Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30!

Day 26: The day after Thanksgiving, my family took a beautiful walk through Seidman Park.  I am grateful for the beautiful sunshine, the chance to get out and work off that Thanksgiving meal and the laughs we shared while we hoofed through the woods.  At one point, we came across a log sitting above a creek.  Meghan was the first to tread lightly over it; then Gavin took a steady turn; I then had to challenge myself to do the same thing.  Next thing we knew, Cohen, Nana Moni and Brian had all made it over too.  Pap Tres had to sit out because he had Evan asleep in the Baby Bjorn.  It was a great day!

Day 27: Grandma Miller turned 88 today!  We are thankful that she celebrated with a lot of her family in Lake Fenton and her favorite part of dinner is dessert.  She loves her cake and ice cream!

Day 28: Day 5 of radiation.  I am thankful for the kind radiation therapists and technicians.  Every day when I come in they ask me how my evening was and every time I leave they happily say, "See you tomorrow!"  I think they are sensitive to the fact that people really don't want to be there but they make it as comfortable as possible.  I am especially thankful for the warm blanket they offer me during every treatment.

Day 29: Manicures and Pedicures!  They make me feel like a brand new person.  Nothing makes me happier than having pretty fingers and toes.  And I have been seeing the same person for over six years - I love Chi - she does the best job!

Day 30: Brian and I won a trip to NYC.  I am excited to share in Brian's first experience in New York City.  I can't wait to go to Serendipity with Maya and BK.  I also can't wait to meet Guiliana!  I asked my mom if I was crazy since my two celebrity crushes are reality star women - Guiliana and Bethenney.  I don't need to win the contest we are in, as long as Guiliana and I become BFF and she wants to spend Christmas together.

Happy December!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 24 and 25: Thanksgiving and Gift-Giving

Day 24: We had the most wonderful Thanksgiving at our house.  Brian and I were happy to host my parents, Meghan, Brian's parents, Tricia, Jim and their three kids.  It was our first true festivity in our new home.  The food was wonderful, the Christmas decorations were up, the kids were celebrating and while the men watched football after dinner, the ladies sat in the kitchen and score online shopping loot.  Which brings me to....

Day 25:  I love giving gifts!  I love spending time thinking about the perfect gift for each person and putting things together.  I made my list of all the people that I get to buy for this year.  It was made even better by sitting in front of my computer, all of my coupons in tow, shopping in my pj's.  Shopping for the boys, Brian, in-laws, nieces and nephews, goddaughter, teachers and parents are all done!  I can't wait for all of the packages to arrive this week so I can get to wrapping. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22...(So I'm not super organized)

Day 17:  Spartans and Wolverines win!  Makes for a happy Brian and Erin in this house.  And poor Evan gets caught in the competitive clothing war.

Day 18:  Biggby's Grande Skinny Carmel Lattes.  Love picking one up on the way downtown to the hospital.  Makes the whole morning seem a little more relaxing.

Day 19: Wine show with hubby, sissy and friends!  Love sampling the wine and food - two of my favorite things.  Also, an excellent time to people watch and check out the eclectic crowd!

Day 20: I'm thankful I am healthy and strong enough to make it to radiation on my own.  Some people aren't as fortunate.  Also thankful for great conversations with my father-in-law - sometimes his direct messages give me the kick in the pants I need.

Day 21: Thankful we can host Thanksgiving dinner at our home.  Brian, Evan and I tackled the grocery store and can't wait to have both families over to celebrate (even though it's not the same without BK and Alison).

Day 22:  Thankful for a perfect colonscopy result!  Although I haven't eaten since Sunday, it was worth it to see there is NO cancer in my colon and in fact, it looks pretty darn healthy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 15 and 16: Inspiration and Hope

I think I have reached a place where I can be positive about my prognosis and excited about my future.  I am optimistic and know that once I am done with radiation and I wrap up a few more quick surgeries, this will all be behind me.  I truly believe that now.  It feels like the fog has been lifted and my optimism has returned!

Part of this is because I am ready to listen to the encouraging words and people around me and take inspiration in things.  I want to hear about others' battles and how they overcame.  I watched the 20/20 special on Gabrielle Giffords this week - amazing!  It touched my heart to see her say there is no anger and her focus is on being, "Strong, strong, strong".  If she can do it, then I certainly can do it.

And I have saved every e-mail and every card I have received this year.  On tough days, I read back through them and know I am thankful for all of the prayers, thoughts and love.  My friends and family have inspired me to really put this disease to rest once and for all.  I'm too tough to let it bring me down.  And I finally believe that Brian needs me here to be his wife, Gavin and Cohen need me to be their stepmom, Evan needs me as his mama, and my family and friends need me too.  But most of all, I am thankful that I have hope - and recognition that I need all of them too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 14: Days with Evan

Even though I am off work for reasons I would rather not be, it means I get to spend my days with Evan.  Today was my first day alone with Evan in several weeks, since I was just granted permission to begin picking him up last Thursday.  It was one of my best days in a long time - he took great naps, ate all of his food and we had a lot of play time together.  We also fit in a lunch date and trips to Meijer and Forest Hills Foods.  I'm not as strong as I used to be and my iron levels are way too low, but I am healthy enough to enjoy a great day with my son.  And that gives me so much to appreciate!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 11, Day 12 and Day 13

November 11: I am so thankful for all of the Veterans out there that sacrifice so much. It's amazing to see so many that are willing to take on such meaningful work.  I watched my cousin, Tim Miller, enlist in the Marines shortly after graduating from Lawrence Tech University. We are so proud of the work he did in Afghanistan.  Both of my grandfathers were vets and it truly shaped the scope of their lives.

November 12: I am thankful for cozy weekends at home with my family and friends.  We spent time watching movies, making dinners, doing yard work and watching football.  We also had an awesome day for family pictures on Saturday - a perfect, sunny day.  Look for your Christmas card soon!

November 13: I am thankful for snuggly blankets.  I have the best blanket that I use for every chemo - and as I was there this past Friday, I had several different people comment on how much they like it.  I am also thankful for my chemo nurse, Becki.  She takes great care of me and I love having one familiar face every time I go in for treatment. 

Best snuggly blankie ever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 9 and 10: My Doctors and Treatment Facilities

Even though Grand Rapids isn't a huge metropolitan city, there have been several investments and developments made in the medical community in the past five years.  Grand Rapids has TWO dedicated cancer centers and some of the best surgeons and plastic surgeons in the country are here.  In the past seven months, I have been treated by:

The Absolute Best OBGYN: Dr. Susan VandenBosh
My Neo-Natal OB: Dr. Russell Jelsema
My Neonatologist: Dr. Craig Kinney
My Oncologist: Dr. Amy VanderWoude
My Surgeon: Dr. Jane Pettinga
My Plastic Surgeon: Dr. Ewa Timek
My Radiation Oncologist: Dr. Brian Kastner
My Cardiologist: Dr. Craig Alguire
My GI Doctor: Dr. Heather Slay
And the urologists group that took care of my kidney stone.

At one point, six doctors on this list were in regular contact regarding my care and treatment plan.  It made it very easy to feel that I had a medical team that were familiar with my diagnosis, pregnancy and delivery and were ultimately able to help me make decisions best for our family.

In addition, if I have to spend hours at the hospital, Lemmen-Holten Cancer Pavilion is a beautiful facility located in Downtown GR, only 9 miles from our home.  The building is made out of limestone, has meditation gardens on every level, offers valet parking (which is only a requirement when I am late, which is 50% of the time) and has awesome smoothies and pretzel rolls.  Brian often is able to stop up during his lunch to see how I am doing since I am only a few blocks from the Fifth Third building.

I feel very fortunate that these amazing doctors are located so close to my home.  We certainly won't be leaving Grand Rapids anytime soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8: My Company

Big banks have been taking a beating in the press lately and as always the media portrays a lot of things incorrectly and exaggerates negatives that don't really exist.  Between the protests on Wall Street and the supposed millions of bonuses that are being handed out, consumers aren't loving a company as large as Bank of America like they used to.
But today, I am grateful for my company and thankful for the leaders that run the organization. My job provides me the opportunity to help support my family and allow Brian and I to build our dream house.  My career provides me the ability to exercise some of my greatest strengths - investing in associates' development, creating a team atmosphere and working in collaboration to exceed goals. 
I have had some of the best leaders and peers teach me.  Laura, who I mentioned yesterday as a friend, is also my "other half" at work.  Not only did she coach and guide me when I first came in to my role, but she transitioned to my peer and allowed me to learn and flourish underneath her guidance.  Laura is a fantastic, "unofficial" mentor but has made a profound impact on my career.
Most recently, when I worked for my last manager, Stacey, did I realize what it meant to have an opportunity identified and really have someone invest in closing that gap and making it a strength.  It was a painful process but Stacey consistently worked with me so now I can say, it's a strength of mine.
Lastly, my company has afforded me incredible insurance and support during a year of need.  Since all of my life events have occurred in the same year, my teammates have been nothing but supportive and understanding.  My current team, carries my load and executes on my goals the same way they do their own.  I am so comfortable and appreciative knowing that Chad, Jill and Laura are handling my associates and guiding them to the same success I would want to.
I have never been pressured to come back to work; quite the contrary.  My current manager and manager's past have all encouraged me to take the time I need to fight my battle and get healthy. They have worked with me on my schedule, my ability to work when I can and just to get better.  So, to me, this very big corporation has a very big heart.   Out of all of the fears and worries I have had in the past seven months, health insurance and income have not been one of them.  So, I am grateful to work for a company like Bank of America.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 7: My Friends

When I was thinking about how to start this post and all of the memories I have, it made me start laughing.  Out loud.  Alone.  In a room full of people.  It's not the first time nor the last time I will be caught doing that.  Today, I am thankful for friends, both old and new....

My best friends today are the best friends I had when I was 12 and when I was 16.  My beloved Gwen, was my first close friend in Grand Blanc, and we did everything together!  We would call each other as soon as we got off the bus and say "Let's meet in the middle."  Which meant, the road in between our houses.  It was also the perfect way for me to spy on my first real crush, which lasted for years (you know who I'm talking about, Mike Agnone :)) Gwen and I posed for pictures together, at Sears, in eighth grade holding crayons and then did it again our senior year of high school with my head laying on top of her head.  We've tailgated together, gone through break ups together, cried together but laughed even more.  Gwen is my friend that traveled five hours to celebrate my 30th birthday with me at dinner and then drove four hours out of her way after my surgery in October and came in and gave me my first "butt hug" - she just hugged my butt, knowing that a regular hug is pretty hard on my chest for me.  We snuck out together in high school and still relieve our glory days of our freshman year when we thought we were so cool because we were dating juniors.  Gwen is my soul mate - we are so different in so many ways but she's that person I talk to irregularly, but everything is the exact same when I see her.

Gwen, turning 30 and fabulous with her boyfriend Alan.  Me, five months pregnant and sober.  But we loved making the trip to Chicago to celebrate Gwen!!

Then have my high school friends, Katie and Lacey.  Most people know that a "Group of 3" typically doesn't work out with women, because someone always feels left out.  But in this case, it's been the three of us so long, that we've always made it work.  We've taken many road trips together (or really, just Lacey and I traveling to wherever Katie is), singing our way up to Harbor Springs, or hiking the mountains in Colorado.  I remember we climbed on top of this giant rock and when we were done admiring the view, Katie and Lacey jumped right off.  I was way too scared to jump and just stayed up there on the top.  Katie and Lacey kept encouraging me to come down, telling me I could do it, all the while almost peeing their pants because they were laughing so hard.  When Lacey got engaged and Katie and I got the phone call, we immediately rushed over to her house to celebrate with Lacey and Ben.  When Katie got engaged, Lacey and I were texting her like crazy asking for pictures of the ring and couldn't wait to start planning her bridal shower, bachelorette party, and 30th birthday.  Whenever I've had a problem, they are the first two I call...even though Katie knows I've probably made a stop to the book-store since I'm convinced a self-help book can solve many things. On the day of my diagnosis, Katie and Lacey showed up in my house full of boxes with flowers and wine and continued to make regular appearances during my journey.  I love them like crazy and can't wait to see what our next fifteen years of friendship brings.

Celebrating Katie's wedding in September.  I wore my long hair so I could get fancy for her big day.  It is so wonderful to see both of my closest friends with their soul mates.

Katie and Lacey, coming out to run the 5K Susan G Komen race in September 2011.

Then there are the friends that I knew were my friends, but have turned into such jewels during this tough year for me.  Meghan Harsevoort, Katie's sister, is such an important person in my life.  It makes sense that if I adore Katie so much, I would love her sister equally as fast, since they are so similar!  But it was great to spend my maternity leave visiting with Meghan, watching our babies grow bigger together (Evan is 4 weeks older than Gracie) and be able to talk about the challenges of a blended family.  My other pregnant partner-in-crime, Lisa Roberts became my go-to; we would laugh and we would think, "How on earth did we get here?"  But Lisa's little Mattie is healthy and Lisa is so kind to me while always making me smile.  Plus, she made me Wife of the Year by getting the UM jersey signed by Denard.  It is hanging prominently in our "Michigan room" (yes, we have one). Then there is my dear friend Nancy, who has had such a challenging year herself but always makes a point to send me an e-mail or make an effort to get together.  When we had lunch this summer, I laughed just as hard as I used to when we shared a tiny cubicle together!  There are my old work friends, like Ismeta and Jen and Sherry and Teddi who I hear from regularly.  With my diagnosis, came the biggest smorgasbord of Bosnian food from Ismeta - making all of my favorites including her world famous bread.  Teddi organized a Relay for Life event with all Fifth Third associates and together they raised over $4000 for Team Murray.  And Sherry and Jen have been so supportive through e-mails and prayers.

Evan and Gracie, best friends.  I wish Evan would adopt Gracie's good habits.  Like sleeping.

My two favorite sisters, Katie and Meghan.  They brought over fantastic dinners and applesauce right after my surgery.

Sherry and me in 2009 at Melanie's wedding.

Ismeta, Keri's husband, Sherry, me, Brian, Jen and her husband Brent - that was a fun night!

Finally, there are my new work friends that have turned into family. My Central Michi team, although disbanded is one of the closest teams I have ever been a part of.  Stacey, Laura and Courtney are my special family and even though four women in charge can be challenging, we worked through all of our obstacles together to produce an outstanding leadership group.  I will never forget the look on Laura's face when Stacey talked about bringing her cat to Office Day.  I will also never forget the pride in Stacey's face when we finally got Laura to use foul language.  All of our meeting consisted of a "good conversation with a good deck" and a white board to keep track of our 76 ideas running at the same time.  Even the tough days could be solved with a glass of wine, "Bob skippity bo bop, I lost it" - Stacey talking to the parking attendant after Court, Stacey and I indulged in a huge Italian dinner. We learned about Coppertones, Q-tips, nicknamed Scotty-Poo and enjoyed every BC visit to Howell, which meant a trip to the outlets after work.  Then there are friends like Jill, my new teammate who is so supportive of me taking the time I need to recover even though it means she is carrying part of my workload (along with Laura and Chad).  I'm so appreciative of them picking up for me so I can truly take time to heal and work on getting Evan better.

Court, as Mrs. Peacock and Stacey and me as Mrs. White to celebrate Courtney's 30th Clue birthday party.

There are many many other friends involved and those that reach out to me.  My mom's friends alone, deserve their own day of appreciation - so that is coming soon.  But if it takes a village, my friends have certainly helped me get to this point along the way.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's November - That Means "Give Thanks"

So, I've decided to change my attitude this month, since it's all about Giving Thanks.  Or at least I have made that decision during this exact moment on this particular day (or maybe it's because of the extra hour we picked up.)  Whatever the case may be, I am going to spend each day of November thinking about what I am thankful for and take the time to appreciate what I have.  Since this lovely idea came to me six days into the month, today I am going to list six things I am grateful for - and since family is first that means I am starting out with my mom, my husband, my brother and sister (they're a team, because we are a team...a team of siblings...Go Team EMB), my precious baby and stepkids, my dado and my in-laws.  I mean really, I have a super fantastic family; all of my aunts and uncles that check up on me all of the time (even if it is to leave me voicemails about rich Chinese billionaires, Uncle Rick), send me such sweet, thoughtful presents (loving the lotion and body wash Aunt Mary and Aunt Pauline) and the gigantic carmel apple (Aunt Kathy and Uncle Doug) and the flowers (Uncle Mark and Aunt Maureen), the pizzas (Aunt Connie and Uncle Hugh), and Evan's favorite toy, his glow worm (Aunt Miriam and Uncle Joe).  Oh, and we can't forget our precious Cousin Conner who sent Evan the Miracle Suit to sleep in - he looks like a sumo wrestler. 

But let me take a moment to explain my family to you:

November 1: I am most appreciative of the most genuine, self-less, amazing woman I know, my mom.  The second she knew I needed her, she quit her job and essentially moved in.  My mom has pretty much been raising Evan since I am unable to do it and there is no one better for the job.  I know that no one can love him and kiss him and care for him the way that I can, except for my mom.  She has put her life on hold while I put my life back together and I am so grateful for her.  She never complains, never says she wishes her own time back and never lets me down.  She has watched me go through this roller coaster of a year and is always 100% supportive, even when I am pouting about not wanting to do something.  I am so thankful...and so lucky.

November 2: P.S.  These are in no particular order.  I am sitting in my bed with an empty spot next to me because Brian is out of town, but of course, I am thankful for my amazing husband.  Last night, we went out for the first time since my surgery and had so much fun together.  It's these moments when we aren't fighting cancer or managing three kids and two careers and millions of calls to insurance companies and doctors that I realize how much we are meant to be together.  He is still my amazing partner, a brillant manager and devastatingly handsome.  I am so lucky he has been by my side during this time; I have needed his directness with doctors, his shoulder to cry on and his hand during Evan's delivery, my chemo, my kidney stone, my mastectomy, my nausea, my fatigue, etc.  I have not been the best partner the past six months but Brian hasn't waivered once.  I am so happy the love of my life is by my side.

November 3: Noogs and BK.  Or Meghan and Bryan.  I couldn't have two better siblings or better godparents for Evan.  Meg is another surrogate Mom to Evan, taking care of him while I can't.  She often volunteers her time to help out with Gavin and Cohen on nights where it just gets crazy here.  I told her that I needed her help while I am recovering from surgery and she postponed her kickboxing class for eight weeks to be there for me.  Plus, she tries so hard to make me feel pretty even when I have no hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows and the inability to work out. Meg sends me at least one card a week in the mail telling me to be strong and encouraging me to get through this.  My sister is so thoughtful.  And my brother....even though he isn't near and has a crazy busy schedule in NYC, he sends me so many texts just to see how I'm doing. He worked out his schedule to fly home for Evan's baptism and likes to check in to see how we all are doing.  And even though BK has his own health challenges, he is so complimentary to me about how I am handling mine.  I am so lucky to have such involved siblings and know that they will be just as close to Evan as I am to my aunts and uncles.

November 4: My sweet little Evy Pie and Gavin and Cohen. I didn't realize I could love someone so much as my little Evan.  Not only did he save my life - my getting pregnant helped to detect my cancer - but he showed me what it really means to unconditionally love and put someone else before myself.  He is just as sweet as can be.  His health issues, including his reflux, break my heart, because it's so hard to see him in pain.  But I am grateful that Grand Rapids has excellent medical care and we are going to get his little tummy all figured out.  And for my two stepsons, Gavin and Cohen...stepsons has such a negative connotation, but I just feel so blessed that they are such good boys and such wonderful older brothers to Evan. Gavin and I just spent time working on his student council election (he won!) and Cohen and I came up with a school-approved Halloween costume.  They are warm and gentle and lovely and I am so thankful.

November 5:  My Dado.  Never has there been someone who doesn't complain and works hard and is at his happiest when his family is around, like my Dado.  Any drive and self-motivation I have comes from him.  Only my dad can run marathons, start a new career at 56, tell his wife how beautiful she is everyday and make sure that he calls all of his kids at least once every few days.  And like his father before him, Foster, he loves when all of his family is with him (especially if that time includes happy hour).  The name was passed on to my dad and brother and we were honored to pass it along to Evan Foster.  My dad is an amazing man and I am blessed to have grown up with a such a fantastic role model.

November 6: Not only did I win the lottery of step-families, I also won the in-law lottery.  I love Brian's family.  From the beginning, they have accepted and loved me and included me in everything they do, including my quirky, non-Murray ways.  Brian's mom, Cindy, is all things gentle, sweet and compassionate.  She even lets me tell her when to stop spoiling her grandchildren (though she doesn't like it). Ed is always there for me when I'm ready to talk about things, and is even often there to talk to me even when I am not ready :) For the Murray family picture, I pulled the cancer card on Ed and begged him to take one with the entire family in December.  He finally relented.  And I adore Brian's sisters.  Tricia lives in Rochester with her family and Alison is in Colorado but I love when we are all able to get together.  It's an interesting family dynamic and I love even more when all of the Murrays get going and Jim and I can roll our eyes at each other :)   I think it's fabulous that all of the cousins get along so well - Gavin and Cohen love Laney and Kylie like their sisters...and it will be so fun to watch Evan and Jameson grow up together, being only five months apart.  So, picture soon to come, once I drag them all to the photographer in December.  At least they comply with me.

So, six down, twenty-four to go.  I have so much to be thankful for; the only way this list could get any better is if I had a scanner to include some really old pictures.  Because friends are next on my list and I would love to show you the sweet photos that Gwennie and I had taken in eighth grade, with crayons, or the pictures that Lacey, Katie and I have with gigantic sunglasses on when we were 19.  But stay tuned...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's Always Something New

It has been hard to come back and write in my blog this week. Everyday is a different emotion, different feeling, different level of pain and different level of optimism. I'm not sure if this is the life of a cancer patient or just the life of one in treatment.

As I mentioned before, my recovery has been a bit more intense than I anticipated. I wasn't expecting the level of pain in certain areas and the fatigue that would accompany it. My red blood cell count is the lowest it has been (8.9); they do transfusions at level 8.0. That makes me particularly tired throughout the day. It is frustrating because I will have a good day when I am able to run out and do a few errands and then pay for it the next day by having to to take 2-3 hour naps.

I think this week has really highlighted my fear and anxiety for some reason. I associate this with not feeling as energetic or optimistic as I normally do. Even though I had a positive path report, what if the tiny bit of cancer that is in my lymph nodes starts spreading? What happens if at my scheduled scan in three months the spots on my lungs turn out to be something? What if I am one of those unique cases where everything seemed shiny and happy and in six months I find out it's eating through my bones and liver? Because of the current pain when I sleep, and my inability to sleep on my back all night, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

I know there are a lot of prayers being said and words of encouragement being sent my way. And I truly appreciate them. But sometimes, I have to look at reality. I was diagnosed at 29. There is no history in my family. My cancer is fueled by estrogen in my system. This is probably TMI, but today, for the first time since having Evan, I got my period. That means that the chemo put my estrogen on hold; now chemo is over and my body is regulating itself. Estrogen is sourcing through my body - does that mean my cancer is too? 

And then, every now and then, I think about how this isn't fair. Of course life isn't fair, but I had some good plans for myself. I tried to put other people first and be thoughtful. I thought I could be the wonderful duo of working woman and super mom. Make play-dough at night and give presentations to the Regional Executives in the morning. Puree vegetables for my baby and dine at fancy restaurants with colleagues. Work hard and be able to spend time with my wonderful family on fabulous vacations. Now I have to recognize the thought in my head: what happens if  I'm not here? What will happen to my beautiful baby boy? Will he know how much I wanted him and loved him as soon as I saw that positive pregnancy test? Will he know that I dream for my relationship with him to be as close as my relationship is to my mom? That he grows up with two loving siblings the way that Brian and I both did? If I die within my five years to freedom (when you are considered in remission) will Brian be able to cope and move on? Will my parents embrace my brother and sister instead of shutting down emotionally? Because sometimes that happens. What will I have learned from all of this? Because I don't know that I've been embracing the moment and living life to the fullest since my March diagnosis. I've been struggling and I've been fighting and I am so so afraid. I am afraid everyday that this is not the end of the road but only the beginning. When does the grieving and anger and bargaining really end, so I can move on to acceptance and loving every minute I have?  And when my mind is finally ready to embrace and love, will my body be on board, or already moving on to Stage 4?

I hear from my doctors and nurses that they can always count on me to have a smile on my face.  I hear from friends and family that I seem to be taking all of this in stride.  But this week, when I finally broke down to my mom (and Brian sees this on a weekly basis at night) she asked why I didn't show this side more.  And again, it's because of fear.  Fear that if I'm not optimistic, I will turn in to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Fear that if I voice my real concerns, I will hear, "You need a good attitude".  Fear that I will just bring all of my supporters around me down and make them worry too.  Plus, no one really likes to be around Negative Nancy.

So, this is as honest as it gets.  And this is where my head is.  Tomorrow we are celebrating Cohen's 6th birthday (it is actually on Wednesday) and then Monday I am going to watch the Halloween parade at school and volunteer at the Halloween party.  I asked for the lightweight job, so I think I'm handing out donuts.  Then I will come home and watch Dr. Gavin, Zombie Cohen and Duckie Evan get all dressed up for their big night out.  This week will be a better week, although I am nervous for my radiation consultation on Friday.  Though I did hear you get tattoos - something I've yet to do. 

Will post our Halloween pictures this week!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Smile On, Smile Off

As usual, it was a week of emotional roller coasters and events.  I certainly know that attitude is an important component of succeeding in this journey but it's hard to keep that up, especially when I am going through so much physically.

First, I need to correct my assessment of the pathology report I received last week.  Even though DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) was extensive throughout my left breast and one lymph node was positive, both my oncologist and surgeon were very pleased with the results.  The good news is that the invasive cancer (the kind that spreads throughout your body) has been taken care of by the chemo and the cancer in my lymph node was very small.  The doctors were much more optimistic than I had understood the results to be.

Second, the amazing bruise I thought I would have for six weeks to three months has almost completely disappeared!  Bummer in the fact that I can't even keep a fake bruise, but very promising in the fact that the lymphatic reconnection to my blood vessels is working!  Working enough that it is spreading the blue dye through my system and making it lighter and lighter everyday.

The help and support I've had has been amazing.  It is so hard not to pick up Evan when he cries and only be able to bond with him when we are playing on the floor.  I crave his smiles and little laughs almost as much as I crave him sleeping through the freaking night.  It would be so amazing to not have to see him every three hours from 8:30 - 7:30 am. 

Even with all of these good results, there is an emotional component tied to this surgery and the extreme physical toll combined with the chemo I received on Friday has been a tad overwhelming.  I actually am very happy with the surgeon's results even though it's a drastically different look.  The pain under my arms is surprising, as is the inability to raise my left arm above my shoulder. I kept asking my mom if she could see how swollen I was under my arms and she couldn't see a difference.  Today, I asked the surgeon about it and she compared it to going to the dentist and getting a Novocaine shot.  That it feels numb to you and like your face is gigantic; but because of the nerve damage that occurred during surgery, that is exactly how my rib cage feels.  I finally have both drains out and that feels super duper too.

Brian and I are having to re-learn how to work as a team since all the rules of the game have changed.  Sleep deprivation and me not being able to lift anything certainly doesn't help the teamwork atmosphere, but we are trying. There have been many long conversations and heart-to-heart moments while we figure out what the next few days will look like; this is progress since we were used to planning out for weeks and months ahead of time.  I know we will get back in our rhythm of finishing each other's sentences but certainly the children, the treatments and our jobs have managed to put quite a bit of stress on us. I say my prayers at night that each day will get a little easier and the sun will get a little brighter (that latter one isn't happening; we live in West Michigan...more metaphorical).  I did score major "Awesome Wife Points" when I delivered a Michigan jersey to Brian signed by Denard Robinson.  "To Brian, Go Blue!, Denard".  A great colleague of mine went and purchased the jersey in Ann Arbor and then passed it off to my dear friend, Lisa Roberts.  I have high friends in high places and she was able to get it signed and mailed over to me.  Brian got a jersey; meanwhile, Lisa, Courtney and Stacey sent me all of my favorite junk food.  Thank you ladies...not only can I not work out, but you are all willing to see me balloon out so I will never be on Real Housewives of Grand Rapids.

I am starting to interview babysitters this week.  Brian and I just don't have any back up plan in case something falls through or someone cancels and it's been tough to scramble last minute to find help.  I am hoping that I can build a reservoir of 4-5 sitters that I have on hand that can when my sitter for Monday cancelled on me Sunday night at 9:00 pm.  Thank you, Meghan Harsevoort for saving us.  You're a blessing.

I am behind on thank you notes due to the pain in my arms but to those of you that have done so much for us, I truly appreciate it and thank you notes are on their way.  Soon!  Of course, Nana Moni and Noogie were awesome last week, as they always are.  So, so appreciated.  Papa Tres was extremely jealous that not only he wasn't here but he lost 10 pounds on the raw-food sushi diet in Japan last week.

That's it for now...oh, wait, unless anyone wants to discuss RHONJ.  Holy mania, Teresa has turned into a total lunatic.  She is a disaster and the more she talks, the better she makes everyone else look.  And in my next life, if I can't be Bethenny Frankel, I want to be Melissa Gorga.  BK, make sure if you run in to either of them in NY you tell them you have a cancer-stricken sister who would like to be invited to lunch with them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Erin: 1 Cancer: 1 - The Dirty Stupid Jerk

Well, I made it through my surgery on October 11, 2011.  (I almost stopped here since I can't think of anything great to say; but I will trudge along).

I went into my surgery very relaxed and calm.  The talent level of physicians in GR is absolutely amazing.  My surgeon, Dr. Jane Pettinga, started the Breast Program at Beaumont Hospital before moving over to Grand Rapids to start the same program through the Betty Ford Breast Center at Spectrum Health. My plastic surgeon, Dr. Ewa Timek, practiced plastics many years in California before she and her world renowned cardiologist husband were recruited to GR.  I felt very confident in their hands and was anxious to get start the procedure and check it off my list.  This was my McDreamy and McSteamy team.

I really wanted my mom at the hospital with me, but she was also the best one to take care of Evan.  Nana Moni know his sleep routine and eating routine (when he chooses to adhere to it) the best.  So, I was fortunate that Brian, Meghan and Dado were up there with me.  (Technically, Meghan was at the Helipad but if you don't have Facebook, you won't understand that joke).  When they wheeled me away at 11:45 am, I said, "See you at 5:00."

What that actually should have sounded like is 9:00 pm.  I came through the mastectomy part of the procedure pretty well.  I didn't have an unusual amount of blood loss, which was a concern, because I went into the procedure anemic due to the chemo.  My surgeon finished her part of the procedure in about 2.5 hours.  She removed both breasts and all 19 lymph nodes on the left side (where the cancer was originally found).  Then Dr. Timek came in and began the first stage of reconstruction. She started by inserting tissue expanders, under my pectoral muscle and using what remaining skin was left to pull across my chest.  On the left side, Dr. Timek completed a new procedure - and I mean new - I was the second patient she completed it on!  In a nutshell, taking out the lymph nodes leaves no place for the lymph system to take its liquids from your hands and arms to.  This causes a painful issue caused lymphedema.  Instead of tying off the veins, Dr. Timek dyed my lymph system blue and tied six veins back into the lymph system in my chest.  Hopefully, this means I will avoid lymphedema since 25-50% of women have to deal with this painful issue.  On a positive side, I mentioned that Dr. Timek dyed my lymph system blue in order to be able to re-attach the veins. That means, I have a gnarly blue spot on the inside of my left arm.  For me, this is outstanding, since I am the type of person that can be hit with a baseball bat and not get a bruise.  When I get hurt the general attitude is, "Suck it up, you don't even have a bruise."  Well, now, real or fake, I have a bruise.  And it's big and nasty and I will be showing it off. I digress. 

So, Dr. Timek's tedious work took longer than expected, but I am so pleased with it.  Dr. Timek built a shelf from cadaver skin (the same way they use collagen in lips) that eventually my implant will sit on. I have two lateral scars on both sides and am quite swollen under my left arm. The pain subsides a little bit more everyday but it has been particularly hard to lay down and sit up.  Who knew that you used your pectoral muscle for EVERYTHING.

Brian was quite concerned when they finally brought me out of recovery, as surgery had taken much longer than expected and since I was under anesthesia for a long time, I essentially looked liked a "goner" - no color in my skin or lips, extremely lethargic, not very reactive to his voice, etc.  He was very concerned about me so stayed awake most of the night to make sure I made it!  (Which I did...FYI). He stayed by my side for the next two days in the hospital and was a great advocate for me when I wasn't getting the pain management I was hoping to have. Not sure who drew the short end of the stick - Brian with me at the hospital or Nana Moni at home with Evan.  Both patients were disasters.

The next few days were pretty painful and hard to maneuver.  I was released from the hospital on Thursday and went home to relax.  I have been sleeping a lot, working on little arm exercises (like lifting my arms over my head) and still trying to get away with some housework (like making my bed). What has been hard is watching Evan go through a terrible spell. 

The Thursday I was released from the hospital, my mom took Evan to the pediatrician to inquire on his reflux and ever-developing cough.  The pediatrician changed Evan from Zantec to Prilosec and sent us on our way.  The Priolsec seemed to work for a few days but throughout the weekend, Evan's cough kept getting deeper and stronger.  My mom and I took him to the walk in clinic today and Evan was diagnosed with a virus, that if not treated, can lead to croup, or if he gets a fever, immediately needs a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia.  He has been up every two hours crying (mostly because his cough wakes him up) and my poor Mom has to get up with him every time since I can't hold him.  It's been a really long week.  I just feel so badly for my baby and want him to get better.

Meghan stayed around most of the weekend to help my mom with Evan and took care of laundry, diapers, feeding and rocking him.  On Monday, one of my mom's dearest friends came over to the rescue.  Mrs. Kruse made an incredible dinner on Monday night and has helped take Evan during his crying spells and entertain Cohen on his day off of school.  She is leaving tomorrow and my mom is already begging her to stay. 

We are so lucky; Lacey brought my favorite pesto pasta on Friday night, Meghan and Katie brought amazing soup, applesauce, bread and apple crisp.  I have also received so many flowers from people, like my Aunt Laura, Uncle Rick and Emmy, Aunt Maureen, Uncle Mark, Katy and Kristy, Katie and Bubba and Meghan and Dave, my dear friend Sheri and all of Brian's co-workers at Fifth Third. And I love my homemade note from Grandma!  It's been a really trying week with me recovering and Evan not feeling well but we are making it through.

Yesterday, I got the pathology reports back from my surgery.  Unfortunately, cancer was still detected even after all of the chemo.  In the first layer of lymph nodes removed, 1 out of 4 tested positive for cancer.  The breast tissue still showed extensive ductal carcinoma in situ.  That means it hasn't traveled from the ductal tissue but it also means the chemo didn't get rid of all of it.  It makes radiation even more important, but I was very sad and frustrated yesterday to get that news.  I would like to think I lost my hair for a reason...not minimal improvement. 

Some of you may be wondering where my wonderful mother-in-law was during all of this time.  Well, timing worked against us, big time!  Brian's sister, Tricia, was expecting her third child with a due date of October 12.  On Saturday, October 9, she started having contractions.  To make a long story short, Trish was in labor ALL week with contractions varying from 10 minutes apart to 5-6 minutes apart.  Finally, on Sunday, October 16, little Jameson Joseph Ross entered the world in a rush of a delivery (with no epidural!!)  We can't wait to meet our new little man and according to Grandma Cindy, there has never been an easy Murray baby so it will be interesting to see what Jameson throws our way!

So, signing off for now. And by the way, I know my blogs have typos.  I usually am very particular about what I put out there but by the time I finish writing a blog, I'm too tired to go back and re-edit it.  So forgive my errors...I'll be sure to let you know when I'm in tip-top shape for writing great, error free blogs :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Round 1: Erin - 1, Cancer - 0. Round 2: 10/11/11

Tomorrow is the big day in the next phase of my journey.  I have experienced all types of emotion - nerves, anxiousness, fears, worry, and saddness.  But today, for the first time, I experienced a new feeling.  I am excited.  I am excited to be finished with this torment and wondering what the next major tragedy will be.  I am excited to move on to my new body and not have to worry about my old body attacking me.  I am excited to say that chemo is over and now surgery will soon be over too.  I am excited to move on with my life and get back to "normal".

But did you know, that out of the 210,000 women that are diagnosed this year, only 11,000 of these women are under 40?  So the odds were not in my favor, but there were a lot of things in my favor.  I got pregnant during the first month Brian and I tried.  I had a very rare symptom that most women do not experience - bleeding from the nipple.  There was no tumor, no lump and I felt great.  I had enough OB-GYN appointments scheduled that they got me in for an ultrasound right away.  I had a team of five doctors compiled less than one week after my diagnosis on March 11 and started my first chemo treatment on March 17. My estrogent receptive cancer became very apparent because of my little Evan that we conceived so easily.  Now, exactly seven months later, they are removing all of the tissue that can give me cause for concern and I am excited.  My baby is healthy, my family is strong and I'm ready.  Let's get this moving!  I want it out! 

I know this is a graphic picture but I need to know that it's okay I am going to be different and feel different and look different.  And I want my friends and family to know that I am okay.  My little vacation gave me a second-wind and help me put this in perspective.  Going back to work helped me put things in perspective.  I am needed as a mom, as a wife, as a daughter, as a sister, as a co-worker, and as a friend.  People love me and support me, so the least I can do is go in this with my head held high and fight the best I can.  I tolerated chemo pretty damn well and I am determined to do the same with my surgery tomorrow.   So, I will allow myself the feelings of fear, worry, saddness, blah, blah, blah.  But right now, at this moment, I have an overwhelming desire to go out and kick some ass.  And embrace my scar.  And know that I am doing everything I can to make this go away and bring my sunshine back again.  Sunshine in my life, sunshine in my eyes and sunshine to everyone around me.

So, I embrace the prayers and thoughts that are being sent my way.  I thank you so much for them.  But I am ready for this and I am going to win.  I consider myself a winner of Round One versus chemo (and since I'm also the referee, I may play favorites).  So now, I'm going big in Round Two.

Vacation Getaway

So this was Brian and my last chance to get away before some major changes come our way.  With the wonderful generosity of my dear Aunt Kathy and Uncle Doug, we headed for their condo in Clearwater Beach, Florida.  I had a lot of reservations about leaving Evan behind but Brian and my mom convinced me it was something we really needed to do.  We left on Thursday night and got back in to Grand Rapids on Friday morning.  Our trip truly consisted of eating, drinking, reading and sleeping.  Probably in that order. 

We celebrated an amazing dining experience at Berns Steakhouse in Tampa, FL, where believe or not, I was able to match Doug drink for drink.  Hello red wine, I'm back!
No wonder I drank more.  Look how much bigger my wine glass is.

Our wonderful hosts for the weekend, my dad's sister, Kathy and her husband Doug.
Even though Clearwater was not offering world-class climates, it gave Brian and I a chance to spend time with each other and really enjoy each other's company.  We took walks on the beach (even though the sand pelting us in the face was not comfortable, nor easy to pick out of our ears) and shared great conversation, the way we always do.  I missed Evan terribly but it was great to know that he was in great hands back in Grand Rapids with Nana Moni, Papa Tres and Auntie Noogs.   Although, these are the pictures I was getting from back home. 
First, a trip to Art Prize on Saturday.  But Evan was dressed without pants.

Second, my dad sent me this and said Evan rolled over from his back to his stomach.  It doesn't appear he can roll back the other way and instead of getting him off of his face, he took a picture of it.

Doug and Kathy also invited us to join them for dinner in St. Petersburg on Sunday night.  I had never been there before and would love to go back and explore it.  There were these amazing "banyan" (sp?) trees on the street that were the largest I had ever seen.  Elizabeth joined us for dinner and it was great getting to catch up with my much younger, much prettier cousin.

I'm really happy to hear that all of my friends and family enjoyed eighty degree sunshine all weekend while Brian and I had the pleasure of celebrating the rainiest weekend in Florida all fall.  That's just fabulous.  But time well spent with my amazing husband, and Florida family.  I told them I'm the only one that takes them up on their offer to be that as it may, I might find myself back there in February!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

We're Off to See the ER...the Wonderful ER of GR

Well, we want to continue the mantra of "Never a dull moment" in the Murray House.  The good news is, Cohen got his cast off, school has started off relatively smooth with just a few bumps in the road and both Brian and I are enjoying our jobs even as banks continue to take some strong beatings in the media.

Evan turned four months on September 19 and had his four-month well-check up.  He is weighing in at a hefty 14.2 pounds (34th percentile), 26 inches long (84th percentile) and has a 16 1/4 in head circumference.  Clearly, he is not getting is long, lithe, small-headed genes from me.  It's amazing to see how much he has grown and how strong he is.  Evan has great head control and when he is laying down, if you pull his hands, he will pop right up into a standing position.  He is cooing and smiling and started laughing just a few weeks ago.

Little shrimpy at two-weeks old with his monkey.

Our big boy at four months old, laughing at that silly monkey.

We spent quite a bit of time speaking to the doctor about Evan's eating habits and the fact that sometimes, he just isn't interested in eating and seems to push his bottle away after 1-2 ounces.  He talked about how to get him to sleep through the night (sometimes it's an 8 hour stretch and sometimes he is up 3-4 times a night).  We voiced a lot of our concerns but were told we have a healthy, happy baby on our hands - music to every parent's ears.  We were also given the green light to start Evan on food - oatmeal first (apparently rice is no longer standard because of the obesity epidemic), then orange veggies, green veggies and finally fruit.  Brian and I were excited to start Evan on solid foods, for his sake, but mostly our own selfishness.  Does solid food mean he will sleep longer?  Well, let's try!

Evan's first oatmeal!

Evan's first veggie - I pureed sweet potatoes!

A few days after Evan's appointment, he continued to be very fussy and extremely finicky about eating.  He was taking less and less formula and seemed to spent a lot of time screaming and arching in pain.  Sometimes when we would feed him, he would take 1 or 2 swallows and push out the bottle and just cry. We stopped the veggies after the first day of feeding them and lessened the amount of oatmeal, but the crying continued.  Nana Moni had been convinced Evan had reflux from back in July when he would shake a bottle out of his mouth, but combined with the hoarse voice and heavy crying, we all were convinced.  I begged the pediatrician to get us in once again and Grandma Cindy took Evan to his appointment.  After hearing his voice, the same pediatrician that saw us seven days earlier said that he absolutely has reflux and send us home with Zantec.  

Evan had been on the Zantec for about a week and his symptoms just appeared to be getting worse.  He spent most of Saturday crying (and not eating) and a solid three hours crying on Sunday morning.  Brian and I agreed that it would be best to take Evan to the Children's Hospital to make sure that everything was okay and it wasn't something more. Of course this happened on a weekend when all of our family was out of town, so Lacey and Ben came through and saved the day and took Gavin and Cohen for a few hours. 

Wouldn't you just know that as soon as we got into the Children's ER triage, Evan didn't have one noise to make.   Not only that, he smiled at every nurse and doctor that came his direction!  Oh, you want to wrap a band around me and take my blood pressure?  Not a problem!  You need to get my pulse ox?  I'd be happy to do that!  Rectal temperature?  Yes, indeed!  I won't even make a peep.  At this point, Brian and I are sure that the nurses and doctors think we are crazy.  

Enjoying all of his ER attention

The doctor said they wanted us to feed Evan a bottle of Pedialyte (sp?) so they could see what we were talking about when he cries during feedings.  Well, of course we couldn't show them that because he took his bottle merrily!  And when he seemed hungry for more, well, he took his formula just as amazingly.  Feeling sufficiently stupid and one $100.00 co-pay later, we were told that he does have reflux and also sounds like he has colic.  Awesome.

One more thing, if your child is going to get sick and you are near Grand Rapids, I can't say enough good things about the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.  The staff was quick, efficient, caring and reacted very quickly.  They even reacted quickly to our non-reacting child.  

The first time he has slept in the car in a week - after our hospital visit.  Of course you are, baby.

But now I would like to know, where are those nurses and doctors?  Because the monster made an appearance again and wouldn't eat, wouldn't calm down and had no interest in anything but being held and bounced around like a maniac.  I swear we aren't making it up.  Evan is four-months old and has already out-witted us, out-tricked us and made us look stupid.  Well played, baby.  Well played.

I know that a part of me gets very concerned the second that anything appears wrong with Evan.  Unlike any other baby I know, my baby went through chemo with me.  He endured two drugs that make most adults vomit and stay bed-ridden for days at a time.  And, I was an emotional wreck during my third trimester, so the poor little guy wasn't in a womb of warmth.  He was in a womb of wrath.  Yet, I can't help but thinking, "Did I do this?  Did I contribute to his troubles now?  Does he know how much I love him and hate thinking that I might have harmed him?"

My surgery is in ten days.  I am pretty anxious about it.  It's not that I'm sad about losing my breasts.  I think I'm scared to wake up and see that a part of me is just gone.  Just left my body.  And with crazy fuzzy hair starting to grow in, and half of my eyebrows and eyelashes non-existent, how am I ever supposed to feel pretty again?  I fear that I am not being a good wife because my femininity is leaving a little bit more each day and it makes me keep a lot of things to myself.  I also cannot lift or pick up Evan for four weeks after surgery.  That scares me and makes me so sad.  

I met with my surgeon and plastic surgeon last week.  My surgeon told me they expect to find cancer deep in the tissue during the surgery, even though I have responded well to the chemo.  She said this is common and I should be prepared for that finding.  I am also have a new micro-surgery incorporated into my procedure that is intended to further reduce the risk of lymphedema.  I am very confident in both of my surgeons and am looking forward to knocking this part of my journey out of the way.  

Have another round of Herceptin tomorrow...then Brian and I leave for our quick Florida getaway on Thursday.  More on that later in the week!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

I have lots to update on, including Evan's 4 month pictures and his doctor appointment and my cardiologist appointment, but first, I have to share what happened on my special day today.

I had always heard about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure but never knew the details behind the race, the community or the organization. This year, a long-lost friend of mine from high school, Laura Korhorn told me that she had been organizing a team for the race for the past few years and wanted to know if they could put my name on their team shirt. I agreed, although there was some hesitancy on my end.  Thus far, I hadn't immersed myself in the "breast cancer community" nor taken advantage of any of the resources that are provided.  This was going to be my first venture into publicly declaring myself a "Survivor", even though to me, I am still in "Fighter" status.

I can't express how special today was or how special I felt.  I picked up a beautiful pink sparkly t-shirt that said, "Survivor".  Even though I only walked the 5K, the team "Breast Assured" was there cheering for me as I crossed the finish line and the loud speaker announced, "Erin Murray, Survivor from Grand Rapids" has finished the race.  I fought tears back as I was handed a pink rose and a heart with three pink rhinestones on it.  Because, for the first time, I felt a bond in my baldness.  There was a bond in the flat chests I saw.  There was a bond in the pride in the women's eyes and the depth of their journey.  Even though I am in the middle of my journey and am struggling with the anxiety around my upcoming surgery in three weeks, I was a part of that community today.  And the reason I could be a part of that community is because I crossed the finish line with Meghan, my mom, my dad, Ed and Cindy by my side.  Lacey, Ben, Laura, Stacey Zylstra, Amy and Dave Butterfield, Kara Brinks and the rest of our team (the runners!), Katie and Meghan stood there waiting to congratulate me - my amazing support system.  For the first time, my cancer was something I was angry or ashamed or embarrassed about - it was the first time I felt like I really could overcome.

Instead of thinking about the three surgeries, the year of Herceptin, the radiation or the five years of Tamoxifen, I thought about my blessings.  I thought about my wonderful family (of course, BK called me right after the race), my amazing friends and my precious little baby who was asleep at home with daddy.  I thought about the wonderful home that Brian and I have created and what our future will look like - because I will have a future.  Today was a day of inspiration for me to keep going and really kick some ass.  So Laura, thank you so much for coordinating.  And to the rest of Team Breast Assured - thank you for helping me on my road to being a "Survivor".

Team Captain Laura Korhorn and me

Team Breast Assured

Happy Ed, Cindy, Nana Moni, Meggie and Papa Tres

Two of my best friends (and runners), Katie and Lacey

My other favorite sisters, Katie and Meghan

My two biggest supporters....Noogs and Nana Moni

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work I Go

It has been a busy, fun-filled but overwhelming week! Cancer side-effects tagged along the entire time but I am trying my best to not let them get in the way of my everyday activities. 

We had our first weekend getaway without Evan and the boys. My dear friend Katie had a beautiful wedding up in Elk Rapids. She looked stunning, the weather was magnificent and Brian and I had a wonderful time hanging out with our closest friends. Katie had a quaint beach wedding and the reception was held under beautiful white Christmas lights right on the water. I wore my long hair since I was trying to "fancy" it up.

Brian and I decided to take advantage of our weekend away and stay up north on Saturday night too. We started our morning by taking a day trip over to Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was the first time I had ever been over there. I was especially interested since Sleeping Bear was voted the Most Beautiful Place in America recently. Brian and I took the driving tour, until we saw a chance to get out and climb the dunes down to Lake Michigan. The walk/run down was so fun - big flying leaps while you effortlessly make it to the bottom. The climb up looked steep but it didn't look impossible. And that is a lie. It is impossible. It was probably one of the physically hardest things I have ever done. Since I had chemo on Monday, I was still dealing with the muscle aches and joint pain, as well as my nose bleeding. Therefore, keeping my head straight down and crawling on all fours was not the best idea. But, step by step and inch by inch, I made it up the dune. There was a lot of symbolism in making that climb for me. It was a beautiful view and worth it to go to the bottom and see it, but I wasn't sure I would be able to make it up on my own. Brian stayed with me, by my side, during each sweaty step. We took a lot of breaks, and it certainly wasn't pretty, but I made it. And believe it or not, I even passed a few people (like one really old person, but it was a pass).

Brian and I finished our Saturday with some great massages at the Grand Traverse Spa and then headed to Leland to watch the sunset and visit the fishing shacks. We found a cute little restaurant called The Cove and enjoyed some fantastic whitefish. I really missed Evan during our weekend away and we called Nana Moni at least twice a day to see how he was doing, but it was a great weekend for Brian and me.

It certainly was a good way to spend time before I headed back to work on Monday. I was very nervous to be away from Evan, manage my work life with my home responsibilities and be an effective team member. I am happy to say that my first week back was pretty great. It was nice to see my colleagues and get caught up on all of the changes that have occurred in the past four months. I also had a chance to spend an entire day with my teammate Laura, who was my "other half" at work for two years! It was great to spend the day laughing, learning and brainstorming just the way we used to. We topped our day off with our old teammates, Courtney and Stacey for a laughter-filled dinner at Ukai Steakhouse.

The Herceptin has been pretty tolerable, especially compared to the Taxotere. I have had a few days of extreme fatigue and am still having joint pain and nosebleeds, but it's not nearly as severe as before. What would help, is if my baby would start sleeping through the night so that didn't add in to the exhaustion. I feel like Evan may be punishing me for going back to work - we have not had a day of 9:00 pm - 6:30 am in a few weeks and in fact went back to waking up twice a night last week. He knows that I am leaving during the day and I think he is punishing me a little bit.  Silly baby.

Even sillier - this is what Evan is sitting in while I am finishing my blog.  Silly Wolverines.  At 3:00, he will be changing into his Spartan onesie.

Lastly, Evan went on a date last night with Gracie.  Even though they are only 4 weeks apart, Evan is about 6 inches longer than Gracie!  They played under the jungle gym for a good half hour and made me laugh so hard!