Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Which House do you Belong?

The sorting hat says that I belong in Hufflepuff!

Said Hufflepuff, "I'll teach the lot, and treat them just the same."

Hufflepuff students are friendly, fair-minded, modest, and hard-working. A well-known member was Cedric Diggory, who represented Hogwarts in the most recent Triwizard Tournament.

Take the most scientific Harry Potter
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Really Am Just Human

LOL Ok, so the title is a bit strange. I'm just in one of those moods I guess. I guess I need to give a bit of background to explain before I go on...

I get told, several times a day, that people are amazed at how I have handled my journey through brain tumor, surgery, learning it's cancer, and radiation. I've been called (and I quote) "Superwoman, Amazing, Unbelievable, Crazy, etc." As much as I try to explain that I am none of those things, still someone else will read or hear my story and repeat the statements.

I will admit that I have had people who have been through it say similar things. I honestly don't know how else I could have handled this ordeal. Any other way seems completely foreign to me. I think my catch response has been, "When you are diagnosed with something like this, you have two choices. You can crawl into a corner and cry 'woe me' or you can take the bull by the horns and face it head on." I've always been the type to confront problems with a head-on approach. I've always been the type to do things a bit differently than most. I've always been one to push against the odds. I think that MAYBE these things all worked together to give everyone the look at me they have gotten.

I think a friend said it best a few days ago. She told me that she admires the grace in which I confronted this whole thing. To me, that was a compliment with the highest regard. It touched my heart. (Not that I have an issue with everyone saying it's amazing but...) It felt like someone truly got it. It's not that I'm amazing. I'm just like everyone else. I just handle things a bit differently. I'm one that would be faced with a crisis and be the first one to try to jump in there. Mind you, I would have to have a plan worked out in my head but what's that take... 30 seconds in a crisis? Anyway, this is taking me off track from the purpose of this post.

The real purpose of this post is to let down my shield just a little bit. You see, I have become a pro at placing a shield up so that I am difficult to read. Even before all this came about, I always had my shield, in the form of a smile, up. It very rarely comes down... even when I'm very sad or angry. Not all of my days are good ones. I do have my bad. (I have alluded to this a few times in updates.) I have days when it takes every ounce of my soul to get out of bed because I just feel there is no point. I have days when my mind wonders to what I will say to those special in my life when my tumor does take a turn for the worse and I know my days are numbered. I have days when I crawl into bed at night and find my pillow wet before I actually manage to fall asleep. I am just human. I have the same down spots others do, I just handle them with a more positive spin. Instead of staying in bed and dwelling on my "lack of future", I get up and put a smile on my face. Before the end of the morning my smile has convinced me that every day is part of my future so why waste it. When my mind wonders, I let it. I don't dwell on what it is thinking but rather pretend it's my creativity needing an outlet. When I need to curl up and have a cry (I hate for people to see me in tears), I sneak to my bed and let myself go. However, I also tell myself that crying is healthy sometimes and do to myself what I do with others... I think of something funny to make me laugh.

So you see, I have my down points as well. It's how I look at them that is different. It's how I cope with it that is the key to being able to handle this "with grace". I also can't take all the credit. I have been extremely blessed with wonderful friends and family who have provided A LOT of support. I have been blessed with a therapist whom I had the opportunity to get to know well before I was diagnosed. (Would you believe I have dealt with anxiety and depression for many years? See what I mean about the shield?) I have been blessed with faith that has brought me what I need when I need it. Sometimes it's an unexpected phone call, a simple email, a smile from a friend, and sometimes those people don't even realize they are doing anything to help me.

To those angels out there that has been sent my way... THANK YOU. I can never repay you enough. **Huggles**

Faith is half the battle, Attitude and support is the other half, doctors get about 5% credit and only because I don't want just ANYBODY operating on my head. :)

Just Having a Little Fun

This was sent to me by one of my friends in email so I thought it'd be fun to do and post here. Maybe you all will learn something new about me. :)

(X) Gone on a blind date (I guess you'd call it a blind date... I'd never met him until we got to the dance...
( ) Skipped school
(X) Watched someone die
( ) Been to Canada
(X) Been to Mexico
(X) Been to Florida
(X) Been on a plane
(X) Been lost
(X) Been on the opposite side of the country
( ) Gone to Washington, DC
(X) Swam in the ocean (For a VERY short time)
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Played cops and robbers (Wasn't it the best back then?)
(X) Recently colored with crayons
(X) Sang Karaoke (Poor people)
(X) Paid for a meal with coins only?
(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't? (Had brain surgery didn't I... and kids... and...)
(X) Made prank phone calls?
(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose.
(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(X) Danced in the rain
(X) Written a letter to Santa Claus
(X) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(X) Watched the sunrise with someone you care about
(X) Blown bubbles
(X) Gone ice-skating
(X) Been skinny dipping outdoors
(X) Gone to the movies
1. Any nickname? Dreamcatcher, Kiddo
2. Mother's name? Pamela
3. Favorite drink? Pepsi One
4. Any Tattoo 's? No
5. Body piercing? Ears
6. How much do you love your job? 6 on a scale of 10
7. Dream Vacation? Civil War tour
8. Favorite Vacation Taken? Hard to say... I guess the long trip to Florida or Arizona (even if I did come down with the chicken pox on the way to Florida)

9. Ever been to Africa ? NO
10. Ever eaten cookies for dinner? Yes
11. Ever been on TV? yes (at 16 won a wrestling trip and got to be on tv and the magazine)
12. Ever steal any traffic sign? no
13. Ever been in a car accident? yes
14. Drive a 2-door or 4-door vehicle? 4 door
15. Favorite salad dressing? French
16. Favorite pie ? Apple
17. Favorite number? 13 and 23
18. Favorite movie? Sixth Sense
19. Favorite holiday? Halloween
20. Favorite dessert? Lemon cake
21. Favorite food? Twice Baked Potatoes
22. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
23. Favorite brand of body wash? Suave
24. Favorite toothpaste? Close up
25. Favorite smell? Lavendar
26. What do you do to relax? surf net or read
27. How do you see yourself in 10 years? Still Fighting
28. How many living siblings do you have? 1

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Week in Review 10-19-2008

Summary of this week: OK so it's been two weeks...

  • We're 19 weeks past the partial resection of my brain tumor
  • We're 2 weeks past the last radiation treatment
Medically - I was able to avoid a major outbreak of bronchitis/sinus infection by taking things easy and heavily medicating. It did bring me down some but I'm happy to say that right now I feel pretty good.

We are still two weeks away from my visit with the Radiation Oncologist and a month or so away from the MRI follow-up. I am guessing that will be scheduled when I see him on the 30th. So, there is no news to report on the brain cancer front.

Even though radiation is finished, I am still suffering medically from the side-effects. It seems I've got to be a trouble-maker and have things show up after it is all finished. The worst effects I am having is that I am STILL losing hair by the handfuls, I have developed a rash on my forehead and the front part of my scalp, and my scalp is peeling like crazy. At least two of the things have logical explanations but the rash still concerns me. Luckily, it has slowed down since I started putting hydrocortisone cream on it but it's still frustrating.

Emotionally - This was a tough week for me emotionally. I struggled hard with my feelings and emotions thanks to the emergence/continuance of the side-effects mentioned above. I was under the impression that most of these would disappear within a few days of the end of radiation. The only thing I KNEW would continue was the fatigue. Needless to say, this information weighed heavily on me because I was really looking forward to starting the recovery process. On top of dealing with that emotionally, JJ has decided to have full teen attitude (even though he is only a pre-teen) all week and with John working a later schedule, I was left to deal with most of it. I broke down more than once over the week and at least once it was out of anger. (I'm not a real emotional type but I have a bad tendency to cry when I get really angry and unfortunately that makes me even more angry. It's a curse but luckily... at least prior to surgery... I don't get angry much.)

However, with that being said, I was able to truly rise above all of it on Saturday. I had forgotten how much I rely heavily on dancing and my dance friends to work off excess emotions on the dance floor. I was able to return there Saturday night and I feel like a new person today. :)

Mentally - Rather than repeat the things that continue to be the obvious signs of what I have been through, I am going to go down a slightly different avenue. One of the things that I have noticed and has been confirmed by several around me is that my temper is no longer of the "very cool" type. I used to not let things bother me and be able to rationally approach things but since surgery that has made almost a complete 180. I snap off quite readily at things that agitate me and most of them never bothered me before. I seem to get angry much easier and I have yelled more in the past few months than I have in my entire life. My patience is also very thin in comparison. It used to be known that I was a very patient person and thus why I was so good at my job. That patience can no longer be pushed quite as far. Now I am not saying that I know this is a permanent change caused by the removal of my tumor but it is something that's changed since. It could be stress, fatigue, or just being overwhelmed rather than a physical something. I guess only time will tell.

Honestly, though, if this is physical and therefore permanent, I still ended up being very lucky for as of now it is the only thing that has been obviously affected.

Physically - I'm tired a lot, I get fatigued pretty easily, my scalp is peeling like a sunburn, my forehead itches like mad from the rash, I have a spot in the back of my head that hurts like a fresh burn, and my ears have the feeling of an inner ear infection without the pain. (You know that "you are in a tunnel" feel.) Other than that, I am feeling pretty good. My strength is increasing nicely but my energy level is still very low. I would rank my strength up in the 70% category and my energy in the 20% category. However, all the same, I'm seeing progress slow but sure and that's what I need right now. With any luck, by the first of November, I'll be up in the 80s on both categories.

Family/Work/Play - As already stated, JJ has been a bear the past week. I think part of it is just pushing his boundaries but some of it is just butting heads with us because he knows he'll get us ticked off. He's WAY too much like his father in so many ways but he has my stubborness and that really makes it rough. (Not that his father has a lot of bad traits but I think JJ got all of them!!!) He has now found himself grounded from TV and video games until further notice. He has basically been told that he has to prove he can stop being a brat before he can get any of it back. We'll see if it works or not.

John put in 45 hours of overtime on his last paycheck so he is still a busy boy. This week was a bit slower thanks to some rain but even then it has still been a lot of hours. I can't wait for harvest to be over but it looks like it will probably still be weeks.

We went to a square dance last night and had a great time. I went in hoping to dance a single dance and get over my "over my head" phobia. Our local caller was doing the calling so that was a good thing. I'm familiar with him just as he is with my story so it was the perfect time to make a come-back. We also had a small crowd with primary experienced dancers so I didn't have to go scoping out "the perfect square". That first tip was AWESOME!!! I think our caller was trying to test me during the patter though. (Patter is the first part of each tip or dance where they run through several calls and sort of test to make sure that all the calls are known that will be in the singing call or second half.) The other square was having some difficulty with one of the calls and we did it around six times or so until they got it. Needless to say, it was a long patter. I did feel it in the singing call and by the third partner I was looking for John and the end. (During a singing call you will switch partners throughout the song until you get back to your original partner) Anyway, I sat down exhausted after that one but was able to get a nice long break in there while we ate pizza and sat out a dance and watched some round dancing. One of the couples that was there left so we had exactly enough for two squares if John and I tried again. I decided to give it a shot. We ended up dancing three tips and it really felt good. It's amazing how good it feels to get out there with friends and enjoy yourself. You can forget everything that is going on and just have a good time. (Besides, you don't have time to think about anything else.) Anyway, I want to thank everyone that was there last night for being patient with me and helping me get my swing back. :)

With any luck you'll be seeing us out on the dance floor more often as the weeks move along. I'm still leary of dancing to anyone but Ron because I am most familiar with him but I know I will overcome that soon enough.

I did pretty good last week at work. I ended up doing 4 hours on Monday, and 8 on Tuesday and Wednesday. I wasn't near as exhausted on Thursday as I thought I would be so maybe I will survive this week with a full-time schedule. We'll see how it works out. I know my boss will work with me if it's too much.

I think that about wraps things up. I probably won't post another update until after my appointment on the 30th. However, I do have some ideas for some posts on my blog so you might want to keep your eyes open on there. I just have to get my tail moving on that along with some other things I've been procrastinating.

Love ya all. Huggles

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Little Inner Strength, Coleman

Coleman on left, Caden on right with their Mom and Dad in New York

Ok, so I have mentioned this little guy a few times in the year since I've been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Some would probably say I'm wrong to dwell in the lives of these young soldiers who are traveling the same path as me, but in reality, when I feel I don't want to fight any more, I think of those who fight with all they have. One of these little pillars is Coleman Larson. The way I found his Carepage is quite a story on it's own but that isn't important in this story. What is important is that God sent me to him knowing that my strength could come from this little man's story.

I have received permission from his mom to share his story with you. I am honored to do so. Coleman's story began almost a year before my own, in September of 2006. Coleman and his twin brother Caden were 2 1/2 at the time. His mom describes his tumor as being the size of a tangerine which would be not much different in size than my own. After his surgery, it was determined that Coleman had a Medulloblastoma or a cancerous brain tumor that is a common type in children.

Coleman's second stop was chemo, which he took for a year. Unfortunately, he would have a relapse exactly one year after his initial diagnosis. This time there were two tumors and it had appeared in his spinal fluid as well.

This was about the time I began following Coleman. I prayed for him as he went through radiation (I'm working on a more detailed entry on radiation and when you'll read it you'll see how remarkable Coleman is to handle this as a "not quite 4 year old") and cried and prayed when he did his stem cell transplant. If ever I thought that my own journey was not worth fighting for, his process showed me that I could not give up.

Just a few months ago, tumors were found in Coleman's spine and it was found again in his spinal fluid. Coleman is now undergoing another form of chemo in the hopes of beating this beast yet again.

To take a section from Coleman's CarePage:

Coleman has taught us all that ATTITUDE and FAITH can make a big difference in how you choose to deal with cancer. HE has taught us the true meaning of determination. Cancer takes away so much, but it can't take away the amazing spirit Coleman has displayed each and every chapter of his journey.

Coleman says, "some day I won't need NO more meds or pokes, wight mommy? THEN I tan be NO-MAL!" Amen to that, but I don't think this kid will ever be described as NORMAL, he's way too special for that!
I don't think I could have given this small section justice but this is exactly what I've learned from Coleman.

I do need to give a shoutout as well to Coleman's Big Brother Caden. (He is 1 minute older than Coleman) Caden, like Coleman, is a gentleman beyond his years. I often read stories of how Caden will allow Coleman to get away with things, get him things, etc and you can tell how much he worries about his brother every picture you see of them.

The reason I put this out here is two-fold. One is to introduce you to the young man that has been my strength when I am unsure if I have fight left. The other is to introduce you to the real tragedy out there and that is Childhood Cancer. Please do what you can to help our littlest warriors.


PS. If you find it in your heart, send a prayer up for Coleman and his family as they journey through chemo again.

PSS. Thank you Team Larson for your permission to publish your story!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Week in Review 10-7-2008

I know, I've been a bad blogger. Sorry. Can I blame it on being tired and lack of motivation?

Summary of this week: From radiation to winter blah...

  • We're 17 weeks past the partial resection of my brain tumor
  • Radiation was completed one week ago
Medically - Well radiation is complete and I do not have to return to the radiation oncologist until October 30th for a follow-up. We won't really know if it did any good until somewhere mid-November as they typically wait 6 weeks to have the first post radiation MRI. Therefore, we just have to pray that it all did what it was supposed to.

Now I seem to be dealing with the first cold/sinus/bronchitis battle of the winter. I hate winter because of this. We'll see what happens as the weeks progress.

I don't believe there is anything else medically on the horizon at this time.

Emotionally - I'm doing well emotionally other than just tired of dealing with one thing after the other. It just seems like the last six months has been one battle after the next. I'm really ready for a break now. You see, it was April of this year that I was having neck problems and we were concerned about a tumor that appeared in my C3 vertebra in my neck. Luckily, it is believed to just be a birthmark. This took us right into surgery, then radiation, and now I've got this darn cold. I am still tired from radiation and now I'm completely exhausted because of this crud. I just want some full recovery time to feel normal for a while. I know, I am not normal anymore. My life has changed forever, but... well, you see where I'm going with this. I'm just ready for a bit of a break. I'm tough, I'll get through it.

Mentally - I continue to struggle with focus. I wonder if I should just quit stating that. I feel like a broken record with it. My short term memory has also taken a huge hit. Some days I find myself forgetting the same thing three or four times before I can finally am able to remember it long enough to do it. Ugh. I know, I know, it's called getting old but dang it I'm only 29!!! It scares me what it'll be like at 39 if I keep going at this rate. *sigh* Ok, enough whining. I'm not a whiner so I better stop.

Physically - I feel like crud this week. My nose has been running, my eyes are watering, my chest is tight, I'm coughing... I think that about sums it up. I'm also tired but not sure how much is feeling sick and how much is post radiation. I actually slept 12 hours last night and then slept three more earlier. I just hope the sleep will help me fight this thing a little harder.

Family/Play/Work - Everyone is doing pretty good. My son had a double-header in soccer a few Saturdays ago and got kicked in the hand. We had to take him to get x-rays to make sure he didn't break it. Luckily, he only bruised it but it made for a long day for me. He's feeling pretty good with it now though.

John has been putting in some major hours at work. His last paycheck had 35 hours of overtime for a two week pay period. Needless to say I don't see much of him this time of year.

The weekend before last, John actually got off at a decent hour so we went out to supper for our anniversary. (We have to take advantage of him getting off at a decent hour or we'd probably not get a chance to do anything. You know what they say about the best laid plans...) Anyway, the weekend of our anniversary, my parents came over to help me out around the house. My dad mowed the yard for us (and fell in love with our lawn mower) and my mom helped me give my house the thorough cleaning it hasn't had in going on five months. I'll admit that I overdid it on Saturday but I had to do what I was capable. It just didn't feel right with her doing all the work. John did manage to get off by 2:00 on saturday much to my shock. We had a late lunch with my parents (I had put a roast and carrots in that morning) and then we decided to go see a movie for our anniversary. So... we caught the late show of the "Dark Knight". It was a great movie and that's coming from someone who is NOT a Batman fan. However, I am a Heath Ledger fan and I do think that he should win best supporting actor for the Joker. I was amazed at the job he did. The Joker was truly insane.

I added work to this grouping because my schedule will be goofy for a few weeks. I am still on part-time disability but in order to start increasing my stamina I am increasing my days a bit. This week I am doing 7 hours Monday and Wednesday and 6 hours on Thursday. I will have Tuesday and Friday home. Then next week I am thinking to increase them again in that I will work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in order to get three days in a row in and see how I do. All this is because the week of the 20th I am supposed to return full-time. It will take a lot out of me but by increasing it this way, I am hoping it won't be such a shock to my system that it drops me.

Ok, I can't think of much else to say so I'll wrap this up now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

With my Love Twelve Years

I wish to send a Happy Anniversary to my love of 12 years.

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Happy Anniversary MySpace Comments & Myspace Comments

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Let the Celebrations Begin NOW!!!

(Ok so this wasn't really posted on the day radiation ended... No one will remember it wasn't six months from now if it weren't for this message condemning myself.)