Something to celebrate

I had this post planned a few days ago with the intention of writing it while at chemo (which I did start writing on Thursday, but I'm finishing it on Sunday) not realizing it would be the morning after a historic game 7 and a fairy tale win for the Cubs. So the beginning of this post is celebrating an amazing win and a dream realized for hundreds of thousands of people. Go Cubs Go.

Staying up to watch the game, sis couldn't stay awake any longer...

My real reason for writing, and celebrating, is I was able to get a mammogram and ultrasound on Monday to investigate some changes I had felt in my left breast recently. In doing so, they were able to evaluate the status of my original tumor, in addition to looking for any new growth that may have popped up since. I am happy to report that

1. I have no new tumor growth and
2. My original tumor is GONE.

Let me say that one more time so it can sink in, I have no tumor left in my body. Gone. Absent. Nada.

I am just flabbergasted and excited and hopeful and emotional and #allthefeels. Knowing that what I have been putting myself and my family through for the last 13 weeks has been worth it. Technically I am cancer free and that feels GOOD. Now we just need to get through 7 more rounds of chemo, then surgery and then getting back to normal life. Or at least a new normal.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post, let's celebrate!!! My amazing work peeps hosted a vendor party/fundraiser for me Friday night and it was the most amazing and overwhelming experience I have had in a long time. So many people came together to support me and our family and there are truly no words to express how I felt that night. 

There were so many amazing women (and men!) that were in attendance selling their products. Many of the consultants donated their time (and some even their commission) to our family to help us through this tough time. That in itself is amazing. What is even better is they have some really great products they are selling just in time for the holidays and the party is still open!

Since many of you are not local to me, I thought I would post links to the different vendors on here so that many of you are able to shop their products, even from home. So if you are interested in ordering anything from the following vendors, you should be able to order online and have it shipped to your house. Clicking on the link to each vendor should take you to their page to start shopping!


Thirty one is a great company that sells a large variety of bags, storage items and personalized gifts. I have a few of their products and swear by them! The deluxe utility tote is great for Costco runs and both girls have cinch bags for daycare necessities. They also have great thermal products that help transport hot or cold items to parties--perfect for the upcoming holiday season.

Beauty Counter

Beauty counter is a company that has developed beauty products that are free from the multiple toxins and chemicals that are laced in all our cosmetic items. I have recently started using their products and I love them. If you read my positive or negative post, you know that some breast cancers grow in the presence of estrogen and/or progesterone. Unfortunately, there are many chemicals in lotions/cleansers/hair care products that mimic estrogen in the body (if you have heard of parabens, they are one of these compounds). Beauty counter is dedicated to making safe products free of all of these chemicals, which is so important to me during this journey. While I haven't eliminated all of my cosmetics with these compounds, I have switched moisterizers, face cleanser and body wash to beauty counter products.


Jamberry is the company responsible for the cute nail wraps you have seen all over facebook. While I can't use nail wraps when I'm on chemo (total bummer, there are so many cute patterns!) they also sell regular and gel polish. Jamberry is also trying to eliminate toxic chemicals in their products, making their polishes "5 free".

Monat Hair Care

While I don't really need to worry too much about hair care right now, I did learn a lot from Melanie and came home with some products to help promote healthy hair growth. Monat, like many of the companies I have already mentioned, specializes in improving the health of your hair and scalp by using sustainable, natural products.

Pampered Chef

This popcorn popper was the hit of the party! All you have to do is use the red stopper to measure your popcorn kernels, dump them in the bowl and pop it in the microwave and you have yummy microwave popcorn without all the oil and chemicals. I can't wait to use it with Kate! This one just one of the awesome items Brittany had available.

There is something about the smell of cloves and cinnamon around the holidays that just make our house feel cozy. Scentsy has so many yummy holiday scents and warmers, they are great for gifts or to jazz up your holiday decorations. They are also a great price for holiday gift exchanges!

Stella and Dot

Chelsea was a busy lady at the party Friday night as well, her jewelry and accessories were very popular! Stella and Dot has something for everyone, no matter your style. I love both the delicate engravable bar necklace and the chunkier cuff bracelets. Maybe some bold earrings would go well with my bald look!

Usborne books

Usborne has the MOST creative and inspiring books for kids. While we read to the girls often, it has been exciting to see Kate really start to enjoy "reading" books by herself. I love the idea of opening a book every night before Christmas instead of spending money on more toys the girls don't need. Click the link to get some books for your little ones!

Also a big thank you to Erin from Rodan and Fields and Charissa from Lularoe for partying with us!

****Disclaimer, if you are easily annoyed by all of this advertising, don't worry, I will be back to my (semi)regularly scheduled programming on my next post. I wanted to give each of these ladies time on my blog because they GRACIOUSLY donated their time to support me. And what a great way to get some holiday shopping done early!!

Reality Bites.

Does anyone remember this movie? It doesn't get more nineties than Jeanine Garofolo and Winona Ryder and while this post will not be about the angst of 20 somethings in Houston, it's title is awful fitting for MY reality right about now.

Let me preface this by saying, this is not another pity party post. I am actually feeling pretty positive lately, given that I have reached the chemo summit and am now slowly inching my way down, one base camp at a time. While I still have 10 more rounds of Taxol before my mountain is conquered, in total I was prescribed 20 weeks of treatment and this was week 10. So take that Everest, I'm coming back down.

Anyway, back to reality (ha, you get it?). I came to the realization today that receiving a cancer diagnosis drastically changes reality in many ways. My perspective on a lot of things has changed and I am reaching, searching, grasping for a new normal in the midst of some rather uncertain times. So come along for the ride and let me give you a glimpse into my new reality, in no particular order.

Chemo brain: It's like pregnancy brain without the baby.
Chemo brain is a real phenomenon my friends and unfortunately, I'm afflicted with it. Main symptoms are aphasia, or inability to find the right word(s), memory loss, difficulty concentrating and loss of attention to detail. I have found the aphasia the most common for me, often times I feel like I'm on $10,000 pyramid, trying to describe the word I'm looking for.

I also have experienced some of these things prior to my diagnosis so I can't blame them all on the chemo, but this week I took the wrong exit on the way from the cancer center to daycare to pick up the girls. I was rocking some serious car karaoke to Justin Timberlake at the time, but #blameitonthechemo.

Low blood counts: Children are walking petri dishes
I have blood drawn from my port before every treatment to ensure my blood counts aren't too low before I'm allowed to have chemo. While I was receiving AC chemo (the nasty red stuff), my counts were amazingly resilient, in part because I received a shot the day after chemo to boost my white blood cells.

Taxol does not have nearly the effect on my counts so imagine my surprise when the nurse tells me my white count was 2,000 (normal range is 4,000-10,000) but because my differential (or the percentages of the types of white cells I have) was promising, I was give the go-ahead for another round of Taxol.

What this means is I am at an increased risk of infection, which is super neat for a few reasons:
1. We are entering cold and flu season
2. I work in a hospital, where sick people go to get better
3. We have two small children in daycare 50 hours a week

I'm not sure I could put myself at any more risk, unless I do something silly, like go to a children's museum. Here's hoping that my low counts are a fluke and will get their act together before next week's treatment. In the meantime, I will be covering myself in sanitizer.

Hot flashes: Because there is nothing sexier than a sweaty bald lady
I started experiencing hot flashes in my first round of chemo and they have stuck around this entire 10 weeks. Initially they were mostly night sweats, causing me to wake up both hot and cold at the same time (not really sure how this is possible, but its true!). Now I get them periodically throughout the day as well, although they are still more common while sleeping.

I am not sure if the hot flashes are from chemically induced menopause (that just brought the mood down in the room real quick) or simply a side effect from the chemo. Regardless of origin, they are an annoying, but tolerable side effect and unfortunately, part of my new reality.

Superman vs Clark Kent: Breast cancer and my mild mannered alter ego
This is the one I am struggling with the most at the moment. I got cancer and that sucks. My prognosis is good, my side effects have been manageable and I can no longer feel my tumor, which everyone tells me is a good thing and a sign that the chemo is working. All of these things are GREAT news, but it is creating this imbalance for me mentally because by all appearances, not that much has changed.

I am working nearly full time, although less hours than what I was doing prior to my diagnosis. I am still a wife and mother, responsible for caring for our kids, maintaining a household, and supporting my husband. Now that we have gotten over the hump of AC, its like life has returned to normal. Yet its not normal. 

My new reality is that it will be years before my hair reaches my shoulders. My new reality is I will have surgery in January that will permanently remove any sensation I have behind my breasts, despite how close to real boobs they will appear. My new reality is even if I beat cancer now, because of my genetic mutation, I still have a risk of reoccurrence and will continue to be watched closely for decades. My new reality is every October, I will be reminded that I have become a survivor instead of a supporter, that breast cancer will forever be a part of me. I am Superman and Clark Kent. As much as I look like Clark Kent on the outside, I've changed on the inside.

I guess what I am trying to say is everyone has complimented me on how well I'm doing. How great I look or how strong and inspiring I have been. And while these compliments are great to hear and keep me going, there are days I don't want to get out of bed. There are days I am completely exhausted. There are days I want to go back and pretend this never happened. But I will forever be a breast cancer survivor. That is my new reality. And I guess if I have to be something, being Superman really isn't so bad.


Having two girls, I assumed we would bypass the bathroom humor. Oh man was I wrong, Kate cracks up over "poopie" or "tootie" with the best of them. And while I try to encourage her to reserve using potty words only in the bathroom, it was only a matter of time before Evelyn joined the club.

On the way home from school yesterday, Kate and Evelyn were cracking each other up making "toot noises" the whole way home. And now, this has become Evelyn's favorite new trick.

Tonight, she sucked me into it as well, because really, toot noises are never not funny, even as an adult. So for a little midweek humor, watch and enjoy...

Happy hump day friends, we are over half way there...

Pity Party for 1

Well friends, it was only time before today happened. I have arrived at my pity party. As I am not one to sugar coat this journey, I'm going to be real.

I'm tired of having cancer.

I'm tired. I'm nauseous. I'm hot (one of the side effects of chemo is low grade temp) but my head gets cold easy. I have this constant unsettled feeling. I need to buy new bras because I have very few non-nursing bras, but why bother when I'll have different boobs in 3 months. My skin is dry but lotion feels weird on my skin.

I got in the shower today and had nothing to do. So I just stood there. No hair to wash. No hair to shave. I did use soap (just in case you were wondering) but then I just stood there. Thinking about how this sucks. And I don't want cancer. I want my normal life back.

Now, let me be clear, I'm not "giving up the fight" or wishing my life away, I very much want to live and be around to watch our girls grow. But chemo sucks and I don't want to do it any more. But the alternative is worse. So where does that leave us? At the Pity Party.

1 more cycle of AC next Monday and then on to Taxol. One day at a time.

Specific prayer requests: strength in this fight for me and patience with the girls when they need my attention. 

Go shawty, it's your birthday

Nothing better than a bald lady in a party hat

Saturday marked my first day of my 34th year on this planet and it was a pretty great one. Although I didn't get to sleep in, I was woken by Kate saying "Happy birthday mama!!" which was a pretty sweet way to wake up.

Shortly after, Mom and I took Evelyn and went grocery shopping (exciting, I know) and then got back in time for Mitch and I to go to a local spa and get a couples massage. He had told me a few weeks prior that he had never had a professional massage, so I figured I would bring him along for the ride!

The massage was wonderful, very relaxing, I almost feel asleep at one point but woke myself up because I wasn't paying to sleep! Mitch said he enjoyed it and would do it again for a special occasion.

We then walked through the mall a bit and finished up at Buffalo Wild Wings for an early dinner, only to be surprised to find out someone covered our bill! We don't know who this generous stranger was but we both agreed that we wanted to return the favor some day.

Once we got home, we had cake and singing and candles and party hats like any good birthday should. Even Ollie got to participate!

In the end, it was a pretty good birthday, to all of you that wished me a happy birthday through the mail, text, phone call or facebook post, thank you! I felt very loved!

Next post will be all about cycle 3, so far this cycle has been a bit tougher than the last 2, lets hope its short lived!

State of the Union

Well friends, please accept my sincerest apologies for my lack of blogging the last two weeks, last week I was pretty run down from my second chemo cycle and this week I returned to work full time so by the time the girls were in bed, mama was tired!

So with that out of the way, we have a lot of catching up to do. So I figure I would host a state of the union post of sorts, ultimately giving an update on all things cancer and life and work and play. So get comfortable, we have some catching up to do!

Chemo cycle 2 was last Monday, the same day as my last post. It was pretty uneventful and almost identical to the first cycle in side effects and reactions. One rockstar addition was these amazing unicorn kitten rainbow socks from my great friend Jen. It doesn't get much better than a kitten sitting on clouds with angel wings, a unicorn horn and a rainbow. I'm told they came from target. #youarewelcome


Also, this is Wrigley. She was visiting all the patients while I was there and she is literally the dog we thought we were getting when we got Ollie. She is sweet, mellow, knee height and does not eat things she should not, you know, the things everyone looks for in a dog.

I also confidently rocked the buzz cut, cuz if you are going to fit in anywhere looking like GI Jane, its going to be at the cancer center. Wrapped in a handmade blanket from my Grandma, it had to be a good day.

My next cycle starts Tuesday since Monday is a holiday. I'm told the Tuesday after a holiday is b-a-n-a-n-a-s because all the Monday and the Tuesday patients come for treatment. Maybe I'll make the nurses some cookies. We like cookies.

Side effect update: This is best done in bulleted form.
  • Appetite- was about the same from cycle 1 to cycle 2, the steroids make me hungry so the first week I found myself with a decent appetite. We were shipped 6 frozen Giordonnos pizzas (and we still don't know who sent them, reveal yourself pizza angel!) and it was DELICIOUS and actually tasted like pizza. Which brings me to...

  • Taste bud change/dry mouth- this is pretty awful, tolerable, but awful. For days 3-6, everything tastes like its coated in chalk and my mouth is like the Sahara. That is what made the pizza so delicious- I ate it during the peak of taste bud transition and the tomato sauce tasted like tomato sauce, the snozberries tasted like snozberries (RIP Gene Wilder). Another good friend of mine sent me Biotene mouthwash which has also helped with the dry mouth. 

  • Nausea- again, this has been pretty manageable with the right medications. I did notice a little more nausea this cycle but I cut back on one of my medications so I'm going to see if it happens again this next cycle. I think this has to be the symptom I was worried the most about as I tend to be a puker (2 pregnancies were brutal!) and I can say that I have been pleasantly surprised how manageable it has been.
  • Fatigue- this was a different experience for round 2. My nurse practitioner told me that most of the side effects from cycle to cycle will stay the same but fatigue will increase with each cycle and she was right. Last week I managed to work Tuesday and Wednesday but by Thursday I was just wiped. This continued until Monday. This is also when mom went back to Georgia so the timing wasn't ideal. I do worry what this next cycle has in store for me...
  • Hair loss- I have seen the most progression with this symptom and it has been the most frustrating as well. As you know, I shaved my head once I started losing large clumps of hair. Once it was short, I continued to lose hair whenever I would touch my head however this did not occur in any orderly fashion or pattern, which leads me with a awkward progression of turning into Benjamin Button. 
    Just a reminder, this is my freshly shaved hairy head for reference

This is a week later as random patches began to fall out, with others remaining firmly affixed

And now, its like I am wearing a hairy yarmulke
So desperate times call for desperate measures. I am so desperate to get this hair off of my head, not only because of the less than ideal aesthetics, but also, it HURTS. The best way to describe it is the hair that is left on my head feels like little fiberglass slivers in my head, especially when it is brushed against the growth of the hair. I'm over it. I want it out.

I contemplated waxing it, but that seemed painful and messy. I also thought about shaving it, but I'm sure I would cut my head and that would suck. So the next best thing....


Or just use the whole sheet without the roller. 

Unfortunately, my yarmulke is staying put for now. Maybe after my 3rd cycle these holdouts will finally throw in the towel and I can get a smooth, shiny head Mr. Clean style. Until then, I guess I'll keep complaining.

Well friends, I hope this gave you an update on how I am doing, I could write about a million other things, but its 10 pm and time for bed. Tomorrow morning I will wake up another year older and another year closer to 40, which is somewhat terrifying. But 33 has been a challenging year so lets hope 34 has a few tricks up its sleeve. I promise I won't be a stranger and I'll keep the posts coming. Happy weekend everyone!

Hair today, gone tomorrow part I

Ha, you see what I did there? I'm so funny on chemo. Today's post will be how my hair finally decided to say see ya later and begin falling out of my head. Come along on the has tequila!

I mentioned in my previous post that I had read that with my type of chemo, hair loss is usually between days 12-14 after the first infusion. As you all know, I cut my hair 3 weeks ago in anticipation of this event and while it gave me a thrill knowing what I would look like with a pixie cut, my hair is just not suited for that length. It's SUPER curly and hard to control and too short to try to straighten so I ended up giving into the chaos and letting it do whatever it wanted. See exhibit A below...

So to say I was secretly looking forward to hair ground zero would be an understatement. Beginning day 12, I would give a little tug on my hair only to be disappointed when it would still be firmly affixed at the root. I did this probably 10 times throughout the day to no avail and went to bed convinced it would happen on Saturday (day 13).

Saturday came and went, same test of change, same result. Later in the day I went for a mani/pedi with a dear friend of mine and we talked about how ready I was for it to fall out, I was tired of my curly mop, how ironic would it be if it didn't fall out and I just spent a fortune on a wig, etc. etc. Saturday night came around and I started to have some doubts. What if it didn't fall out?

Sunday rolled around and as I got ready for church, yet again, all hair follicles weren't giving up the goods. I went with mom to check out an open house around 12:30, hair was still staying put. Later that afternoon, I was planning on attending a Lularoe party to try on a few items before purchasing and I was a little nervous because I didn't know many people that would be there and while I have no problem sharing my story publicly with all of you, it's a little awkward with total strangers. At a leggings party. The last thing I wanted to be was Debbie Downer.

Then 3:30 came around, I performed my test pull and my hair said, PEACE, we are outta here. I lost a whole sideburn. An hour before I was supposed to leave for the party. Apparently God does still have a sense of humor.

So I came up with a plan that I would refrain from touching my head until AFTER the party. And if it randomly fell out at the party, well then it would be a pretty sweet party trick, "watch me lose my hair using only my MIND".

Luckily, the party was uneventful, I was gifted a VERY awesome care package from my rockstar charge nurses at work, which contained more leggings and shirts and comfy clothes that are AMAZING! Truly, the generosity I have received from all of you is humbling and overwhelming and touching and #allthefeels. But that is for a different post...

Once the party was over, it was time for the real party start. My friend Jen wanted to come over last night anyway, so I totally roped her into shaving my head. As a true friend would, she willingly accepted and brought chips and salsa and ranch to make it a real party, Ole!

While mentally, I was pretty ready for this, a little tequila never hurts so I made a makeshift margarita with frozen limeade and some Cuervo, which ended up being DELICIOUS! When life doesn't hand you margarita mix, you make margaritas anyway.

Kate was still up for all these shenanigans so I really wanted her to be involved to make it less scary. We have been talking about how I was going to lose my hair because of "the medicine I get in my button (port)", to which she responded, "can I press your button and make your hair fall out?!?!?". So cute, but not quite that simple!

I asked her if she wanted to help cut mommy's hair, which was met with an ENTHUSIASTIC "YES!!" so we plopped a chair in our kitchen, I took a swig of my marg and the show began.

Getting ready to start

We made a mohawk first because why not??
"Mommy, you look funny!"

Love these two girls
I took a drink of margarita, she wanted some too, so when I said no, enter total meltdown #threenager
So we put some yellow gatorade in a margarita glass and she was happy.
This I'm sure we resurface at her graduation party as the day she had her first drink.

See ya curly blond hair

Saving the best for last, I wanted to upload a short video but I'm having some technical difficulties getting it to load, so I will have Mitch help me with it tomorrow. Sorry!

I'm pretty happy with the final product. Eventually all these little tiny baby hairs will fall out too and I will be left with one naked, cold head but until then, I'm totally rocking the GI Jane look. I had chemo cycle 2 today, so I will post more about that midweek but it went really well. Starting to feel a little crummy as I write this now but hopefully its nothing a little sleep can't fix tonight.

Thank you for the prayers and support! Specific prayer requests for this week:
Evelyn- that she can get over this cold and be healthy!
Kate- we are trying a new bedtime routine, so that she is asleep before the Tonight Show comes on! Prayers that she falls asleep quickly without too much trouble
Mitch- prayers for his second week of black belt training at Cat, he is doing well with it but its intense and stressful so prayers for peace and an easy week!
Me- Prayers for minimal side effects again this week, hoping it goes as well as cycle 1
And lastly, my mom flies home to Georgia for a few days this Thursday, so prayers for safe travel for her is appreciated!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Infectious disease

Sorry blogland for my absence the last few days, after my post on Monday, I decided to make things a little more interesting and contract every infectious disease possible. Let me explain...

My first round of chemo was on 8/8. Because chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells (like cancer cells), it also effects your white blood cells (responsible for fighting infection). On 8/9, I got a shot called Neulasta which is supposed to help boost my white blood cells during chemo, but I will still see a drop in my white blood cells about 7 days after my infusion.

This would put my white blood cell count at its lowest, leaving me most prone to infection, on this past Sunday.

Which also just happened to be the day I thought it would be a great idea to take the girls to the Children's Museum.

I entered the museum with my family and a smile, and left covered with germs. When my counts were my lowest. In retrospect, this was a poor poor choice.

So I will let you enjoy the photos of happier times...

Because this happened by Tuesday....

This is me, laying on the waiting room couch because I physically cannot sit up. Stupid kid germs.

I woke up Tuesday morning at 4 am unable to keep anything down, even water. By 9 am, we called the onocology office thinking that I must be having some delayed reaction to the chemo. They had us head into the office, at which time I had lab work and a chest xray, followed by a visit by the nurse practioner and some IV steroids and hydration. During my chest xray, I could barely stand for the xray as my blood pressure was in the 80s/50s by that point. 

Once everything came back and I had a physical exam, the nurse practioner diagnosed me with the stomach flu (this was a give-in, my stomach was rejecting everything I tried to put in it), a sinus infection, an ear infection, impending pneumonia (my xray was a little cloudy but not terrible yet) and potentially strep throat or thrush (my rapid strep ended up negative).

I mean honestly, is it even possible to get that many things at once? Apparently, when you are dumb enough to take a cancer patient to a children's museum, it is. I should really be smarter...

The good news is after my IV fluids and meds and a lot of rest, I am feeling a million times better and I have learned my lesson. But to add insult to injury, my dear mother made me go IN to Dairy Queen with her looking like this:

I'm sure this is cosmic payback for something I did to her as a child. Touche mom, touche.

So, in the end, I definitely learned my lesson and will be much more cautious of my weak immune system. Today is day 12 after my infusion, so while my white count is on its way back up, today marks the beginning of when my hair will likely begin to vacate my head. This may seem odd but I am actually looking forward to getting this mop off my head, its crazy curly and dry and I just don't have the talent to style it.

So here's to staying healthy and enjoying the weekend before chemo round 2 on Monday!