Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cheating a little....

I am going to be AWOL for a few weeks. I'm not sick, not depressed, not anything.....just really busy! This is a very crazy time of year for us, with Emma's and Frances' birthday within 13 days of each other. And on top of that, I made the mistake of signing up to host Bunko the end of January. What was I thinking?

So, I am frosting cupcakes to send to Emma's 3rd grade class and frantically sending out party invitations for her "Hannah Montana/Rock Star" themed party that I haven't quite worked out all the activities for (I'm thinking we'll host a "Singing Bee" game show using Disney songs, and maybe do some crafts or cookie decorating.....or do I just lock all 10 of these 8- and 9-year-olds in the playroom and let them do each others' hair and makeup?)

While I am busy with that, I need to decide whether to have a big party for soon-to-be-4-year-old Frances and her preschool friends here at the house. I'll make those plans while I sneeze from all the dust I've kicked up unearthing the dining room table, which we need to play Bunko, plus the kitchen table and a table in the family room. And somewhere in there, I need to plan the menu for my Bunko friends....and most important, buy the booze....

It hit me the other day that all these events were stacked on top of each other, and as it is I hardly have time to eat! How will I have time to blog?

So I decided to cheat and use some filler. Below is a devotional I wrote for our church's Advent Devotional Calendar in December 2007. I had volunteered to edit the submissions, 1 for each day of the month, but when we ended up short, I scribbled this out last minute. I was rather pleased with it, although of the 31 in the book, mine was the only one with a typo. And no, the irony was not lost on me, the editor.

Here it is, for your enjoyment. I hope to be up and posting sometime mid-February. Meanwhile, off to finish frosting Emma's cake. Her birthday is tomorrow and she will be 9. My first baby, such a big girl already.

Am I digressing? I guess I'm just stalling, I've never written this kind of piece before so it's a bit hard to share here. It was a daunting task, writing a devotional. Yes, I do believe in God, and yes, I do pray daily, but I am not overly familiar with the Bible. So the whole time I was writing it, I wondered if I had somehow misinterpreted the verse I had chosen, and feared that when the members of my church read it, they'd finally figure out what a fraud I am! But so far...and I'm not saying this to brag but to make a point...I've only received praise. One elderly, home-bound church member even called me to tell me how much she liked it. We chatted for about 20 minutes. That was really cool.

So now, here it is. I hope you like. See you in February! Katie

December 30
Read Isaiah 40:21-31
Key Verse: Isaiah 40:29-31
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

I discovered this passage in the wee hours one September morning last year. I had had my first chemo treatment that day and could not get to sleep. I wasn’t upset that night so much as anxious. The drug they had given me to ward off nausea was working, but it made me hyper and unable to sleep. My breast cancer diagnosis that September had taken me by complete surprise. Things like this just didn’t happen in our family. I trusted my doctors and looked forward to completing treatment, but still I wondered: What exactly does God have in mind for me now?

While I did not read it regularly, I always kept my red leather Bible in my nightstand. It was a gift from my church when I was in 3rd grade. Something that night/morning led me to reach for my Bible and open it. My eyes fell on the words from Isaiah 40. When I reached verse 29 "He gives strength to the weary..." I stopped reading for a moment and cried. I was weary; I felt like a walking definition of the word! And, I was tired. I was scared. I was anxious. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me but the thought of it made me even wearier.

By the time I read through to verse 31 "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint," I knew God was telling me something. I dried my tears, turned out the light, and got the rest I needed.

Since that moment, Isaiah 40:29-31 has been my fight song. Every time I face a challenge or feel a little down, I pull this passage out of my purse (I printed out a wallet-sized copy, and I carry extra in case someone I meet needs a lift) and I remember that God is always there for me.

As we come to the end of this calendar year, let us remember that no matter what the year was like for us, no matter how many events or conversations or whatever we want to forget, we went through it all for a reason. I know that sounds corny, but it is true. Almost every day I meet someone, or learn something, or do something that I wouldn’t normally meet, learn, or do had I not had cancer. Almost every day I think, "Oh, so that’s what God had in mind for me!"

And as the new year approaches, let us remember that we don’t need to be fearful of what the next year brings; instead, we need to go forward with the knowledge that God will give us what we need to face anything. Find your fight song and keep going!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Isn't there a spray for that?

Frances woke up several times during the night last week, crying and crying. Often she was inconsolable. A few times I was able to calm her down enough so that she could tell me what the trouble was: once she had a bad dream about monsters, but more often she just woke up and it was dark and she thought about monsters and scared herself.

All of the kids went through a monster phase. (Well, not Jesse, he can't even say "monster" yet. Some day!) With each girl, I think we've gotten better at the reassuring bit. With Emma, our first-born (also known as our "practice child"), I told her that there were no monsters here because they all moved to California. As if a 2-year-old knows what California is! Not long after that, John and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary with a trip to California....I had to think of a better monster story.

So I started spraying Emma's room with "monster spray". Every night, before bedtime, Emma and I would spray water from a little spray bottle labelled "Monster Spray". We'd spray under her bed and in the closet, all around the room. She didn't feel safe until we sprayed, but it worked and she stopped worrying about monsters. But only if we sprayed.

The monster spray worked so well with Leah, our second-born, that we never needed to think of any other stories to reassure her. I've used the spray only a few times with our third-born Frances, and so I mistakenly thought we were past that phase. Unfortunately, she's been thinking about monsters again and thus the frantic middle-of-the-night awakenings.

I understand those panic attacks very well. That is what happened to me after my initial diagnosis. There was a span of 2 weeks (16 days, actually) between when I learned I had cancer and when I met with the oncologist to discuss treatment. Every night during that time, I would be sleeping so well only to awaken suddenly and remember "OH!". Actually, it's more like "AAACK!" hits you in the stomach and your heart feels like it's stopped. You feel a little sick as you suddenly are wide awake remembering "I HAVE CANCER!"

It is not fun. Those "AAACK" moments hit me several times during the night and quite often in the middle of the day. They didn't stop until I finally met with the oncologist, had a treatment plan, and knew what we had to do to get rid of this disease.

The "AAACK" moments never completely stopped, but their severity did. Every now and then I'd think, "Wow, I really have cancer" but it didn't take my breath away. I dealt with it just fine, I think. I was busy and treatment was going well. After treatment ended, though, they started up again. I just never felt safe.

Even now, after a recurrence and a surgery that has removed all of my breast tissue, I still wonder if the cancer is going to come back. There are places it could go if it felt so compelled. It doesn't wake me up in the middle of the night, but it does creep into my thoughts on occasion. Like when my hip or back hurts. It's not a strong "AAACK" anymore, it's more like a "HUNHH".

Even though I had a bunch of scans before my mastectomy, and they all said that there was no cancer anywhere else, I still wonder if it's hiding in the closet like the girls' monsters. And then I think about how great it would be to have some reassurance, very much like the kind I gave the girls to calm their monster fears.

Maybe that's what I need, someone to reassure me: No Katie, don't worry, your cancer is NOT coming back. There's no such thing as cancer. Besides, all the cancers moved to California.

And then we'd take out the bottle labelled "Cancer Spray" and give it a couple of spritzes for good measure. Boy, would that feel so good!

(P.S. My girls want to know what's in the "Monster Spray" bottle. They've asked me about it every time I use it. They've never seen me refill the bottle....I always tell them it's a secret recipe that I'll give them when they're mommies. Til then, I have to create the monster spray by myself, in private. I still think the spray was a brilliant solution, and it worked wonders in calming their fears. Do you think I should just change the label to read "Cancer Spray" and try it out?)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dance to the music

Not long ago, I overheard my 6-year-old happily singing away, "My lumps, my lovely lady lumps"!

For those of you not familiar with the Black-Eyed Peas, this may be a bouncy dancing song, but certainly not one for a 6-year-old to sing! It starts out "Whatcha gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside your trunk?" (and they're not talking about your car) "I'm gonna get you drunk" or something like that, is the response.

And "lady lumps"? Well, you don't have to use your imagination to know they are referencing a variety of spots, and believe me, the song touches on all of them!

So I asked Leah where she had heard that song, and as I spoke I remembered.....I had left my Grammy Nominees 2007 CD in the minivan! It is a favorite CD that I listen to all the time. It contains so many songs that remind me of what I've survived, so many encouraging "you go, girl" songs, and so many songs that are just plain fun to listen to. Like the Black-Eyed Peas' song that my 6-year-old has probably already taught to all her friends on the schoolbus.

How did Leah come across this song? As always, Mommy's fault. I was careless. While my parents were staying here (September through November, through my surgery and recovery), my mom and dad took over a lot of carting the kids around for me. I'd drive myself to appointments, pop in my Grammy Nominees CD and make myself cry listening to "(So You Had a) Bad Day" was actually the song that helped snap me out of the funk I got into during radiation. Listening to it now reminds me of how I was so negative until I happened to flip on the radio and heard that song. It actually turned me around, a good thing.

When I'd get home from my appointment, just in case someone else drove next with the girls in the van, I'd remove my Grammy CD and replace it with another favorite, ABBA Gold (the girls love Money Money Money while I'm partial to Dancing Queen) or Best of the 80s (Love Shack and Stray Cat Strut are big requests when the girls are in the van).

But one day I must have forgotten to make the exchange, and whoever drove the girls to piano or ballet that day had no idea what they were listening to: Pink's Stupid Girls (the S word is not allowed in our house, so I definitely don't want them singing "I don't wanna be no stupid girl", plus it's bad grammar which is also not allowed), Justin Timberlake's Sexyback (with this memorable line that you might have heard on Dancing With the Stars: "I'll let you whip me if I misbehave"), also a song about dying by Death Cab for Cutie, something about following you into the dark.....

Yes, I inadvertently let the kids listen to a bunch of songs that, while catchy, are not for little girls' ears!

When I realized where Leah heard that song, I felt terrible! Once again, bad mommy, leaving an inappropriate CD in the van!

So after quieting Leah down before her sisters joined in, and some quick thinking (I told her the song was really about "lovely ladybugs"), I turned away so she couldn't see me laugh. I couldn't wait for John to get home from work that day, so I could tell him all about Leah singing to her "lovely lady lumps".

If only she were older and we could joke about Mommy's lovely lady lumps, her spectacular new boobs that are so comfortable to wear and just the best thing(s) in the world. (Even though just one of them costs more than she'd ever spend on a pair of shoes. And Mommy loves shoes.)

One of these days, I'll tell the girls all about it. Maybe when they grow some lady lumps (or ladybugs) of their own. That will be a very interesting conversation!