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 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?)


  • At 1/15/08, 7:00 PM, Blogger Marsha said…

    I sure wish there was a cancer spray. The closest thing I've found is a cancer drink. It consists of one part teqila and well, that's it. One part tequila. Rinse, repeat.

  • At 1/15/08, 10:46 PM, Blogger lahdeedah said…

    I just completely love this, Katie. I wish I could make you a powerful elixir that would eliminate your worries and anxieties and fears of recurrence.

    There's a lot to be learned from your brilliantly marketed "Monster Spray." We all know that we can't just believe ourselves into good health. But we can find that one thing that works for us...that one thing that calms our fears and allows us to live in the moment instead of living in fear of the future.

    For Sherry, it's connection. For Jen, it's prayer. For Jena, it's meaning. For Bella, it's expression. (At least that's how I understand and experience those women.)

    For you, it's being a good mother. It seems to be that one essential thing that grounds you. Spritz on some of that Mommy No. 5. It's incredibly powerful stuff.



  • At 1/16/08, 4:39 PM, Blogger Sherry said…

    Katie, I love this!! What an ingenious idea to create monster spray!! I wish we had had it for our diagnoses...wouldn't that be wonderful to spray it and "poof" no more nightmares about cancer. I know exactly what you mean about the waking up and realizing "I have cancer?" -- it seems to preposterous and hard to get your head around and then it hits you in the stomach like nothing else. It is in the closet isn't it? It lurks there and we pray and we hope that it never comes out again.

    And as for Jill's comments..I am touched beyond belief. (((Jill))) when you come back to are an angel...who connects and communicates through spirit and love.

  • At 1/16/08, 7:48 PM, Blogger Jayne said…

    Anxiety. Oh, yuck. It's always chased me around somewhat, even before cancer. So I don't have any solutions but I have plenty of empathy!!

  • At 1/17/08, 10:19 AM, Blogger Mary said…


    I found my way here through Deena's blog and am so glad I did. I understand what you are going through. No, I never had breast cancer, but cervical cancer. I had a complete hysterectomy in 1994 and went through many years of wondering if the cancer would once again rear it's ugly head. However, I prayed daily that it would not and had others praying for me as well. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    I have heard of monster spray and it actually works. I would love it if there were actually a cancer spray that would stop it in its tracks.

    Keep the faith my new friend.


  • At 1/18/08, 10:39 AM, Blogger bella said…

    You are such a creative and wonderful mama. And I'm remembering this ingenious idea: the monster spray.

    I get the panic attacks too, the dread, the moment when I relaize I "forgot" and it all comes back.
    I wonder if this ever goes away?

    If I find a cancer spray, I'll send you some. :) Until then, its breath by breath for me.

  • At 1/18/08, 8:18 PM, Blogger SweetAnnee said…

    Oh I love the "Monster Spray" , my poor daughter, Mercedes, who is my youngest..had SUCH bad dreams..I finally got a "dream catcher"
    and it worked!! Poor dear.

    I know what you mean about the cancer wakes me up at night. But I think it's finally sunk in.. I have cancer, but cancer does NOT have me. I would have never ever thought I would have cancer, never, but when I got the diagnosis, I wasn't surprised.

    Wish all the cancer could move to the moon, and we could scare it off with a spray!! If you
    make some, let me know..I need a bottle

    Maybe Fairy Dust is the answer!!!
    fondly, ..your words touched my heart and


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