Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Rumble with the Baby

Two more treatments left, two more treatments left.  I sure am ready to be done and get back to normal!  The side effects were definitely less this week but Friday and Saturday were tougher days.  The muscles aches and pains seem to settle right in my hips, knees and ankles - I guess I am having the pleasure of seeing what a true athlete goes through!  (Like my sporty heroes, Dado, Lacey, Ben and Uncle Rick who were actually out there doing good things this weekend, like running the CRIM).  The new chemo is also re-attacking my hair.  I woke up this morning and had my little fuzzies all over my pillow.  I am sad because I was certain that I would have a full-head of hair by December but now it seems like I am regressing and will be starting back at Square 1. 

On Saturday, we celebrated Grandma Cindy's 61st birthday out at Lake Michigan with the entire Preus family.  I would love to say the weather was beautiful, the company was joyous and the kids were on their best behavior.  Well, I can say 2/3 of these things occurred.  And of the last one, 2/3 kids were on their best behavior.  My littlest bundle of joy was the culprit.  Evan was miserable yesterday and succeeded in bringing me down with him!  I think I've gotten him so used to his morning and afternoon nap schedule in his crib that he just refuses to nap anywhere else.  By the end of the day, we both were exhausted and in tears.  I told Grandma Cindy that no one will believe me when I say Evan is such a great baby; it seems like anytime I bring him anywhere, the wires get crossed and he gets all out of sorts.  Today is already a better day; he had his hour afternoon nap in the morning and is in the middle of his afternoon nap right now.  I have no pictures from yesterday since my hands were full with Fussy-Pants :(

On a brighter note, I sold my car this week!  I sold it to a very excited single mom who connected with me through Craig's List.  It was an exciting Wednesday and I was running all over town exchanging keys, mailing payoffs, and getting titles.  I picked up my new car on Friday and just love it!  Papa Tres was instrumental in getting us a huge discount on a Nissan.  It's my first non-GM car ever, but the discount he was able to get through his new job just couldn't come close to GM pricing.  The boys were amazing (and silent) as they watched their new DVD player on the way out to Lake Michigan on Saturday.  It really gave us a chance to hear Evan's bone-chilling screams during the car ride.

I will have plenty of time to post pictures and catch up on more tomorrow - it's my weekly night of no-sleep.  I hope that anyone reading this on the East Coast is safe.  I stalked BK most of yesterday to ensure he was high and dry - safe to say that he is :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Um, Just Kidding

Well, it was not meant to be today.  After discussion with my doctor, and specifically the intense muscle aches and joint pain, she gave me the opportunity to choose to have the dose weekly, instead of receiving the triple dose today.  The upside is that the side effect should be less and I don't have to get the bone marrow injection anymore.  The downside is I am not done with chemo, I have two more weeks and no really "good" days to look forward to.  With the triple dose, the bad is bad, but when it goes away, the good is great!  Oh well...three weeks to focus on this and then I go back to work September 12.  Maybe the distraction will be a good thing. This picture made me laugh.  Evan and I were cuddling before bed and I snapped this picture.  I sent it to my brother and called it "Baldies".  He sent it back to me and said "Buddies".  So Evan and I continue to be Baldy Buddies.  Since we were going to bed, you can see that I am very ready for my eyebrows and eyelashes to grow in with my hair!

I was surprised with something thoughtful when I came home from chemo today.  Even though the plans were changed, there was a cake waiting for me.  It was round and said "You Kicked Chemo's Butt".  It was so cute and thoughtful and I know Brian was really excited about it.  There was also a card from my family with everyone signing it and wishing their encouragement.  They are surely loving me through it :)

Wanted to share some of the picture from Evan's baptism on Sunday.  He was baptized at 11:00 am on Sunday, August 22 at St. Roberts Newminster in Ada.  Father Len performed a very nice, simple ceremony.  Three other babies were also baptized together.  All of the babies were wonderful!  Not a peep out of anyone, especially Evan while the water was being poured, or when the oil was wiped on.  Evan was also the only baby not wearing a gown or tuxedo.  I'm more laid back than that and wanted Evan to be comfortable.  A white Carter's sleeper that my mom found at the outlet worked just fine for us.

 Our little family posing with Father Len after the service.
 Gavin, Cohen, Evan, Brian and me with Brian's parents, Ed and Cindy.
 BK, Cohen, Gavin, Meghan, Brian and Evan and Erin
 Gavin, Brian, Erin, Evan, Nana Moni, Cohen, Papa Tres, Meghan, Grandma Kline, and BK
 Papa Tres and Nana Moni with their favorite blessed baby
Proud parents!!!  And the outfit I was wearing was something I wore last summer.  Just as proud!!  LOL

Then, just wanted to share the cutest picture ever from our sweet little baby.  He is so smiley in the morning and this was taken right after he woke up.  He's just like his mama, with that morning person bit. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thanks for Making Me a Fighter

I feel like I'm headed into the final round in my fight today, even though I have several more milestones to complete.  Today is my last major chemotherapy and my last round of Taxotere!  I know what to expect and I have an idea of how long it will take me to recover but I'm trying not to let that dampen my spirits. 
I am ready to just "accept" the side effects - muscle aches, joint pain, change in taste, nosebleeds, and fatigue.  The past few treatments I really try to just power through, but I am wondering if it takes me longer to recover.  My doctor did say the effects are cumulative so every treatment gets a little more intense than the previous one. 

I don't have the pictures uploaded from Evan's baptism but he was a perfect little angel...more to come on that great day soon.

Also, we spent Sunday evening in Saugatuck getting family photos taken.  This is one of our favorite pictures of Brian, Gavin, Cohen, Evan and me.  Can't wait to see the rest of them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm Gonna Love You Through It

I just happened to catch this music video this morning on "Good Morning America".  It's amazing how you can stumble upon something that makes such a quick, profound impact on your life.  My own cancer journey has been trying, challenging and some days, I just wanted to stop. But I have so many people "loving me through it" and I am so blessed.  I hope you understand what you mean to me. The cards, the e-mails, the dinners, the visits, the phone calls, listening to me while I cry...even quitting your job to stay with me and help me...coming over to help raise all of these kids...and being there for me as a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend, a co-worker...You are all my angels.  And from your example, now I will know how to love someone else through it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Make Me Over

There are some days that I love being a girl.  I love days when I can take my time getting ready and spend time blending eye shadows, playing with bronzer and blush, going through my gazillion lip glosses and coordinating jewelry.  This was a weekend all about making myself up and celebrating fun occasions!

On Friday night, Brian and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.  Grandma Cindy volunteered to watch Evan (for the entire night!)  I wasn't sure if I was most excited about a night out or a night of sleeping - both equally valued!  I was able to go out and get a manicure and pedicure before my big date night.  Brian was waiting for me when I got home.  I put on a new dress, new shoes and my new hair :)  Brian made reservations for us at the Amway Hotel - it was my first time spending the night there.  Our night started with my favorite hour of all - cocktail hour.  We sat on the 25th floor and enjoyed the view of Grand River and Downtown Grand Rapids. We enjoyed a magnificent dinner at Cygnus 27 - the same place we got engaged.  The night had plenty of wine, excellent conversations about politics, retirement and our future vacation plans and delicious food.  Even though we stayed in town, it felt like an escape and was a wonderful evening.

On Saturday night, it was my second opportunity to get dressed up (clearly, another reason to return to work). It was time to celebrate the end of Katie's bachelorette-hood.  Lacey, Katie, Meghan Harsevoort and I indulged in massages at Design One before we spent the afternoon at Meghan's house eating cheese, fruit and crackers and busting out the wine.  Although I can't tolerate red wine yet, I seem to be tolerating sweet wines just fine!  I think my taste buds dull the flavor a little bit so I have been consuming mass quantities of Mascato.  It was fun to get ready together, pick out clothes and ask each other for advice.  Just like we did when we were 17 and would get ready for a night out together (even though our nights reached their climax by hanging out at 7-11.  Lame.) 

We met Becca and Gretchen down at 6-1-6 and had a great time visiting.  It was nice to talk about jobs, husbands, kids, and of course, letting Katie know about the glorious future she is embarking on.  Katie is so happy and excited to begin her married life...and we all can't wait to put our party pants on for the big day. 

I have decided I miss wearing high heels,  even though I am concerned my feet have flattened out from a summer of going bare foot and wearing flip-flops.  I miss wearing dressy clothes, even though I truly enjoy my yoga pants everyday.  I miss my hair, even though I really like my new wig.  I can say that I know I will keep my hair short when it grows out, but I don't like bangs and can't wait to get rid of them. I think I am going to start picking out my new wardrobe soon.  Certainly after my surgery, I will treat myself like any other girl likes to...retail therapy!!

On a side note - Baby Bootcamp - going so well!  Evan is now in bed every night at 9:00 and has stretched as long as 5:45, though most mornings he wakes up around 4:30.  He goes right back to sleep and stays in bed until 8:15.  Thank goodness my parents ran in to an old high school friend last weekend.  Heidi Hendricks was able to share that they actually make snuggly blankets and I can get rid of the double-knot straight jacket.  This is Evan this morning - always full of smiles when he wakes up.
And one lasts thing.  Our little Cohen fractured his wrist this weekend!  He hasn't quite gotten the hang of the breaks on his bike yet.  To avoid hitting a little girl who was heading towards him on his bike, he steered into a car, hit head-on and then rolled underneath the car.  It was the next day when he kept complaining that they realized he has a hairline fracture.  He will be in the cast for three weeks and can't get it wet!  Good thing we are winding down to the end of summer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I've been thinking about transitions and the ways we approach change in our lives.  I was thinking about all of the transition I have gone through during my life - sometimes I've handled it gracefully, sometimes my behavior has been less than stellar.  The past year has had so much transition that it's hard to account for changes that will result in growth versus the changes that have already made me grow.

It was one year ago today that my Grandpa passed away.  He had a rich and full life, full of experiences and family.  It seems that in the past year since his death, I have had more of an opportunity to learn about his time in the war, as a POW, and view him as a working, father of five, rather than as a grandpa.  I also was able to watch the transition of my mom during the last months of his life.  Being a typical middle child, my mom has always been a peacemaker and is a great person to call on to "take care of you" when you're not feeling well.  But last year, she took the word, "caretaker" to a whole new level.  I saw her spend endless hours at my Grandpa's apartment visiting with him, talking with him, taking him on walks and cooking for him.  This is in addition to never missing a doctor's appointment, talking with the nurse aids and comforting my Grandma every night.  I watched my mom transition from a daughter, to a parent - not my parent, but as my Grandpa's parent.  It certainly taught me about respecting life and how to be a comfort for someone at the end. 

The family had a beautiful funeral and procession last August.  We prayed in the church, buried my Grandpa in his grave and said our goodbyes.  The same afternoon that my Grandpa was buried, we started our next transition into celebration - because only two days later, on August 14, Brian and I got married.  My mom transitioned from taking care of my grandpa and tucking her grief away, to help me get ready for our wedding.  Brian and I had a small ceremony at my parent's house with only our family (and Maya!) attending.

Looking back, it is amazing to think that we all were at a funeral on Thursday morning, worked on getting the house ready on Friday and stood before each other with raindrops falling on our heads on Saturday.  Right after our vows were said, the rain stopped and we all were amazed to see a beautiful rainbow shining above us.  It was a sign that my Grandpa has transitioned to heaven and was joining us on our special day.  
It also marked the time for me to change from Brian's girlfriend, to his wife and Gavin and Cohen's step mom.  I had no idea how big the distinction could be!  I have been able to attend school conferences, worked on homework projects, packed lunches and get the phone calls to pick up sick children.  Being a step mom is more responsibility than I realized it would be, but I also had no idea how big the rewards would be.  The boys get excited when I drop them off at school.  They ask for me at night to tuck them in and say their prayers.  I take them on walks with me while they ride their bikes and planned our first family vacation to Florida in February.  Most of all - I miss them when they are gone!  It feels like our little family is incomplete when they are away for five days.

And I love being a wife.  Never before have I felt such camaraderie and teamwork.  Brian is my other half in every sense of the word.  I trust him implicitly and have watched him stand by my side during my diagnosis (while we were both expecting parents!)  I remember the day that I got my cancer diagnosis - Friday, March 11.  Brian and I were moving in to our new house.  We had packed up our condo, unloaded everything from storage and had just made the trip over to our new home.  My parents, Brian's parents and Meghan were on the way to spend the day with us to help us unpack, but hadn't yet arrived.  Brian had just left to head back to the condo when I received the phone call from the doctor.  Once Dr. VandenBosch confirmed that I had cancer, and it had invaded the breast tissue, I didn't hear the rest of the conversation.  All I could think about was calling Brian so he could come back to the house right away.  I was sitting up in our bedroom (which had no furniture!)  and text him.  It said, "Come back now."  It was less than five minutes that I heard the door slam shut and Brian ran up the stairs.  He sat down beside me, put one arm on my shoulder and the other hand on my big pregnant belly.  It was at that moment that Brian and I transitioned from being newlyweds to being a couple at war against an unseen enemy.  I just looked at him and cried.  I cried because I was afraid and cried because our beautiful future had a big question mark on it.  It took us quite a few weeks to make the transition together.  When couples go through something life-changing, each person tends to move at a different pace and process in a different way.  I felt myself becoming needy and dependent - two characteristics that I typically don't possess.  Brian felt like he couldn't protect me and out of control.  It has been hours of conversation and tears and laughter, but I know that we are going to be okay.  I can't believe we have only been married a year - sometimes it feels like we have been through so much together, I can't remember my life without him.  I am proud of us for getting through.  Brian jokes that we will be bored next year when we don't have a baby, new house, new jobs, and a new disease to keep us busy...but I am looking forward to our "bored" time together.
There are so many other transitions I have gone through this year.  I am learning, everyday, how to be a mom to Evan.  I hope I am doing enough and being everything he deserves.  On days when I don't feel well, I worry that he will remember me being sick rather than the upbeat, energetic person I like to think I am.  I am learning how to accept help from people.  When Meghan offers to take Evan or Grandma Moni makes us dinner or Grandma Cindy keeps the boys later at night, I am learning to say, "Thank you" instead of feeling badly that I can't do it myself.  In the next month, I am going transition to being a "working mom".  I'm nervous to juggle my work schedule along with our family schedule and my treatment schedule but I know it's something that I can do.  It probably won't be pretty at first, but as always, we will work on the transition together and overcome.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

You've Taken My Hair, Taking My Boobs...and Now My Wine!?

This particular round of chemo has been pretty intense this week.  The  muscle aches and joint pains continue to get worse..I keep waiting to wake up and feel "normal" again. I was excited to celebrate the start of the weekend with my favorite hour - cocktail hour..and am horrified that chemo has taken my favorite vice.  All week long, I have had a terrible taste in my mouth and food just isn't tasting the same as normal.  So when my glass of Merlot was poured for me, I was so sad to realize it just tasted metallic and terrible.  We sat down for dinner and the corn-on-the-cob deliciousness from last week turned in to a bunch of bland mushy kernels.  Even my favorite tomato/mozzarella salad was full of sadness.  I guess the plus side is the frantic teeth-brushing and mouth-wash-rinsing I am doing to try to get back to a state of normal.  I know the mantra by now is, "One more to go, one more to go."  I have never considered myself a patient person and this is certainly testing my limits.

Even though yesterday was a rough day, I wanted to keep my commitment to take Gavin and Cohen to go the beach on Friday.  We had made plans with Grandma Cindy, Aunt Tricia, Uncle Jim, Laney and Kylie and I knew that Gavin and Cohen would so enjoy the unexpected plans.  The weather was beautiful and it was my first time to Grand Haven all year.  We packed a picnic and sat around and visited while the kids played in the sand.  Even though the water was only 64 degrees, we all got in together.  I was only able to stay in for a few minutes because the cold really got to my joints, but it was a very fun day.

I am going to try to pull my attitude together tomorrow and hopefully it will be my last day of muscle pain/fatigue. I know that a positive attitude is one way to really combat some of the physical ailments and it may help in me recovering faster.  My sissy has been sending me the most motivating cards in the mail on a weekly basis...they make me laugh and smile and keep my spirits up on those crummy days.  Thanks, Noogie :)

Tomorrow, Nana Moni is going home for two weeks.  I will be sending out my grieving post later in the day :(

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Straight Jacket

We are approaching the five-day mark of tying Evan up in his straight jacket...and it appears it is the magic touch in order to get him to sleep.  It does seem like cruel and unusual punishment to double-knot the baby into a blanket, but every time I start to question the logic, he gives me a big smile!

This week has been pretty tolerable in terms of my side effects from the new chemo I received on Monday.  The biggest thing I have noticed is achy joints and muscles.  Walking down the stairs is a pretty close resemblance to an eighty-six year old man.  I had to go back in on Tuesday to get the Neulasta injection, something that is used to stimulate my bone marrow and increase my white blood cell count.  Since the majority of the stimulation occurs in my hips and knees, it is kind of a double whammy.

My dear old dad has been taking care of my car issue over in Fenton this week.  He picked my car up from the dealership and was able to have a great conversation with the service manager and zone manager.  Both of the managers highly suspect that the issue was caused by the repairs I had on my car in June, due to a recall.  Sounds like the dealership did a lousy repair job.  It's great news because my car isn't actually falling apart.  It's shoddy repair work. 

I am looking forward to the approaching weekend!  We have fun plans with Aunt Tricia, Uncle Jim, Grandma Cindy, Laney and Kylie - if the weather holds out we are going to have a picnic at Lake Michigan.  I am sure we will get some time in with Auntie Meggie on Saturday and then hopefully wrap Sunday up with a little happy hour with our favorite engaged couple. Trying to make sure we enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's Christmas Everyday

Happy August!  I can't believe it is Monday, August 1.  Where did the summer go?  I hate that it's been SO hot in July.  It makes it hard to take Evan out for walks in the stroller. 

I had chemo today and went in to discover there is a nationwide shortage on Taxol, one half of the chemo I am on.  That means we had to come up with a game plan to get me through the rest of my treatment. My oncologist recommended a treatment that I only have to get every three weeks, no longer weekly. The side effects could be more intense since they tripled my dose and I had to resume the full-level of steroids, plus take a pill form for the next four days.  The good news is, I only have one major chemo treatment left on August 22!  After that, I will get Herceptin every three weeks for the next year. The end of chemo road is coming to an end and I couldn't be more excited!

My MRI results came back and confirmed that there is no evidence of metastasizing at this point...and no additional suspicious lymph nodes!  Best ever!  My double mastectomy is scheduled for October 11 - another big milestone to complete.

Evan's boot camp had some major overhauling in the past two days and things are going splendidly.  Last night he slept 9:30 - 2:30 am, was up for 45 minutes and then back to bed until 6:30.  We are letting him stay awake for 90 minutes at a time during the day - he is changed, he eats, he plays and then back for naps.  All day long we were putting him in his crib awake while he was swaddled and he is soothing himself to sleep.  We are making progress!  Tonight's bedtime was at 8:30; hopefully we can push out our sleep time even more.

We had a wonderful weekend seeing the Miller Family at Aunt Myriam and Uncle Joe's house.  It was the first time all three great-grandchildren were together; Evan, Conner and Shelby.  Grandma kept saying to me, "Can you believe how big our family is?  Grandpa wouldn't even recognize it."  It was so sweet.  I just loved seeing all of the little ones together and Aunt Myriam put together a fabulous party with outstanding food.  Uncle Hugh, Aunt Connie and Andrea even made the trip from Ohio to join us for the afternoon.  I have adorable video of the babies together and once I figure out how to get it off my phone, I will upload.  For now, enjoy the pictures of these adorable baby boys.  Evan is in the navy blue and white and Conner is in the plaid shorts.

P.S.  Got the update on my car today.  $500 to fix!  Bummer!

Evan Foster, 10 weeks and Conner James, 12 weeks.  AKA Little Brian and Little Jason