Friday, September 14, 2007

Busy days

Up and at'em, today is a "typical" fall day.

Breakfast with Tessa, then hurry into clothes to get ready to go to school. Out the door, grab the bike, and we're off. Tessa rode her bike to preschool (it's about a mile) while Shep and I walked; we dropped Tessa off and then Shep and I went for a run. Home again, a quick shower, get some laundry going, and then off to Trader Joe's for groceries. (Proud to say that I did menu planning and a grocery list yesterday.) Grocery shopping, back to West Seattle....oh shoot, traffic on the bridge, no time to drop off groceries, so straight to preschool.

Pick up Tessa, admire her artwork. Time for lunch. Katie & Jenny took us out to Capers for my birthday lunch (thanks, ladies) and the girls had fun being a threesome again. My phone rang, oh shoot, it's the windshield place, a half hour early, and they're at the house. Hurry home, meet the windshield guy ("hey that's a BIG crack!"), and start unloading groceries as he works on the car. Zoe & Jessie get dropped off so that the girls can play, and I begin chores. Three beds stripped and re-made, laundry done, girls playing, popsicle snacks. Bring out the fall stuff (leaf plates, other misc. stuff), put the feather comforter on the bed for cooler nights. Two girls picked up, and Tessa, Shep and I are alone in the house again.

A little bit of playing, a few more chores, a bit of time on the blog, and then we'll do a couple of errands.

Fall days. Not bad getting caught up a bit, even in the mundane. It's a good thing to be healthy enough to do these mundane things.

Tonight is Family Night. (Most are, but this one's official.) We'll have a nice dinner, then eat popcorn as we watch a family movie together. Sounds snuggly and nice to me.

The new year

This is the first week of the new year. Not the calendar year, obviously, but for me the new year really begins in fall, with the first week of school.

Tessa is at her new school right now, and she's loving it. Teacher Shelley is kind, the kids seem nice (and Tessa appears to be making new friends), I've enjoyed my short interactions with the other parents, and so far I think that the program is excellent. Tessa loves the fact that there are "pets" in the classroom, incluing a turtle named Myrtle and a tarantula. *shudder* Tessa came home and said, "Daddy, a tarantula is like a really big, hairy spider. You can't pick it up though because it bites." Well said, my dear, and I will stay away. I'm glad that Tessa doesn't have those types of fears, but you won't find me peering lovingly into the spider habitat.

But back to the new year.

I'm filled with the desire to live my life to the best of my abilities and not, as Thoreau said "when it came to die, discover that I had not really lived." I don't have a lot of fears in that regard but I still contemplate the idea regularly to keep myself sharp. Am I being who I want to be? In this minute, am I giving the world the best of myself, or am I taking the easy way and cutting corners and turning a blind eye to what I must do and in the process hiding my best self away?

Some things in the past year have made me extremely happy.

I've been on two teams, Team Kristina and Team Warrior Women, that have collectively raised over $120,000 for breast cancer. I have begun a public life speaking out against breast cancer, and I've done radio, newspaper, and speaking engagements for the cause. I ran the "I am the Cure" program. I did my first half marathon. I'm a good mother, and a decent wife. I've stayed true to my health plan, and I continue to buy and eat healthy food, going organic when possible, with lots of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. I've kept (most) of my weight off, and I still wear a size 6 (not bad for a 5'7" girl). I read to my daughter, and play with her at the park. I camp with my family, roasting marshmallows (I don't need to be healthy 100% of the time!) under the stars in front of the campfire.

These things all make me happy, but there is so much more!

I'm thinking a lot about the environment these days, and I have a number of thoughts going through my mind on that topic. Last year I went on a "turn off the lights!" campaign for myself at our home, and I was delighted when we got a revised statement for our bill saying that our average bill has fallen by $9 per month. $9 does not alter my pocketbook significantly, and it doesn't save the planet, but it is a great beginning. There is so much more to do, though.

I'm shifting from grocery-store cleaning products (Windex, Clorox, Mr. Clean, Lysol, etc.) to simpler, more earth friendly products. I am finding that baking soda and vinegar are amazing cleaners, and I'm having good success with them. Hopefully the salmon will appreciate my efforts.

We sold our van last year, and the one-car thing is going very well for us. I'm trying to walk and take the bus more myself, as well. (Tessa and I are walking to preschool; today, she rode her bike. It's a great walk for Shep, and I can run home, taking the long way, with him, and we get some exercise.)

I am trying to decide if I can go on a "buy nothing" campaign for a year. There's a book on the subject that I am getting from the library (I had to place a hold) and I've been thinking it through. Could I go a year only buying perishable items or items that run out (food, gas, etc.)? How could I make my carbon footprint as small as possible? If Tessa needed something (she grew two and a half inches since April - my goodness!) could I commit to only buying consignment clothes in an effort to stop buying new goods? What would we do about Christmas?

I want to run the Vancouver Marathon '08, which takes place May 4.

And I think I'm almost ready to stop writing the blog, and to write my book. (I'll still post updates about Tessa with pictures on occassion, but enough of my ramblings already.)

I have a lot on my mind, and I'm determined to make positive changes in my life, and to keep up the positive changes I've already made. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but I'm working on it. One foot in front of the other...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Herceptin Video

It's online at last! Enjoy.

Tessa's first day at a new school

Today Tessa begins the school year in the pre-K class at A Child Becomes... preschool. Here are pictures of our pretty girl to commemorate the occassion. Tessa has gone from being very nervous to saying "Can we go now? Is it time?" and I'm hopeful that today will be wonderful for her.

Is it all worth it?

I've met some incredible women on my cancer journey; I've had a chance to learn my own strength; I've had a chance to implement positive change in the world (3-Day, Race, etc.) through my breast cancer journey. My marriage was shaken beyond what I'd imagined possible, and survived; my friendships were tested and given gold stars. Still, the question is asked, is cancer worth it?

This question is often asked in the cancer community. When I was at the LiveSTRONG event in Portland in 2005, I met a testicular cancer survivor who saw my bandana over my bald head and said, "Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. My life is so much better now!" He's lucky he was able to walk away from me, his words made me so angry. "The best?" I practically spat at him, "My husband and daughter are gifts, the best thing that ever happened to me. Cancer is a disease!" The poor man was trying to reach out to me, and looked surprised, and looking back, I'm surprised at my own rudeness toward him, but I was in a bad place.

Well, today the question came up again on the YSC boards, and as usual, there are two sides: those who think that the disease has brought more joy (friendships, etc.) than pain; and those who feel differently. Here is my response.
It is NOT worth it, and that is why I fight so hard to find an end to the disease on both a personal and a public level.

I look at my daughter when she's sleeping, and I vow that I would do anything to stay on this planet, mothering her. Yes, I want to write my book; yes, I want to retire with my husband; yes, I want to revisit Tuscany; yes, I want to run a marathon....but I'd give it all up just to be here to be her mother, to love her, to hold her, to reassure her, to tell her how beautiful and strong and kind she is.

Cancer is trying to take that from me, and I'm resentful about it.

I don't believe that it's 100% a terrible experience, because with deep sorrow comes deep joy. Because of the depth of my sorrow, I've been granted an opportunity to do more meaningful things with my life, I've learned the quality of my friendships, and I've seen my marriage tested beyond belief only to survive. I've met incredible women, that's certain. And I've learned a new type of compassion and empathy; I relate to people in a different way that I believe is healthy and empowering and helps me to feel even more connected to humanity. I will take joy where I can find it, and there have been many joys along the way.

But I'd give them all up to stay here with Tessa. I would give up these new joys for the old ones. The old ones were so innocent; I didn't know I was missing anything, because I was so happy. Life wasn't bad at all before cancer. I wasn't on the wrong path, I didn't have shallow friendships.I don't feel particularly bitter about it all, I just feel filled with the desire to change things. I can accept where I've been as long as I feel that I can find meaning where there is none.It's meaningless that I got cancer. I'm creating meaning by fundraising, speaking, and changing my life to change the disease. That's ME, though, not cancer. Cancer is a devil, and there's nothing good about it. The joy that comes after cancer isn't because of cancer, it's because of an inherent beauty within ourselves, and in our desire for something more than cancer, that makes us create new, wonderful, positive meaning where there might only have been pain.

Cancer is not a gift. I've paid, and paid, and paid for my learning. The cost has been too high. I'll take my learning, since I paid for it, but the debt is overwhelming.

And yet? I think I see where others come from when they describe cancer as a gift in their lives. Lance Armstrong says it, and he's not a fool. I just feel differently.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Surgery #8

Eight. I've always thought it my lucky number - let's hope it's true.

I've already gone under the knife seven times since my diagnosis:
- left mastectomy
- port placement
- left node dissection
- hysterectomy/oopharectomy
- right mastectomy/lat flap/expander
- left lat flap/expander and right implant
- left implant, removal of scar tissue, and corrections on right

This time I will do nipples (trust me, Barbie breasts aren't all that great), which means that they will also take skin from my eyelids. There will also be corrections on both sides: on my left side, the implant is encapsulated, which makes my breast very round, high, and odd looking, as well as very firm to the touch. Again, they'll cut scar tissue, making it easier to lift my left arm. On the right they'll also try to fill out the dip in the middle of my breast using Alloderm (don't look it up unless you want to know what that is - I have mixed feelings about it but I'm grateful to have it and owe someone my eternal gratitude).

I will not be able to bend down or making jarring movements for a week or it may cause bleeding in my eyes. Nice. I won't be able to run or work out at the gym for 3 weeks, though I'll be able to walk. Sometimes people's eyes swell shut for a couple of days. However, I'll only be in the hospital for the day, as it's outpatient surgery. Go figure.

I'm feeling a bit cynical about all of it. How much work do I have to do? Eight surgeries is a lot. More than a lot.

But this is what it takes for me to feel healed, and for me to feel whole. This is what it takes for Tessa to see healing. I will go ahead, even though healing is pretty ugly sometimes.