to do, get through what seems impossible, insurmountable.

There were times I felt relieved that I could take the bullet, so to speak, with a cancer diagnosis, and irrationally I thought, maybe this is as close as it will get, this is as much as cancer will take from us, I paid the price, we are done.  During Breast Cancer Awareness in October, when I wrote posts that whole month I said I hoped that since one in eight women will face a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime,

I hope I am the one in your eight.  I prayed that for you.  Let me be the one in your eight.

Our family received another harsh and cruel reminder that cancer doesn't work that way.  It doesn't care if you and your family have just finished a hard hard battle, it doesn't care how old you are, it doesn't care what life plans you had, it doesn't care how much you are loved or needed or how good a person you are.  Cancer does not care.  It is an equal opportunity plague and it is ruthless in its disregard.

Cancer doesn't work that way.

There is a girl I love very much, and I have mentioned her here on the blog many times.  I called her "Baby Bear" on the blog, she is my son's girlfriend, a member of our family, and like a daughter to me.  She was very supportive of me through cancer treatment - I remember when early in chemo I could run my fingers through my hair and big clumps would come out in my hand.  I knew the boys in this house would not understand the grief and loss I felt over this, being a girly girl and a long hair girl my whole life.  I knew Baby Bear would understand, and when I showed her she said "awwww" and shared my pain.

We all love Baby Bear in this house, including our doggies, especially Muffin who goes crazy when Baby Bear is over.  When Baby Bear holds that crazy poodle in her arms, Muffin completely relaxes and is like a baby in her arms, her fluffy puffy ears flopping, her little paws crossed.

We all love Baby Bear in this house.

Baby Bear is all kinds of things to all kinds of people, a daughter, a Sister, a girlfriend, a friend, and a mentor for the middle school girls where she is their Color Guard Instructor.  She writes their shows, teaches them the shows, coaches them and attends all of their competitions.

She is your typical and not so typical 20 year old, she loves Marilyn Monroe and Tiffany's, purple is her favorite color and she loves big glasses of chocolate milk made by her boyfriend.  She loves dance and is a beautiful dancer herself, and was often a featured dancer in Color Guard in high school.  She loves Katy Perry and Beyonce and Usher.  Her favorite Disney movie is Lilo and Stitch, and her favorite Disney character is Belle.  She loves Starbucks and her iPhone and iPad.  She loves the show "So You Think You Can Dance." She is an excellent student and role model for the girls she devotedly teaches.

Baby Bear has a name.

It is Cara.

Now she adds one more thing to her incredible list of feats and achievements and challenges.

She was diagnosed with leukemia, a form called ALL.
20 years old.
Fighting a hard battle.
For her life.

They wasted no time when Cara was diagnosed, treatment started immediately with filtering her blood, two blood transfusions, a PICC line installed in her arm, a lumbar puncture to have chemo go directly into her bone marrow in her spine, and more IV's and pills than any person, any 20 year old, should have to endure.

Cara will spend her first month in treatment living at the hospital, she just finished her first week!  She has a two to three year course of chemo ahead of her.  We are all praying for a complete recovery and remission for her, and the strength and faith and grace to get there.

As those of you cancer survivors know, cancer treatment is a full time job, cancer completely clears your calendar, it is what you do every minute of every day, but it does not have to define you.  You are still you. Cara is still our Cara.

Here she is after getting her hair cut to get ready for what's coming, as she will lose her hair.

I've been saying, and I'll say it again, isn't she about the cutest chemo girl you have ever seen in your life?  Cara.  You win.

Cara continues to handle this whole ordeal like the Warrior she is, and we are all so proud of her.

I don't even know how to explain to you the grief and shock I felt upon hearing of Cara's diagnosis.  We knew she had been run down, but who isn't these days, and initially they thought it might be mono.  I laughed to myself thinking maybe my son would have mono too and the two of them would convalesce with their iPhones and chocolate milk and favorite Disney movies playing.  Who'd a thunk in a million gazillion years on any planet in the universe that this girl would face a leukemia diagnosis?

I cried harder for Cara then I did after receiving my diagnosis.  I cried a whole lot harder.  I cried for her, and my son, and her family, and everyone who loves Cara.  I know first hand this is hard hard stuff.  For everyone.

Cara has made all of this easier on all of us, by being so strong and cheerful and resilient and funny.  She is awesome and if there was an award for Tough Cookie, she would get it.

So when you get out of bed this morning, after sleeping in your own bed, when you drag your ass around taking your life for granted, when you complain about things that mean nothing and make your mountains out of mole hills, when you whine about this or that or the other,

just remember,

out there

is fighting for her life,
just to survive.

Love your life.
Show up for the people you love.
Show up for yourself.
Live with an attitude of gratitude.
Be of service to others.
Laugh louder than the crying.

And don't ever forget that if you have your health, you are rich Baby!

Will you take a moment in your day,
and pray for Cara?

I love you Cara.  You go Girl.  You got this.

God's got this.


Would you like to know more about ALL, or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia?  Check out the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society website by clicking here.

Like to know more about Cara's treatment?  Check out this link from the UCSF website.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...