Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The no-so-terrible two's

Yesterday marked two years of Tamoxifen. The last of many "two's" which can only mean the beginning of many three's and four's and eventually the big FIVE. In October we celebrated a pretty big "two". Two years cancer free. And two years is big. The chances of that nasty "C" rearing its ugly head are still pretty good in those first two years. Must've learned its lesson the first time, 'cause it hasn't dared causing any more trouble. 

So what's the big deal with two years of Tamoxifen? For some couples, it means taking the next year Tamoxifen-free and growing their family. And for some that feels like too much of a risk. Not to mention that the miracle of modern science now says, "Hey! Ten years of Tamoxifen each day keeps the cancer away." Two years ago, the magic bullet was only five years. So we're 20% rather than 40% there. Kind of a bummer. And the cramps in my feet think so, too! 

But what's not-so-much a bummer, not actually a bummer at all, is in these last two plus years I've found myself a nifty new hobby. Thanks in-part to this very blog. You see, blogging all things cancer was a great excuse to also photograph all things cancer. Selfies in the chemo chair might seem borderline macabre...but not if you're going to blog about it. And keeping that camera handy was just super practical when it came to chemo brain. But after the treatments ended and the last of the surgeries healed, I wasn't ready to put down the camera. Not by a long shot. So, true to form, I've started a page for my photographs, too. Actually, several pages. They're all identical, so feel free to peruse the platform that suits you best. I'm working on a #project365 challenge (sharing a photo a day everyday in 2015) so feel free to check back often and keep me honest. 

On Tumblr...




And of course

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

There's an app called Timehop all the cool kids on Facebook are using. I haven't tried it out yet. Because, let's face it... I'm not exactly what you'd call an early adopter. {Sorry marketing and business folks out there.} I mean, it took Apple three versions of the iPad before I considered giving it a whirl. And even after its awesomeness, five versions of the iPhone before I'd jump on the bandwagon. So I haven't actually experienced Timehop first-hand, but the gist of it seems to be the app chooses a Facebook post of yours from this exact day sometime in your history. The results are often hilariously out of context. Or strangely prophetic. That's part one of my inspiration for this post. 

Part two is considerably less whimsical...but equally Facebook related. Today I was reminded of a friend on Facebook who, like so many, kindly and graciously reached out to me during treatment. What was unique about the message from this highschool acquaintance was her mom was in the midst of the very same treatment for the very same diagnosis at the time. The reminder came to me today in the form of a post about her mother's recent passing. Ironically, it appeared in my feed immediately below a post of an article about Vinnie. {The real irony is that my feed has been scrubbed clean of most all cancer-related pages and groups...but one slips through every now and again.}

I refuse to say this friend's mom lost her battle, as that is one of the many, many cancer-isms I've come to barely tolerate.  While I appreciate its attempt to soften the blow - much kinder and gentler than hearing of someone who died from cancer - it suggests some sort of shortcoming or weakness or failure on the part of the diagnosed. Language in general is powerful. The language of cancer is complicated. And ill-fitting. Like wearing a shoe one-size too small. And on the wrong foot.

So while labels like survivor feel misplaced, other labels like graduate student have grown quite comfortable. But times they are a-changing. And that label has changed a bit, too. And while Timehop seems like it would make for a fun meander down memory lane, this - to me - feels much more like a  time warp. So put your hands on your hips...

  • On or about May 2nd 2012 I was just wrapping up with my old position, had had a marathon day of imaging-imaging-and-more-imaging, and we met with the medical oncologist for the first time.
This year I celebrated my last day ever of graduate school.
  • On or about May 10th two years ago I was just getting some good news back from the genetic counselor. And whining about how ouch-y my new mediport still was.
This year...I went to P.R.O.M.!
This year wasn't actually all that different. As I sat for - and passed! - the Licensed Graduate Social Worker exam.
And was published as a university student success story.
  • And last, but definitely not least, on or about May 17th 2012 we were in count down to chemo mode. This year...
...I finally made my way across that stage. Master's degree in hand!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Never Been Kissed

*Disclaimer: Graduation week is upon you. Be prepared for the mostly excited and only partly procrastinating nature of impending blog posts!

To briefly bring everyone up-to-speed, ALL of my MSW course work is finally finito! Actually has been for over a week. I know, I know! I'm as surprised as you are by the utter lack of blog posts composed in procrastination of actual, real writing. But somehow we made it happen y'all. 

Fear not, though. In true graduate student fashion, I'm taking the super-big-long-scary licensing exam tomorrow. Which, of course, is exactly why there's an absolute urgency to write to you all. 'Cause study breaks are an absolute must! And in honor of that, here are some highlights of what cancer-free (hey, this is still a cancer blog, isn't it?), post-grad school life looks like...

Last day of grad school ever...

...and celebratory drinks with some of my favorite MSWs!
...fire pits...
...and (dinosaur) birthday cake with the best family and friends on the planet.

And P.R.O.M.
That's right. Full on, twenties- (and in my case, thirties-) somethings, Josie Grossie - Never Been Kissed, prom.
With my favorite prom date.
And pandas.
Because when your Mom says she wants to see the baby panda for Mother's Day...
...you make it happen! Kudos to Bao Bao and her tree-climbing skills. Can your 9 month-old do that???
Happy Mother's Day! Now get back to work!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I mentioned in my last post that our third wedding anniversary came and went in December. And that we did a little early celebrating because I had an amazing opportunity to do some traveling. What I didn't mention was what sort of token of affection we chose to share with each other. 

Let me preface this by saying Rob is super thoughtful and wonderfully creative when it comes to gift-exchanging. He is seriously the most romantic person I know. I, on the other hand, only just remembered at about 4 o'clock today that it's been exactly 7 years since our first date. Fortunately, what I lack in romance he completely makes up for. And then some. 

But back to the gift exchanging. So this year rather than the traditional anniversary-type presents, we decided to gift each other a house project. I know, I know! It might as well be a new vacuum cleaner, right? Wrong! (Although I did get a new hardwood floor cleaner for Christmas. And I love the heck out of that thing.) You know that spot in your home where stuff and junk have the gravitational pull of the sun? It just collects there. And multiplies! For us it was the third bedroom. After two and a half years I fondly nicknamed it "Purgatory". Because 75% of the things in there were only on what would end up being a temporary layover on their way to Goodwill. We'd bounced around several ideas of what to do with the room over the last couple years. Everything from a home gym to a massive walk-in closet. But this year we finally decided on its destiny. And I think we chose pretty wisely. But I'll let you be the judge...
 Whaddya think? This room (and that gray chair) has quickly taken up competition for favorite spot in the house. And it's only fitting that today - on the 7th anniversary of our first date - that we finally put the finishing pieces of this project into place. And, no, your eyes do not deceive you. That in fact is an empty diploma frame on the wall. But not empty for long!

Graduation in t-minus 40 days!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

So...I guess it's been a minute

But in my defense, I did climb a frickin' volcano. 

Y'all are just going to have to take my word for it that no news is absolutely, positively good news. And by good news I mean, either our days are so filled with new and exciting adventures that I never find the time to sit and write about them. Or, the life a cancer-ass-kicking-grad-student is so full of the mundane that honestly I think I just fell asleep in the middle of that sentence. Either way. The last six week-ish have been a little bit of A... and a little bit of B.

Weeeee...skated our way through my 33rd birthday.
Celebrated Round 1 of Christmas with these fine folks. Whaddyou lookin' at, kid?
And Christmas: Part Deux with All. These. People. Who are these people? And why are there so many of them???
Our 3rd wedding anniversary was a little bit country, a little rock'n'roll, and about 4 days early. Why? you ask. Because on our actual anniversary, I was here...

...studying abroad with the University of Virginia...
...and ringing in the New Year with my favorite UVA nurses.
We studied emergency management and disaster response. And I promise you, it was purely educational.
Really, really educational when we climbed this.
And this.
To get here.
Where is "here"? you ask. Here is 4,000 feet above sea level at the top of Mount Liamuiga. Oh, you read that right. That's a frickin' volcano. And in honor of World Cancer Day today, how's that for telling cancer to suck it?!?

To check out the rest of my disaster preparing, beach going, volcano climbing adventures...
click HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Little Vinnies: Part II

A few months ago as I was getting ready for nipple reconstruction surgery, I started to mention a little something about nipple tattooing. Short story is, there's this interesting gent outside Baltimore who started tattooing while in the Army. One morning, he woke up and said to himself, "Self, what you need to do is tattoo nipples back on to ladies who don't have them no more." I'm not sure if that's exactly how the conversation went. But I feel like I'm not that far off. For the slightly longer story, try this ABC news segment from about a month ago.
Being all world-renowned and what-not, Vinnie books up fast. So when I called in early August to schedule with him, today was the first slot he had available. For anyone curious, his shop looks exactly like any other tattoo parlor I've ever been in. No, wait. This one had a pool table in the middle of the lobby area. And it was a lot cleaner. None-the-less, it was in a tiny strip-mall. Sandwiched between a veterinary office and a beer-alcohol-wine-tobacco shop.
Vinnie explaining tattoo after-care procedures. Photo expertly cropped by Rob. (Yes, yes those *are* shark teeth in the background.)
And a post-tattoo photo with the artist himself.

Little Vinnies: Part I

Blogspot just kindly reminded me it's been the better part of 6 weeks since I've blogged. I feel like with most blogs that's really not such a big deal. I'm mean, c'mon. Sometimes you just don't have anything that friggin' exciting to write about. Or sometimes life gets in the way and you're too friggin' busy to sit down and write about how friggin' busy you are.  I'm going to claim the latter on this one. And trust me. Even though this is a blog about cancer - no news is almost definitely good news. Honestly, if I have something to b*tch and moan about, y'all be like the second or third to hear about it. You're in the top 5 for certain. 

So I could catch you up on the last 6 weeks worth of awesome. But even just thinking of everything we've been up to kinda makes me tired. I will say this, though. I just wrapped up my second-to-last-ever semester of grad school. There are no words for that 16 week suckfest. Don't get me wrong. The courses were amazing. I now know more about International Social Development than I ever thought I wanted to know. And now consider myself a burgeoning program evaluation guru. (Also, I use words like burgeoning. Correctly and everything.) But that was brutal. I'm talking, "I got a B" brutal. Yea. 

And I'm totally not blaming that "B" on stupid cancer or anything. But! I did have to go back in for another revision surgery during the semester. Of course the week of Thanksgiving - aka "the week before Finals" - was the most logical time to go in for surgery. Paper writing on pain meds... what could possibly go wrong???

Anyway, back to that surgery. On the right side, the inframmary fold had, well, kinda come unfolded. I"ll spare you any images and let you use your imagination (or Google!) on that one. Let's just say, one wasn't as perky as the other. So Dr. M went in and perked her right back up. Not for nothin' - he's used the same inframammary incision on that side 4 times now, and it still heals up like a champ every time. Which is really helping my "I'm part Wolverine" story.

<Side note for anyone who is a) intollerant to morphine, and b) will be in need of morphine any time in the near future. My stomach is always at odds whenever the two happen to meet. To prevent the throw down (in which I inevitably throw up) the lovely hospital folk give me some anti-medics. One of which, this time, was a scopolamine patch to wear behind my ear for 48 hours. And it worked great! I would, however, have appreciated a word of warning that it could, might possibly make my vision blurry. Temporary side-effect that went away within 48 hours of removing the patch. But c'mon - you gotta warn a girl!

Now I realize I've rambled on-and-on and have gotten no where near to the subject line of this post. Yup... looks like this was meant to be a two-parter. Stand by for the sequel, Little Vinnies: Part II. Which hopefully will not take another 6 weeks. I make no promises.