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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

to catch you up on things....

Lots of exciting things going on in the house! Thought I'd share some new developments....

1) I started a homeopathic treatment for my cancer. John and I began researching alternative medical treatments a few weeks ago, since the medical doctors can't offer me anything else at this time. We figured, why not? At least we're doing something.

We found a homeopathic doctor not far from us. He also has his medical degree (internal medicine). He treats a wide variety of illnesses, from rashes to colds to cancer and other life-threatening diseases. I talked with a woman who had success with his treatment, and her cancer was very similar to mine (she had small cell carcinoma, I have squamous cell, but they're both in the lung cancer family). After being told she had very few weeks left, she tried his plan and is now "almost cancer-free". She actually checked out of hospice last summer. There was also another success story on the doc's website from someone in a similar situation as mine.

We faxed the homeopathic doctor my medical history, talked with him for over an hour on the phone, and within a day or two heard back from him with his treatment plan for me. This "protocol" as he calls it, helps strengthen my immune system, which has already been beaten down by the chemo and radiation. It also helps kill off, and stop growth of, the cancer cells remaining in my body.

I started his plan last week and it is pretty time-consuming, not to mention stomach-churning! Two liquid treatments, one of which tastes like watered-down, stale, bitter coffee, the other is chewy and tastes like grass. Just call me Elsie....MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The remaining treatments are these huge horse pills that are sometimes hard to get down. All these liquid drinks and pills, I take at least 2, some 3 times a day. And with all that additional liquid (don't forget all the water I go through anyway taking these and my regular pills), I am in the bathroom almost hourly!

It is a big undertaking, but everyone is behind me so I know I can get through. I am continuing with hospice, and am still taking all of the medications prescribed by hospice and my oncologist, so I haven't dropped their treatment. This homeopathic protocol is taken on top of that. We are praying that it helps. I can't explain it, but I trust this doctor, and I have faith that this will help me. (Anyone out there a firm believer in the power of prayer, as I am, please say a little prayer for me on the new meds!)

2) Another new, more painful development is this shooting pain I get down the back of my right leg. The hospice nurses believe it is nerve pain. We've tried a heating pad, massage, warm shower, but no relief...suggesting it's not a muscle problem. The pain comes and goes, and it helps if I change position in bed or get up to walk a short distance to another chair. Often I am screaming (well, more like whimpering...don't want to sound too much like a cancer diva) in pain, until John gives me the fast-acting painkiller and within minutes the pain is dulled. That is one special drug, I am telling you!

They gave me a new drug that is a muscle relaxant (and fortunately is NOT another narcotic) to add to the many narcotics already in my 13-pill-a-day routine (that number does not include the homeopathic pills). We need to give it about 4 days to get into my system and then we should see results. In the meantime, I'm amusing myself and the rest of the family with my slurred speech and babbling. This new drug makes me so tired and loopy, it is crazy! I talk to people not even in the room. I close my eyes to nap and while dozing off, reach for something that's not even there. I am so loopy. I feel almost zombie-like, and that I'm acting like a drug addict.

I am to the point that John or someone needs to support me when I get out of bed, because my right leg is so weak and wobbly! My legs have actually buckled, too, which is pretty scary! So I hope we get this all straightened out soon.....

3) The other development is the most difficult for John and me: talking with the children. Emma and Leah have a pretty good grasp of what's going on with Mommy. All the kids are excited about my new medicines (the homeopathic stuff) BUT...I think they are banking on it too much as far as as it removing the cancer. Before that, when I was first home from hospice, they were encouraged because I was up and about and moving around. They figured because I looked better, then I was getting better. We tried to explain that it doesn't mean Mommy had gotten rid of the cancer, just that Mommy feels stronger from the medicines the nurses were giving her. The cancer is still there, we told them.

Jesse, at 3 years, has little idea of what's going on, just says "Mommy, you have bad cough?" or "Mommy, is that your medicine to make you feel better?". Then he'd run off to my table "wanna pinch a cookie from Mommy!" (I keep a box of sugar cookies and pretzels nearby, and I let him have one after his nap.) He's also fascinated with my "magic bed" and wants to ride up and down and get under the covers. He may not remember me well, but he might remember that bed!

Frances has always said to me, even before the first cancer in 2006, "I'll always love you even if you die and go to Heaven. And if Daddy gets us a new Mommy, I'll be nice to her but I will never love her as much as I love you!" Don't know where that came from. She has always had an interest in death and dying for some reason. But for this new cancer, she still doesn't get that Mommmy will probably die from it someday. But maybe that is how a 5-year-old processes things, living in the moment? I guess when the time comes, she'll deal with it then.

Leah doesn't want me to die, but she understands that one day I will. Like everyone will die one day, I tell her, we just don't know when our time will be. Only God knows; it is all part of His plan for us. She told me it would be different not having me here. She is also worried that she'd have to get a new mommy, and she doesn't like that idea. She and I have had some funny conversations about burials and cremation. She was surprised to learn that they don't take your bones out before they put you in the casket. I guess she thought dead people were deboned like a chicken before being put in the ground! She will be OK, I think.

Emma, however, is now afraid to go to school because she doesn't want to be away should I die. She understands that the new homeopathic treatment may or may not work, but is glad that we are trying something new. That gives her some hope. She prays about it every night, too. I told her that I wanted to have as many conversations and time spent together while we can, in case one day I do start to fade and sleep more and won't be able to talk much. She agreed. She's still upset, although we can talk about things much better now, "more calmly less teary".

It's the "where to take these conversations next, for all 3 girls" that John and I are stumped on. We've talked to the hospice's bereavement counselor, told her where we were in our conversations, and (I'm just bragging now) she thinks we're handling it perfectly. She agreed to come out and meet with the girls this week, to move things along. The hospice is wonderful; they start sending in grief and bereavement counselora not long after you come home to hospice. They'll meet with any family member you want, even relatives who happen to be visiting, and our nanny, and they've been a great help with the children.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What a night!

We just got back from the most amazing outing. I'm a little tired, but want to get this all down while I'm still reeling from the magic of the evening! Here goes....

My friend Mary Beth, the co-founder of Beyond Boobs, knows a limousine rental company in Virginia Beach (I believe it's called Icon). Beyond Boobs rents their hot pink stretch Hummer limo every year for the calendar debut gala (remember? I'll be in their 2010 calendar!), calendar photo shoot, and other big events. They've gotten to know the manager, Dave, quite well.

Mary Beth must have told Dave about me and my cancer story. Dave recently contacted Mary Beth and asked if she thought we'd be interested in having the family ride in their special pink Hummer limo. She forwarded the info to me, and who would ever pass up that offer?

Dave brought the limo all the way from Virginia Beach to our least 100 miles each way....picking up Mary Beth and her children on the way, and Rene (the other Beyond Boobs co-founder) too. They called us when they reached our development so we could look for them. We lined the kids up on the porch, and you should have seen the looks on their faces when this huge pink monster machine came strolling down our street! They were even more ecstatic when they realized the limo was for them!

Mary Beth and Rene surprised me when they both jumped out of the limo, with beautiful flowers and bright pink boas for all of us girls. We hugged and chatted and took lots of pictures. A photographer from the local newspaper (I wanted to make sure this act of kindness was covered!) was also there to shoot the big event. The newspaper's videographer had arrived earlier to interview me and she also joined us at our destination to get more footage. (You'll find the link to the video plus footage from the evening in the "updates" at the end of this post.)

Once all the neighbors had a chance to check out the limo, and once we got our kids calmed down enough to get in the limo, we were off! Destination: ice cream! We had about a 20-minute drive to a favorite place, Gelati Celesti, and we were quite the spectacle pulling up. A spectacle inside, too, with our boas and the sheer size of our group!

The kids had so much fun and entertained themselves very well in the limo. They were even treated to sparkling cider in real champagne glasses (grownups had real champagne, except for me. I wasn't sure what the alcohol would do with all the other drugs in my system!)

It was a wonderful evening, an unforgettable one. I know the kids will be talking about this for months. I am so grateful we had this night together, and am so touched by how kind everyone has been. Mary Beth and Rene of Beyond Boobs are always checking in on me, want to see how I'm doing, if we need anything. And Dave, the limo service manager....what can I say, I just can't get over his generosity. I mean, this is a guy who doesn't know me at all, just heard about me through a mutual friend, and he comes forward with this once-in-a-lifetime offer. I still get choked up thinking about it.

Mary Beth, Rene, Dave....they prove that there are good, caring people out there, who would do things for others "just because". Our neighbors, friends from work and church, my family, they've all done kind things to help us through this difficult time in our lives too. It is such a great feeling knowing these people are out there. And isn't it good to hear a happy story for a change?

Updates....Our picture appeared on the front page of Thursday's (August 13) Metro section, with a beautifully written article on page 3. Video interview and footage from the evening is on their website, too. Here's the link to the video:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

there's still time to sponsor your favorite cancer girl's calendar!

Remember I wrote about being a calendar model? That wonderful breast cancer support group I told you about, Beyond Boobs, is still working on their 2010 calendar. The calendar is actually much more than a calendar....more like a breast cancer guide, full of information on cancer risks and prevention. Plus you can read all about the models and their stories, and learn from their experiences how they made it through to become survivors. I have the 2008 and 2009 calendars and refer to them quite often.

If you are interested in supporting this worthy cause, there's still time! Until August 15th, you can go to their website,, click on the "Buy a Day in the 2010 Calendar to Live By" button, and follow the instructions. Buying a day means that you can have someone's name printed in the calendar, on the day you select. You can do this "in memory of" or "in honor of" a loved one. Days are going quickly, so if you are interested I suggest you do this soon.

The 2010 Calendars will go on sale in the fall. You can order them online, or at selected stores (mostly in the Williamsburg area, but hopefully some in Richmond too! Stay tuned...)

And while you're at the Beyond Boobs site, browse around a bit and I guarantee you will learn a great deal about breast cancer!

(A big thanks to my Aunt Mary, who introduced me to this group back when I was fighting breast cancer. She sent me their 2008 calendar and an article about Beyond Boobs that appeared in her local newspaper. From there I was hooked, and I checked their website frequently for updates and sometimes just to browse. I only wish I lived closer to Williamsburg so I could attend their meetings.)