So I got four tattoos yesterday. Wild and crazy, right? I guess not, but certainly something that I never expected to do.
In the seven weeks or so since I posted last, I’ve had a lot going on. I can’t seem to name many things that I did in that time, but I can tell you for sure that I’ve been going non-stop, full throttle all day long and flopping into bed exhausted at the end of each day. Let’s see…
Shortly after my last post, I completed chemo treatment number seven. I can’t recall if it was a “good” one or a “bad” one. I guess I’ll consider myself lucky that it doesn’t stand out in my mind as much as treatment number four does. ::shudder:: In the week following treatment number seven, I decided to get my act together with running again. It was brutal. Worse than third trimester running.
Unfortunately, my running came to a grinding halt just days after I started at it again when I got a bit too confident on my mountain bike. [Note to self: The full face helmet does not protect your whole body.] My ride was feeling a bit too good as I careened down a winding stretch of single track, patting myself on the back for almost keeping up with Chris and Alex. I was on top of the world.
Until I wasn’t.
Instead of one of those slow motion bike wrecks, this was more like biting it on a snowboard. The kind of snowboarding fall where you catch an edge and simultaneously smack your face into the snow. [What just happened?] If you have gotten on a snowboard even once, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
One minute, I was riding my bike. A split second later, I was flying through the air in a perfect trajectory to slam, knee cap first, into a rock. I immediately decided that I couldn’t move. Someone was going to have to carry me and my bike back out of there. Then I gave a second thought to the image of Chris carrying his broken bike back through miles of this same trail a few summers earlier and I decided to get back on the horse and hope that those guys had waited for me somewhere down the trail.
Long story short, my knee was pretty badly bruised and quite painful for about three weeks, so running got put on hold for a while. Fortunately, it is mostly back to normal now and I have been running pretty regularly for the past few weeks.
About a week after my bike wreck was another significant event: my eighth and final chemo treatment. I can’t even put into words how relieved I am to have that behind me. Even the thought of having an IV makes me nauseous. Blet.
I’m nearly four weeks out from my final chemo treatment and I have reached a milestone almost as important as finishing chemo itself. My hair has gotten long enough and thick enough that I have started getting a ton of compliments on it. Earlier this week I even had a stranger pay my check at a restaurant because he liked my haircut. A stranger probably twice my age, but still. I’m amazed that I get much more positive feedback on the hairstyle that I never wanted than I ever did on the style that I maintained for years. I wonder if I had really bad hair before but just didn’t know it? I don’t especially care. Good, bad, or ugly, I’m aiming for long hair again just as fast as it will grow.
In running news, I’m still dreadfully slow, but much improved from a few weeks ago. On my first “run”, I use that term loosely, I struggled to maintain an 12:35 pace. As I expected, after pushing through a few frustrating runs, I am improving a lot and have already shaved about 2.5 minutes off of my (un?) comfortable pace. If I keep at it, I’m sure that I can get back to a level that I will be satisfied with.
So back to the new ink. As you may have surmised, I went to New York yesterday to get set up on the radiation machine and I came home with four tattoos. They are just tiny dots, smaller than a dot from a ball point pen. One is used to aim the radiation beam, the other three are used to triangulate my position to make sure that I am in the exact same spot for each treatment. Way more hard core than barbed wire. Duh.
It has been a very long time since I posted last. Just before my hiatus, I made a trip to New York to see my doctor at Sloan-Kettering. It was a wonderful trip, in large part because while I was there I had a clean PET scan and found out that my treatments would be reduced from six cycles of ABVD to four cycles of ABVD. I returned from New York, all keyed up to write this amazing “I’m halfway though with chemo and on top of the world” post, when suddenly things seemed to stop going my way.
A few days following that awesome PET scan, I experienced my most awful chemo aftermath to date. It happened just as I expected it to (but didn’t) the first time. I was so sick. Like wasn’t able to keep food down for almost four days sick. Like even teaspoons of water and ice chips weren’t happening sick. I’m so lucky that this has only happened once (so far). I’m also extremely fortunate that I had my mother in law in town to help Chris with Kai and to make sure that I kept attempting to consume fluids.
Before the wrath of the bad chemo treatment even subsided, another far more upsetting event unfolded. Chris’ grandmother, who he loves very much, passed away. By the time we headed out to Los Angeles to be with his family, I was physically feeling much better, but it did not seem like an appropriate time to write a blog post. I figured that I would catch up on blogging when we got home.
I was correct, but I had no idea just how long we would be gone for. Before we made it home from Los Angeles, we received more terrible news, this time about my Grandmother. Later that day we were headed from LA to New Jersey to be with my family and attend a second funeral that weekend.
Although we have been home for almost a week now, I just haven’t been in the mood to write. Instead of hiding behind my laptop, or in all likelihood, my iPhone, I wanted to spend my time holding Chris and Kai and being together, so that is what we did; I’m sure you all understand.
The ducks are thriving at Duke’s House, so much so that they needed to have a bit more space. We debated many possible solutions, ultimately deciding that the ducks should make their big move to the great outdoors. Although the temperatures are staying warm enough for them to be outside, they are still quite young, so they still need plenty of protection from predators and the elements. On Sunday, we headed to the hardware store to check out our options.
By late afternoon, Chris has finished up their new digs and we just needed to move the ducks themselves. Piece of cake, right?
To simplify matters, we waited for Kai to go to bed before beginning the duck wrangling process. The first method of transport that we selected was via wheelbarrow. Our strategy was to move ten ducks at a time; if anything went wrong, we did not want to have the whole badling of ducks in transit at one time.
I stood on one side of the kiddie pool to encourage them to congregate on the other side, Chris would swoop in on the side opposite me and try to grab one with each hand as they ran back toward me. He placed the ducks that he caught in the wheelbarrow where I monitored to make sure that nobody escaped. After a few go-arounds, Chris has placed ten ducks in the wheelbarrow and we began to make our way the hundred yards or so to their new home. Duke, of course, loved this game.
Chris made little progress with the wheelbarrow before deciding that it needed to remain level. Instead of rolling it, we each picked up one side of it and carried it the rest of the way, rambunctious puppy in tow.
When we finally arrived at their new home, we realized that the wheelbarrow would not fit through the gate. Duke and I stood guard as Chris unloaded the ducks. This was not ideal.
We ditched the wheelbarrow and instead found a deep cardboard box.
Back to the garage, back to wrangling ducks. Chris was getting much better at catching them, but as the population in the pool thinned out, it became obvious that the more nimble of the ducks were the ones left. This time he got ten ducks put into the cardboard box, which he carried across the yard. Much easier.
One last trip, and finally all thirty ducks had arrived at their new home. After a few last adjustments to the heat lamps and double checking their food and water, we decided that the ducks were much better outside than in our garage. I am so relieved to have them outside!
Wednesday morning Chris got a call from the post office.
“You have some birds or something. You need to come pick them up.”
I’m so glad I didn’t put my phone number on the duckling order form. I was MIA at training all week, it would have been pretty interesting if I had needed to sneak out to get them.
So yeah, we have a lot of ducks now. 10 Black Crested Pekin, 9 Indian Runners, and 10 Cayuga. There was one casualty as the ducks made their way from Oakland, CA and Denver.
Chris made his way to the post office as quickly as possible to pick them up and get them settled into their new home. Thankfully, we spent most of Saturday getting ready for ducks. Kai got to go to one of Chris’ favorite stores of all time on Saturday, Rural King, where, ironically, there were plenty of ducks for sale.
Now we have a giant kiddie pool full of ducks in our garage. Who doesn’t, right? They seems to be pretty high maintenance so far. The wood shavings in their pool need to be changed daily, plus they seem to need fresh food and water twice per day. Even Duke just gets one feeding. [Duke free feeds, so it takes him about 24 hours to work through his bowl of food.] With Chris’ insane travel schedule, I am pretty sure that I will be quite ready for the ducks to move outside when the time comes. Of some consolation is the fact that Kai seems to be quite amused by watching the ducks. I’m glad that she appreciates them.
- Chris was gone all week and these guys could have arrived while he was away. What the heck would I have done with 30 ducklings?
- Chris has definite plans to travel in the future. I obviously have time to take care of ducks in addition to my normal daily activities. Riiiiigt.
- I wouldn’t know what to do with a duckling if I had one.
Gosh, I hope he is here when they arrive.
I’m kind of regretting this decision.
Animal lovers: Not to worry, I will absolutely care for them no matter what, but perhaps I would have yet again vetoed the idea if I had thought through it more thoroughly. Buyers remorse anyone? And no, Chris doesn’t have it, he is still stoked.
I have said this before: Chris is fairly charming and he often influences people to do things that they wouldn’t normally agree to. Um, yeah, case in point.
So I survived treatment number one. That means that, in theory, I only have either seven or eleven to go.
All in all, I would say that it went pretty well. I did not get sick, which was huge. Going into this, I made sure that my bathroom floor was clean in case I ended up hanging out on it. So glad that I didn’t end up using it!
I would say that the biggest symptom that I faced was being extremely tired. Chris and I did make it out running on Saturday, but I came home and took a short nap straight away. Psychologically, the run was very important. Physiologically, the run may have been the tipping point to extreme exhaustion. You know when you are so worn out that your bones just feel hollow? Yeah, like that.
Sunday morning, of course, Kai wanted to get up bright and early, she doesn’t understand why I want to sleep so much. We made it through the day, Chris doing the bulk of the Kai care, but by 2 pm I could not believe that there were five plus hours until she might go to bed. I was toast.
As an escape, I cut our grass yesterday. It seemed like mowing would be easier than holding Kai for hours while Chris mowed. Although I wore SPF 30 sunblock on my face, I still burned. I was warned that I might be more photosensitive than usual, but I was surprised that it was something SPF 30 couldn’t handle. I’ll remember that for next time.
I’m relieved that things went fairly smoothly, hopefully things don’t get much worse with progressive treatments.
“I don’t believe you’ve never brooded ducks before.”
Thank you eFowl for your awesome selection and free shipping!
Ducks, I truly hope that Chris’ duck brooding abilities match the confidence he has in his skills.
Saturday morning I sprung out of bed to the sound of the baby monitor. As I raced across the house to tend to Kai before she became hysterical, Duke sprung into action too. At first I didn’t think much of it, after all, most dogs like to get the day started right away when their family wakes up.
After I got Kai changed and settled into our favorite chair with a bottle, Duke started pacing by the door.
I let it go for a moment. It was pouring rain with thunder and lightening. It was nasty outside. I needed to get Kai settled down enough that I could leave her in her crib while I got suited up in my rain coat, pants, and galoshes to take Duke out.
He kept pacing, more intensely now. The kind of pacing that made me wonder if he was going to explode into a poopy mess in the middle of my living room. Ugh.
As Duke got more rowdy, Kai did too. Figures. Finally, in exasperation, I opened the door. I did not want to clean up an indoor mess from a 200 pound dog.
Chris often lets Duke out, patiently waits by the door while Duke does his thing, calls him, and Duke prances happily back into the house.
Things initially seemed to be going as planned. Duke did his thing, I called, and he began to lope back in my general direction. I breathed a sigh of relief. A bit too early. Duke hung a left and took off into the swampy part of the orchard.
You’ve got to be kidding me. Suddenly I found myself putting a soon to be screaming baby into her crib, dashing off to put on my rain jacket and pants, and unable to find my galoshes. I quickly settled on an old pair of running shoes and took off into the swamp after Duke.
Within several steps, both shoes had been completely submerged. Sweet. Good thing I didn’t have long pants on under my rain pants.
After a few more steps, I lost one of my untied shoes in the quagmire. You know when the mud just sucks the shoe clear off of your foot? Awesome.
I freed the lost shoe and continued in pursuit of Duke. When I finally caught him he was soaking wet and covered in mud. We made our way back to the house where, strangely, I stood in the rain and hosed him down.
Of course Kai was as upset as I was by the end of that whole ordeal. Thankfully she settled down quickly and we were able to continue with our day.
As I came into the house, arms full of groceries and a car seat, I left the door between the house and the garage open for just a second. Our kitchen is about five feet from that door and the plan was to leave Kai and the groceries in the kitchen floor while I went back to reach into the garage to close the garage door. In that split second while I slid the car seat and grocery bags off of my arms, Duke escaped.
He went bounding towards the pond with me trailing steps behind him. For some reason, he stopped short, dropped to one hip like he was sliding into home plate, and skidded across the wet, muddy grass. Careful not to do the same thing, I reached his side a moment later. Excited to see me, he began rolling in the mud, feet in the air like he thought he would get his belly scratched or something.
Back to the hose we went, fortunately not in the pouring rain this time, for Duke’s second bath of the day. Lucky for me, Kai slept through this one.
I kind of felt like I had my hands full that day. Although things have gone smoothly since then, at that moment, Chris could not come home soon enough!
That’s what my doctor told me Tuesday morning as he drilled into my pelvis to take a bone marrow sample.
He was kidding, of course, he followed up with a “well, today anyway”. As far as he can recall, he has done in the neighborhood of 3000 of them, so I was in good hands. Chris was quite relieved that the doctor ordered a bone marrow biopsy as he wanted to cover all of our bases. He may have secretly been curious about seeing medical power tools in action. When it came down to it though, I think that Chris discovered that he was pretty grossed out by watching the doctor extract a bone marrow sample with something that very closely resembled a miniature hole saw. Kai seemed unphased by it and just babbled away in the background.
Tuesday was my first meeting with the lymphoma expert and it went quite well, all things considered. He was able to tell me that it is Stage 2XB, which basically means that the mass is more than just the initially affected lymph node, that it is a bulky tumor, and that I had secondary symptoms (namely night sweats). He sent me off for a battery of additional tests such as another CT scan, a pulmonary function test, an EKG, and an echocardiogram. The CT scan was to assess tumor growth, while the other tests were to establish baseline heart and lung function so that we can monitor whether the chemo is affecting them.
This morning we met with him one last time, at least for a little while, and got the go ahead to start treatment in Indiana as soon as possible. On Monday I will meet with an oncologist at home to see if he is willing to collaborate with the guy in New York and deliver the treatment. I’m fairly certain that he will, if not, I’ll keep asking around until I find someone who will.
I also need to find out if the guy in Indiana will make me get a port. A port is a titanium implant that can be inserted into your chest that chemo can be delivered through. The New York doctor recommended that I don’t get one as he anticipates that I will only receive 8-12 treatments in total, but that decision will likely be made at the discretion of the Indiana oncologist.
Long story short, we finally have enough information to get started, probably in the next week or two. I won’t lie, I’m kind of terrified, mostly of the impending hair loss. If that wasn’t on the agenda I would be feeling pretty good about the situation.