Tag Archives: Like a Girl

Gratitude Day 12: Good Riddance Chemo Pump!!!

IMG_8352 - Version 2

(Above: This little device was the chemo pump that I wore for my last treatment. It’s concealed within a little, black, fanny-type-pack with a strap that I had to wear over my shoulder like a purse. Tubing runs from the pump, into a needle inserted in my port.)
 

After each in-house chemo treatment I received–there was a 48-hour, take-home pump that I had to wear. It administered about two milliliters of chemo meds, per hour, for nearly two days. My treatments began in February of this year. It was pretty easy to conceal the bulging needle that protruded through my port under sweaters and hoodies. Once the weather started warming up, I was faced with the decision to either hide my pump when I went out in public or walk proudly with my head held high.

The first time I went out in public, with my port/pump visibly showing, was in late May/early June. I remember it with such clarity. The temperature was in the high seventies, low eighties. There was no way I was leaving the house in a shirt heavier than a tank-top. My mother offered to watch my two munchkins for me so I could do some solo grocery shopping.

When I walked inside the store, I felt like everyone was staring at me. Even if they weren’t, it felt that way to me. Each time I went in for treatment–the looks I’d receive from the other chemo patients, from their families, sheer sadness. They didn’t have to say it, I knew what those looks meant. “She’s so young,  How could she possibly be a cancer patient?, Poor kid, I’m so sorry she has to be here.” Each time, I’d look at them with eyes full of hope. Followed by a smile, as warm and genuine as I could manage.

That day in the grocery store, I decided to put my big girl panties on. I walked around as though I wasn’t wearing a chemo-carrying, shoulder-strapped, fanny-pack type contraption. I ignored the stares of curious fellow consumers. When we did make eye contact, I flashed a smile and said hi or hello. Carrying on about my business as usual.

Outtings this summer were that much easier after my first venture out in public. I became less and less self-conscious about my port showing or wearing the chemo-pump. Now it’s so routine, I don’t even think about it until I catch someone looking down at my shoulder. When I realize they’re staring at my port, which is hard to miss because of the placement of it and my petite size, it doesn’t bother me. I’m pretty open about my experience.

I’m a fighter, a survivor. Always have been. Most people are shocked by how nonchalant I speak about being diagnosed with cancer. I’m sure some people thought I was in denial about the whole thing because I’ve maintained such a positive attitude. The way I see it, life is what you make of it. I’m not the type to sit around, moping about, wondering “why me?” and being angry with the world.

Life presented me with a major opportunity for growth. For spiritual expansion, the ability to help others and (hopefully) inspire someone along the way.

I’m happy as heck to be done with wearing that pump!

Advertisements

Gratitude Day 10: Chemo Graduation Day!!! (9/17/2014)

 

DSCN7747 - Version 3

(Above: My twelfth and FINAL chemotherapy treatment! These are five of the nurses who were responsible for my care during treatments. Absolutely love these women! More like a second family to me than anything else)
(Below: My mother was holding back tears in this photo. It was such an emotional day for all of us; the nurses, my mother and myself.)
IMG_8349 - Version 2

The day before yesterday was my twelfth and final chemotherapy session. On the way to the hospital, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. It was one of those divine timing kind of things. The song was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and the Supremes. The song took me back to my childhood. I thought of the loved ones I’ve lost, imagining they were there with me. Angels by my side, protecting and encouraging me.

The nurses grew accustom to my goofy shenanigans over the last seven plus months. My first day of chemo, one of them pulled back the curtain to my little infusion cubicle to find my mother and I taking “chemo selfies.” In the very beginning, there were all kinds of jokes about the IV pole that held up the chemo bag & other meds. “The only pole you’ll ever need to dance with,” and so many others. I even got my sister in on it a few times, not the dancing, just the joking.

One day I noticed how the base of the IV pole branched out like spider legs, with eight wheels, one at each end of the metal extensions. After that I thought, I am so using this thing as a skateboard! Luckily, I didn’t want to be a bad influence on the other patients or I would have followed through with it.

When I pulled out a graduation cap, yesterday, and a huge sign to hold up during photos–the nurses weren’t the least bit surprised. “You know me ladies! Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go out with a bang!” We all laughed as we tried not to cry. After photos, I couldn’t hold back the tears for long. I hugged each of the nurses. Every single hug released more tears from both me and the nurses. These women wrapped their arms around me with such compassion and hope. They were there for me, taking care of me for nearly eight months now. My heroic, healthcare, champions.

IMG_6528 - Version 2

Nearly eight months of chemo, finally reached completion. The euphoria I felt upon returning home that day, indescribable. I felt cleansed of all negativity. Triumphant, that I never gave up on myself or my will to survive. I came so close to quitting around my six and seventh sessions. When I reached treatment number ten, I knew I had to press on. I gave it everything I had, to keep the crazy train moving forward until I reached Grand Sanity Station.

There’s no way I could have gotten through this without the emotional support I received from friends, family, total strangers and my healthcare team. I mean, I’m sure I would have found some way to get through this process.

All I know, is that between maintaining a positive attitude and having this massive emotional-safety-net to hold me up, I got through it. I’ve managed to kick 2014’s ass between being a full-time single mother, part-time student and a cancer patient. I did it all with a heart full of gratitude and a belly full of laughter.

Of course there were tears shed here and there, I’m only human after all. On the drive home from the hospital, I did my best not to cry in front of my mom. When I cry, she cries and vice versa. I was just so elated, ecstatic, joyful to be done with chemotherapy treatments. So indescribably grateful to the Universe that I made it this far, that it was finally over.

My mother looked at me and said, “You know Amber, it’s okay to cry. For someone who’s been through as much as you have, I don’t think you’ve cried enough.”

Such a surreal experience, like living through a lucid dream. Even though I had symptoms of a “dis-eased” body, went through chemotherapy and major surgery–the fact that I had cancer still doesn’t truly resonate with me. I had cancer? It doesn’t even feel right saying it. Throughout this entire process, I’ve held the visualization of my body being whole. I’ve seen myself as a healthy individual, with a strong body and a sharp mind.

Even on the days that I felt like poo, yes I said poo. (When you find yourself spelling out cuss words…in front of other adults…with no children present…sure sign of being a parent!) Even on those days when I felt like never getting out of bed, I still saw myself with an image of wholeness and full health. I visualized how good it would feel to not have to take a week off from the gym, twice a month, because of chemo. Or the energy I would have to keep up with my children, everyday, not just the weeks that I didn’t go through treatment. I imagined all the free time I would have when I no longer needed to have so many trips to the hospital. I practiced gratitude and thanked the Universe for healing my body, for putting the right people on my path to uplift my spirit.

Chemo is done now but I still have the road to recovery to embark upon. For the next two to three years, I have to go in every three months for routine blood work. My surgeon, who removed the tumor, has me scheduled every three months as well–for the next 18 months. There’s also the oncologist, GI specialist and my primary care physician who I’ll have to follow up with for the next two to three years.

As with all endings, come new beginnings. Finishing chemo feels like a period of great change. I’m entering survivorship now but it’s so much more than that. This isn’t just the beginning of a new chapter; it’s a brand new book altogether. My spirit, my soul, has been transformed. This end only marks the beautiful beginning of the best years of my life and the lives of my children. In the words of Old Blue Eyes, “The best is yet to come and babe won’t that be fine?”

Gratitude Challenge: Days 6 and 7

DAY 6: Time for Me!

My true “aha” moment for Saturday, rather my “ahhhh” moment, was at the end of the day. Saturday was another busy day. Is there ever really a day that isn’t busy when you’re raising two children?

It was the end of the night, probably around 9:30 p.m. or ten. Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 fell asleep entirely on their own after a day of hard play. My son had been a human ping-pong ball, bouncing back and forth between our house and the neighbor’s for most of the day. My daughter had been helping me sort through the endless pile of laundry, following me around as I did some light housework. I decided to take it easy after feeling pretty wiped out Friday night.

There’s this quiet moment, that as a mother, you learn to cherish–just as much as the noisy, rambunctious play of happy children. That was my gratitude moment. The house was completely quiet, not a peep, nor a snore or a creaky floor board. I was actually able to sit silently through an entire movie! An entire movie! The last time I was able to do that was months ago when I went out to the movies with one of my friends. To be able to pick a movie, one that doesn’t involve me having to say “cover your eyes,” “don’t watch this part,” “cover your ears” or “We can’t get this one, it’s not appropriate for you guys to watch.” HOLY HELL BATMAN! It was fantastic!

I love cuddling up to my munchkins and watching movies together as a family. But there’s something about that sacred time of silence and having time for yourself as a mom that is truly invaluable. You have to nourish yourself in healthy ways, otherwise you have nothing left to give your children. Between school, helping my son with his homework/school related assignments, my own homework, chemo, doctor’s appointments, family and everything else in between–it can be incredibly difficult for me to carve out time for myself. I get to go out and experience quite a bit but 99 percent of those times, my children are always in tow. It can be a real energy-drainer if I don’t take time to recharge my spirit.

Sunday morning the kids and I were able to sleep in for the first time all week. Heaven! It was sheer Nirvana. The only drawback to sleeping in is that I don’t always have the opportunity to meditate in the morning. Once my children are awake, they’re ready to take on the day…full throttle. But I knew I needed to start my day off right. Since both of my kiddos woke up in such a great mood, I figured I would seize the opportunity. I let my son know that I needed about 15 minutes of alone time to meditate. Being so used to my “not your typical mom” antics, he said “oh okay, let me know when you’re done.” My daughter is the tricky one. I never know if she’s going to be understanding or climb all over me like a human jungle gym.

“Mommy is going to meditate, so you need to be very very quiet. Okay?” She looked at me with those big brown eyes, long curly lashes and said “Okay Mommy” in her raspy little Michelle Tanner voice. Which brings me to my gratitude moment of Day 7.

DAY 7: Many Blessings

I lay in bed, settling into my zen place Sunday morning. I was about half way through my meditation, totally in my happy place. I could hear the pitter patter of tiny feet stomping heavily upon the floor as my daughter ran back and forth between my room and the living room. About halfway through my meditation, I felt the tiny tickle of a button-nose on my cheek. My eyes remained closed but I could feel my daughter begin to smile as I started laughing. The more I laughed, the more Eskimo kisses I was given. Then a big “Muah!” as she kissed my cheek, followed by more of her hearty giggles. I could hear her over the music playing in my earbuds, “This is so much fun Mommy!” Laughter truly is the best medicine!

She lay down next to me, took a few deep breaths, then dramatically threw herself on me. She wrapped her chunky little arms tightly around mine, squeezed me with a bear hug and smiled. “I love you so much Mommy.” My heart melted like plasticware stuck to the bottom of the dishwasher rack.

That was how my day began. There were so many beautiful instances of gratitude yesterday. The weather was perfect–clear blue sky, beams of warm sunlight shining down. A cool breeze blew through the patio wind chimes, making my heart smile. After using, and slightly altering, my older brother’s cinnamon pancake recipe–I disconnected my son from his X-Box console. He reluctantly got ready to go to the park with his sister and me. Once we got there though, he didn’t want to leave.

Another gratitude moment from Sunday, was having the strength and energy to run around the playground with my children. Some days, especially during the week of chemo, it can be really hard for me to keep up with the kids. All I want to do is sleep or lay on the couch for hours. But I don’t always have that option unless my folks are around to help out. Fatigued or not–I still have to cook dinner, do laundry, help with third grade homework assignments, buy groceries, have tea parties, play board games. If I don’t do most of these things, my kids are missing out. Just because I’m a cancer patient, doesn’t mean that my children should have to sacrifice their childhood. It’s bad enough that they’re going to have memories of me being in the hospital connected to IV lines, seeing me tired, dizzy, nauseas and grumpy. They should get to play, have fun, enjoy their childhood no matter what. You blink and then you’re grown, it’s time you can’t get back.

Hopefully they know how much I enjoy spending time with them. How loved they are. I always explain it to both of them. When I’m too tired to play a game or read a story before bedtime, “It’s not that I don’t want to do those things with you because I really do. It’s just that mom is too tired right now but we’ll (play that game, read that book, go to a particular place) as soon as I’m feeling rested again.”

My son has been incredibly understanding for an eight-year-old. My daughter has been as well, even though she’s three. The nights I’m too exhausted to read, my daughter will say “It’s okay Mommy, I’m going to read to you. Is that a good idea?” Both of my children are such old souls, though, beyond their years intellectually. My mom used to hear the same thing about me as a child, so it’s no wonder I guess.

My daughter interrupting my morning mediation was by far the best gratitude moment of my day, though there were several others. One of my aunts, who I haven’t seen in years, came to visit. My mother cooked up an amazing meal. Double gratitude there because we had ribs, mashed potatoes and Lebanese style green beans…and I didn’t have to cook any of it. My mother took care of everything, It was so nice being served for once. It’s tiring when you have to do the cooking, cleaning and dishes every time you cook. Which, for me, is three to four times a week.

It was a great weekend, spent laughing and reminiscing with family. This week, I’m supposed to finish up my twelfth and final chemo treatment on Wednesday. I still have sessions seven through eleven to blog about, luckily it’s all written down in my writer’s notebook. It’s been one mind-blowing, spirit-enlightening journey for certain! I’m eager to see what the week will bring 🙂