Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hey! Remember Me?

Yay! We just got MARRIED!!
Well, friends, let's start with some business: Merry very be-lated Christmas and Happy somewhat late New Year! The past month and a half has been more than eventful for me--holidays, my wedding, a whirlwind trip to Italy...living that charmed life again, I suppose. And while I know many of you would love to hear all about those details, they will actually come down the road several posts...because...by popular demand...

I've decided to start up the love story again!!

Hooray! I figure we are all dealing with some January blahs right now--why not make things more interesting with a dash of fairytales? So starting next time, I'm going to put away some of the cancer updates (although those may come in sporadically, assuming they are of interest) and pick up right where I left off in October. I recommend coming to class prepared by reading this post first: To Be Together. :)

In the meantime, let's look at the current update! I apologize that it's been so long in coming, but I not only turned over ideas in my mind several times recently, I also actually wrote a complete blog post that I almost published last week. However, when I re-read it, it struck me as so boring and depressing that I scrapped the whole thing and started over. I've been a little self-conscious about my posts of late, because my audience has increased quite a bit these last months. I don't want to disappoint anyone! That said, here's a more upbeat look at the past month's highlights.

I got married 
Like I said, details on this one will be forthcoming! But the wedding was wonderful. It was sunny and snowy and sincerely magical--a fitting conclusion to the first part of our fairytale! We had our one-month anniversary yesterday (Roby dubbed it our monthiversary), and my cute husband surprised me with some lovely roses. Married life is AWESOME! :)

The Return to Europe
A lot of people mistakenly thought that we went to Europe indefinitely right after the wedding. Unfortunately...my treatments are just beginning, so we only had a week-long, honeymoon-esque adventure. But it was so good for both of us to go back even briefly! Things didn't have a particularly auspicious beginning--first my wallet was stolen in the Milan airport, and then we missed our flight down to Roby's hometown the next day and had to re-book a new flight without the benefit of my credit card--but we made up for it with an awesome few days with Roby's family and friends. This, of course, included lots of good food--not the least of which was during our big, fat, Italian wedding celebration! But we'll hold on to the details of that one for later as well.


You'd never know it's not attached to my head!
My wig arrived
This actually happened before the previous two things--magically, I got my wig on Christmas Eve. It is sincerely one of the best "presents" I've ever gotten! Even though I actually gave it to myself... It's unbelievable what a difference it makes to my morale to have my own hair again. And actually, it's not just my hair--even with the huge quantity I had, it usually takes a couple heads of hair to make a wig. One of my sisters chopped off her own one day to send along with mine--she's awesome like that. With that much hair, the wig can be pretty heavy and has taken some practice and, oddly, foam strips wrapped around my head in order to keep it from falling off. At any rate, my sisters and sister-in-law did an awesome job fixing it up all fancy for the wedding, and I honestly love brushing it and playing with it a little each time I put it on.

Treatment Phase 1 Concludes
This actually won't really happen until Thursday when I get my fourth round of chemo, but I figure it's still appropriate to put it in here! It'll be nice to take a break from chemo for a little bit (I'll stop during surgery time and then begin a new regimen with different toxins...erm medicines...once I've healed a bit). Rounds 2 & 3 were a lot better than the first one owing to a wonderful immune booster shot, but it's still not a picnic. I pretty much don't feel like myself for two weeks and then once I'm finally feeling normal again (food tastes good, I'm not super grumpy, my nose doesn't hurt like the devil, and my energy level is climbing back up), I get to start all over. And while I felt mostly good during round 2 (a serious blessing considering that the wedding fell during that time), I lost almost all of my hair during that cycle--there's nothing left but some wispy straggles. I keep my head covered with comfy little hats and my wig, but...looking at myself in the mirror did take getting used to.
His straggles are longer than
mine, but my complexion
looks WAY better!
A friend of mine who recently went through the same thing said she felt like a monster--my heart hurt for her, and yet what she said really rang true with how I felt. Sometimes, I think that I look like the Crypt Keeper, but Roby (who is the only one to have even momentarily glimpsed my head) is sweeter and says I look more like a baby. But on the very bright side, my tumor has completely disappeared. YAY!!! You might ask, then, "does that mean you can be done now?!" Sigh...we've asked multiple doctors this same question...and we keep asking it...but it looks like the answer is no.

I never mentioned it on this blog, but the cancer was a stage 3B--that basically means that the only thing it hadn't done was spread to other organs, muscles, or bones (which is still a very good thing). It was in my nearby lymph nodes and it was approaching the size of a small continent...sort-of. We never got a clear measurement, but at its largest, we were told it was around 9 cm (3.5 inches) in diameter. For the sake of perspective, the best-behaved tumors are less than 1 cm and anything larger than 5 cm is considered quite serious. Long story short, all of the doctors want to take the most aggressive approach possible (considering how many years I have ahead of me in which the cancer could come back), and my treatment will have a total of 4 phases: chemo #1, surgery, chemo #2, and radiation. But we're still hoping to cut back on at least one of those phases...

We found awesome surgeons
A dear friend of mine hooked us up with a seriously fantastic surgeon for my upcoming mastectomy (icky blah--I don't love saying mastectomy next to "my"). She answered all of my questions before I could ask them, she was super nice and yet professional, and she was ready to schedule me right away for February 19. We next met with a great plastic surgeon just yesterday (happy monthiversary!) who will step in right after phase 1 of the surgery to start the process of making me look normal again. We spent the afternoon looking at before and after pictures as well as a book in which one patient photo-documented the whole healing and reconstructive process. Admittedly, it was a little awkward...but it was also helpful to know what's going to happen and how it will look in the end.

So that's pretty much where we're at right now! In some ways, we live a lot like a retired couple since neither of us can work (a green card isn't an option for Roby unless we plan to live here at least 3 years). I spend a lot of my time these days reading as well as exploring the world of vegan cooking (apparently, animal proteins are a no-no for cancer) and Roby likes to study psychology and counseling. To mix things up a bit, we've decided to try going on a few road trips when I'm feeling well enough, which means surgery isn't the only adventure we have coming up soon! So I guess I'm still Mary Poppins in a way--hunting down those spoons full of sugar. :)