Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chemo #5: On the Home Stretch!

Me rockin' my Sponge Bob beanie next to my rock star chemo nurse, Martha

Yesterday's chemo #5 had so many special moments wrapped up into one that I hardly know where to start.

For obvious reasons in my family's mind, yesterday marked 14 years since my dad unexpectedly passed away.  And as he always used to say, "All the best and most important things happen in June... Father's Day, Flag Day and my birthday!" So, of course he timed it so he passed away in June. Just one more time to prove his point of the significance of this month so of course, I dedicated this treatment to him, his strength, his humor and sensitivity. I knew he was by my side as both tears and laughter hit me throughout the day.

On another note, it was my niece Maddie's 5th birthday (Hannah's younger sister) who is psyched to be aging slightly as she is gearing up for Kindergarten in the fall. A fun yet slightly nervous anticipation for her.

And as kids go, I decided to sport a beanie that my 11 year-old neighbor, Sam brought over to me. In fact, he traipsed across the driveway about a month ago with a basket full of groovy yet boyish beanies for me to borrow for my head. I finally came down to 2 of them and made my way back across to his house a few days ago asking him which one I should wear for my next treatment as I held them both up for his final viewing and vote - "Flames or Sponge Bob?" And without an ounce of hesitation, he just gave me a firm nod from across the room and said "Sponge Bob!" So, there you have it. And may I also say that I have never received so many complements from the cancer center staff and fellow chemo-mates about my headgear as I did yesterday.

And as usual, Julie-Bunny did a quick surprise drive by to say a loving hello and to hold my hand during the infusion as Hil took a quick break for herself. So, we kicked her out yet again with her Kindle in hand for some prime reading time. But as always, Julie brought a bundle of love and care along with a video from her boys who keep sending me awesome songs to lift my spirits. They are such talented young boys and I simply love the sweet gesture and their costumes (leather jackets, bling & caps). So, we sent one back two days ago and apparently we are now in a video sing-off with this testosterone trio. Bring it on boys, we're ready!

All in all, it was a pretty good chemo day. Great staff, my dad by my side, a new arm to poke and infuse and my old meds to help with the 'ol nausea. So, pray to the Chemo Gods for me that this round goes much easier and that I'll be up and ready to roll for my last chemo on July 17th!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fun with Frankel!

A good friend (thank you Sydney!) and chemo veteran said to me nearly two months ago, "You've got to find some fun things to do when you feel good!" Within an hour, I went online and applied to go to the new Bethenny Frankel Show produced by Ellen. "Hmmm" I thought, "This could qualify as fun." It's free, I think Bethenny is fun herself and I hope to drink one of her Skinny Girl margaritas by the end of summer.

A few weeks later, I got a call from the Ellen Degeneres Show stating that if I wanted two tickets to the new summer show, guaranteed tickets to see Ellen in the Fall, and a chance at attending one of her '12 Days of Christmas' shows then they were mine.

Pause.... (2 seconds) - "Uh, yeah" Mr. Audience Director, "Sign me up!"

So, the timing as I had hoped, worked out uber perfectly. Rough week last week... rested all day Monday... hopped in the car yesterday and headed to Burbank at 8:45 in the morning (showered AND dressed!).

The process went fairly easily (minus Hil misplacing her studio ticket minutes before our group got called up) as there was a buzz of excitement throughout the several hour wait.  And the estrogen-fest in the holding tank made for some good people-watching before we all made our way into Stage 1 at Warner Bros Studio.

Once inside, I forgot all about cancer, chemo, burnt veins and my bald head as my focus immediately shifted to a frenzy of screaming, clapping and dancing with 200 of my newest gal-pals. The 'Crowd Guy' quickly got everyone onto their feet and explained to us the dos and don'ts of the show and the commercial breaks were filled with dance-offs and giveaways.

Suddenly I was consumed by Stiletto Defense Classes, Dancing With the Stars' Maksim's shyness with women and bathing suit makeovers (love the new knit pants trend!). The Skinny Girl bartender (6 feet away) even provided Bethenny with a margarita and a straw to sit on Maksim's very fit, table-like derriere that she sipped her cocktail from.

Next thing you know, it's two hours later and I'm beyond exhausted from my newly-found fun and hoopla!  Man, I haven't had a workout like that since last Fall (clapping and standing is exhausting!). And it must have showed because as we were leaving the studio, we ended up chewing the fat with 'Crowd Guy' who not only took our picture but tapped me on the back as we were leaving and flung an Ellen shirt over my shoulder with a 'Here, take this and..... blessings to you!"

WOW! What a day. Note to self, MUST schedule more fun things to do when I'm feeling good. Next adventure....who knows? Maybe I'll take the cancer center up on one of those free glider rides for patients that they offered to me at the onset of treatment. Heck, if I can endure chemo, I'm certain I could soar like an eagle above the mountains.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day Dad!

Nearly 14 years have passed since I lost my dad yet hardly a day goes by that I don't think about him. And at a time when I really need him, this Father's Day means even more to me. Because honestly, I could really use a big 'ol bear hug from my dad right now along with some of his wonderful wisdom and 'Dad-isms.' Or, maybe just an old fashioned Sunday drive in silence would hit the spot. Better yet, riding horseback through the 'back country' together like we used to would be even better. Whatever the case, I just really miss him and wish he were right by my side when I need him the most. So, to that, I suppose I simply have to believe that he's been by my side this whole time whispering in my ear his standard "I love you two biggers and a whole lot!"

Ditto Dad and Happy Father's Day. xoxo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chemo #4: Friends, Love & Nosh!

There's something to be said about getting over the chemo hump and having only 2 more treatments before I'm solely on Herceptin for the next year. It really does put you in a different medical mindset. Couple that with some expected and unexpected visitors and it's a recipe for inspiration and hope. So, here's how my chemo treatment day played out...

First and foremost, we can never show enough gratitude for the chemo, oncology staff. These people work themselves silly and walk way beyond those 10,000 recommended pedometer steps each day all the while smiling, joking and laughing. That's why this bag of treats for them came with a big dose of gratitude, a 'double delight' rose from my cousin's garden in Monterey and a bag full of fresh cherries. THANK YOU to my amazing team of peeps at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.

My second 'double delight' of the day was both a planned and a surprise visit from good friends Sydney (AKA,  'Breast Cancer Survivor Rock Star') and Julie (AKA 'Julie- Bunny').  Sydney took a quick break from her baby-delivery job up the street at Cottage Hospital to come down and sit with me while Julie was bringing her mom Zeb in for yet another  follow-up appointment with our great oncologist 'Dr. G.' What a fun, spontaneous visit with these gals that unfortunately know first hand the ride that breast cancer has taken us all on over the past couple of years. 

Enter Zeb, 'Julie-Bunny's' mom who popped in to snap a quick pic with Sydney and myself for an official pose as the 'Greenwald Girls' - Dr. G's crew of gals that he has seen over the past months and years. Boy do we gals have some stories to tell, but most importantly, we share the common mindset of moving forward as breast cancer warriors.  We've all sat in this room for hours on end and yet we know there's more to life than meds, chemo, surgeries and baldness. Hey, sounds like a rap song to me!

Zeb and I comparing our 'domes'  as I told her that I hope my hair comes in as hip and cute as hers come August or September. We both decided that we'd like to rock the short hair 'do' for a while as neither one of us has never done before. Why not? Life is short and so is our hair.
P.S. I've been bogarting this chemo chair each time I come in for my treatments. It's the same one Zeb sat in for hers and that brings me some comfort;  although her grandson still doesn't understand 'Why Yog is there now' and sitting in 'Grandma's chair' but I still do it. The nurses know it and it's all ready for me when I walk in each time.

One of my favorite moments of the day was with Julie-Bunny who is always up for some fun! We started to take a picture together when I said "Hey, can I try on some of your hair?" And of course, she was all over that photo op. We did a few takes and she even styled this one so that it 'draped my face' a little. What a blast!
Even more special has been Julie's never-ending support and love that dates back years when we worked together as speech therapists in a private clinic in Santa Barbara to today. The fun and friendship hasn't stopped since then.
Fast forward 3 kids, 2 breast cancer diagnosis for her mom and now my run with my 3rd BC, she's been there for both Hil and I every step of the way. Love, Love, Love our Julie-Bunny!

Oh Angela (AKA - 'My Angela' ).Yet another volunteer to come sit with me to give Hil a break during her own busy day of kids, work training, preparing for her honemoon, you name it. We just met back in December in one of my doctor's offices and have become fast friends. She makes us laugh beyond laugh and we never seem to run out of crazy, funny stories to tell. She's just so very uplifting and did I mention hilarious! She joined us for a patio 'chemoluncheon' outside the chemo room and even threatened to do a pole dance on my chemo med pole for my dining pleasure and entertainment. Hey, no doubting people, I know she'll do it! I just didn't know if I can take all that laughter while being infused with chemo drugs at the same time. But seriously, many thanks for the visit from our new gal-pal.

Last, but NOT least, is my fave chemo nurse Martha. Always wearing this smile while running between patients and "Hey Martha..." requests - this gal is a bundle of energy and love! I can't even find the right words to describe her dedication, kindness and skillfulness as a nurse. She knows her stuff, does it well all the while telling funny stories from her paddle-boarding escapades to her children.
In the meantime, she's always wanting to know what's going on with us with a wonderful listening ear and an open heart. She's her own 'double-delight' rose in my book and I'm grateful to know I will have the pleasure of seeing her over this next year of treatment in the chemo room.