Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My first public speech for the mAss Kickers annual celebration of life!

I was asked a few months ago to give a speech to thank and toast to the caregivers at the mAss Kickers annual celebration of life, which happened last October. I am not a fan of public speaking, I get nervous way too easily, but in my quest (stupidity) to do 40 things out of my comfort zone before my 40th birthday, I said yes!! That lead to several calls and texts to friends about how to not only write a speech, but how to deliver it. After a couple months of procrastination, I wrote my speech a couple days before and practiced it numerous times on my children!! They gave me mixed reviews, saying it was good and that it was really sad. I think I made Josh (my 10 year old) cry at one point. So I had to explain to him that I was just giving the full story to everyone and explaining it in detail. I think the details were a bit too much for him, but he was able to handle them. It made him sad for his daddy and also made him realize how serious that first day was when we didn't know anything.

I talked about how I started to feel a pinched nerve feeling in my leg that eventually made my entire leg shake, and I said how my hubby jokingly would scratch behind my ear as if I were a dog (like how a dog's leg goes crazy when you scratch it in the right place). It was hilarious at the time, but I'm sure he felt bad afterwards when we figured out what it really was. And I think one of the hardest parts for my son to hear was about the night (or wee early morning) I had a full on seizure and after he saw me in a coma with blood running out of my mouth and how I looked dead. That is the exact time that Faith and Zach walked into my bedroom, and she swooped Zach out, trying hard to not cry in front of him, but thinking that I was dead. How awful for a husband and child to think you're dead. Thankfully I wasn't.

Josh didn't quite (thank God) understand the part in my speech about the more than dozen firefighters in my bedroom and how I missed out on every women's (including my own) fantasy. But he'll figure that out in a few more years....

I think the talk about my hospital visit and all of the different diagnosis I had was a bit strange to him. "Why didn't they know what was wrong with you, mom?" But he sure is grateful that I didn't have breast cancer that metastasized to my brain giving me only 14 months to live. And of course he doesn't understand the waiting game we had until we finally figured out what exactly I had, nor does he remember it. I had a second surgery a couple weeks before Christmas and although I had the initial pathology report from during the surgery, I did not get the full report until a couple weeks after Christmas, because although hospitals don't shut down doctors offices do and we had to communicate with the surgeon to get the final results.

The final results of a stage 2 astrocytoma is what I still have today, even after 4 total surgeries and all the growth that took place in between surgery 3 and 4.

I also discussed how as a caregiver, my husband thought for better or worse, meant that worst would be PMS and that our new term for PMS is "P"re "M"RI "S"yndrome, and he definitely has had to deal with a lot of my anxiety throughout this entire journey as well as be a mom and dad to our children at different times. But through it all, he's been by my side and a huge help to our children. Even my children have been a huge help to me. Faith is always around to watch her little brothers when we need her to. Josh is the oldest boys and he is able to keep a quick eye on his younger brothers if I need to lock myself into a room to speak with the doctors or if I need to rest because of the chemo. I can always count on Zach to unload the dishwasher or pick up anything that needs to be picked up. And Josh will almost always help out his little brothers.

I also explained in my speech that I am not a statistic, which I have said on multiple occasions. And had to explain to Josh a few times when I was practicing on him. Like I told him, I'm young for this type of cancer (every time I go to the doctor's office, I'm always the youngest person), I'm fit (is the average american fit and healthy), I'm vegetarian and eat mostly organic and non GMO food (is that an average or statistic?), so I believe I don't fit into average or their statistic. I'm doing all I can to fight this thanks to Josh, Zach, Ben, Faith, and my super hero hubby, Sean!!

I guess my speech was successful because they all clapped, lol! But I was so happy to have it finished. I put all of my notes on my phone so that I wouldn't be reading my own story that I have known for the past 3 years almost, so once in a while during it I peeked at my phone, but just spoke from my heart for the rest of the time!

I felt great speaking in public and being able to share my story, I think I would like to start doing more of that and may start with the Relay for Life by speaking at their events next year.

It was also great checking another thing off of my 40 before 40 list!!

Here are the photos from my speech. My children were there, only they didn't end up in any photos...oops!!
Snuck up on the deck with Tanya, another survivor who made her speaking debut, just like me!

Clay (an amazing speaker who has the most unbelievable story) gave me a shot before my speech, I really was nervous.

And with as good looking as Clay is, I figured my hubby needed to be in a photo toasting a pre speech shot with me, lol! I had to have something help me get through, but I'm not sure it worked. I was still extremely nervous!!

Giving my speech for the first time as well as physically speaking my story publicly for the first time. Everyone said I was a natural and that I had nothing to be nervous about, but my insides were speaking a different story...bathroom please, lol!!

And since my speech was a thank you to caregivers and I included a cheers to those who carried us through the hard times, everyone cheered with champagne.

A big hug right after my speech and cheers from my friend Kristin, a natural speaker who has a great story to tell and does so many things for Cancer.

All of the night's speakers together, Robyn on the left who has spoken before and Tanya in the middle along with me, both of us popping our public speaking bubble!

Some of us mAss Kickers together. Us survivors love to celebrate life since we know how precious it is!

Shortly after this speech, Kristin nominated me to be a Hero Of Hope for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. I'm sure you'll see upcoming posts about this!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

How I took my final chemo, celebrating alone but in total style!!

And then there was finally my last chemo, time for the party to begin....

Or so you would think, but my family was away camping with the Adventure Guides and I was all alone at home for that final dose,

and this is how it went down.....

I HAD to do it in a way that was celebratory for me...alone and I was not allowed to have alcohol. There are so many restrictions with chemo, but I'm sure I've already gone over all of that.

So, for my FINAL chemo dose (alone, let me emphasize that over and over because it's strange celebrating alone for anything, but this was something I had to celebrate for me).

And here we go....

I took out my old personalized wedding champagne flutes and poured some apple juice from a small kid's lunch sized box that I stole from my children, loaded my last 3 pills into the lid (because I'm not allowed to touch them, another restriction...), then took one big swig and tried my hardest not to smell them as the smell alone makes my stomach turn and my throat want to close up because they were the most awful thing I have ever taken in my life.

There is that last dose and hopefully I'll never have to take it again, although I am allowed to take it one more year if ever needed. Please pray that it is never needed again!

Monday, September 22, 2014

And then there were 2...

Just finished my 10th round of chemo last Friday!! Whoop whoop!!!!! I'm thrilled that I am almost done with this thing. With only 2 left I can really see the end now. And it feels so close.

This round went well. Sean was in Florida for 2 of the days, but lucky for me they were my easier days. And on one of them a friend brought us dinner and another friend picked my boys up from school. So it really worked out. Sean was in Florida for a mediation on a case he's been working on.

We really need to pray for the work to continue to flow in, it gets stressful for him having to care for me, pay my medical bills, and run his own business. I know that at times he gets stressed and it breaks my heart seeing him taking on so much. As always I appreciate any prayers you all send our way.

Sorry this is such a short blog, but there really isn't anything to say.

With that...remember to donate to "Accelerate a Brain Cancer Cure" in honor of my daughter (and myself) repelling. She still needs to reach her minimum or we are accountable for what remaining.

Here is the link...Faith's repel page And a HUGE thank you to all who have donated!! I am unable to personally thank anyone on her fundraising page, but will hopefully get some thank you cards out in the mail.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Raising awareness and money for brain cancer research by going over the edge again

Of course, since I have brain cancer, I would like to raise awareness. If only I could have come up with the ice bucket challenge and bring millions in for brain cancer research.

Did you know that, although any terminal disease is awful, only 2 in 100,000 people get ALS. While 1 in 165 people get brain cancer. Neither one has a cure. Now that there was the ice bucket challenge the amount of money for ALS research has skyrocketed, while brain cancer research remains one of the lowest funded cancers out of all of the different types of cancers.

This being said, I am repelling down the tallest waterfront building in San Diego again this year. My daughter, Faith and my Uncle Charlie are both going to go "over the edge" with me. I'm super excited to have them on my team and raising money for brain cancer research. We each need to raise $1500 to repel and I have put my (OK my husband's) credit card down as a promise to raise the funds for myself and my daughter.

If you'd like to see pictures of me doing it last year click "here"

EDIT: I reached my goal, surpassed it and would like any future donations to go to my daughter's page or my Uncle's page. I'm not sure if they'll allow it to be spread out, but I am checking into it.

Here is the link to my page (but please don't donate anymore to me, thanks to all who have)!!

Here is the link to my beautiful daughter's page

And here is the link to my Uncle's page

As a simple request, if you donate because of my blog, please put that in the comments when you donate. Thank you!! I'm just curious!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Home Alone and 3/4th of the way through, REALLY

So if you recall my last blog "3/4ths and camping," I didn't realize until I received a comment that I wasn't actually 3/4th of the way through, but only 2/3rd, which is still great. Guess I should go back to school to relearn my math, lol!

Speaking of school...all of my boys are now in school. Ben started kindergarten, Zach is in 3rd grade and Josh is in 5th grade!! The first day of school was amazing, I am so happy with all of the teachers they got (not that there are any bad teachers at their school), it just seems the ones they got are a perfect fit!! Here are their pictures from the first day.

 Looks like our theme for the first day of school was stripes, but my boys picked out their own shirts.
 Zach, 7, 3rd grade
 Ben, 5, kindergarten
 Josh, 9, 5th grade
 All 4 of my kiddos, although only 3 are in school
 Ready to go to school and walk with some neighborhood kids
 Walking down to school with many neighbors (almost everyone walks on the first day)
 Zach at his assigned desk
 Josh at his assigned desk, look at the pile of books already on his desk!!
 Ben saying "hi" to his first teacher, no assigned seats on the first day of school
 Sissy, helping Ben make his name tag, and with that backpack, you know he's the coolest kid!
 Ben hanging up his backpack on the outside hooks
 Saying "bye" to my last baby to go off to school
And the day starts...
Luckily all of my boys had a great first day of school and since I didn't have to start my chemo until that night, I enjoyed the first day hanging with my hubby, cleaning up the house with out someone begging me to entertain them, and even throwing my feet up for a bit. Then reality hit and I had to pick up my chemo.
I started my round on the night of their first day of school. The first few days were fine. Knowing I was going to be on chemo, I planned their lunches in advance and had things ready for the first week. I was a quick week, a little tough because my hubby had to go to Florida for 3 days in the middle of the week, but he returned to help me with my worst days (Friday and Saturday). It was nice being able to relax during the week while the boys were in school and I'm sure by my next round, with Sean in town, it will be much easier.

And like that round 9 was done....
Now onto my final 3 rounds and having this whole thing being in the history books for me!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

3/4ths and camping

EDIT- Oops, I'm only 2/3rds of the way through. Can I blame the chemo on messing up my math? I'm not sure, but I will!! Very soon, I'll be 3/4th if the way through and then completely finished!!!

This 8th round started a bit late...totally my fault. I've had my trouble with my blood counts before in delaying my start date for chemo, but this time it was my showing up too late to get my blood work in on time. You see I usually throw the word "STAT" on my blood work if I go on Friday morning. It's not usually on there because for some crazy reason, my oncologist doesn't want to be called at his home when he's off work to get the results of some one's blood counts. So I usually throw it on there myself if I do a Friday morning blood draw as it takes "up to" 4 hours to process my blood and I figure he's still in the office and I'm not bothering him at home.

Last week I went to do my normal blood draw on a Thursday, but the office was closed...forcing me to go on a Friday. With having to bring all 3 of my boys (it's summer, they go everywhere with me), I completely forgot to label my blood draw request as "STAT!" Which by the way, a member of the lab told me I could do as no one really knows who wrote STAT, they just do it!!

So, my blood work didn't get into the doctor's office until Monday and instead of my normal Friday start date, I had to wait until Monday. I didn't complain or get mad at myself, all things happen for a reason and we just happened to be camping that weekend at our local beach, so instead of being sick, I was spending time with my family, relaxing on the beach, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, paddle boarding, surfing with friends, boogie boarding with my kiddos, watching my boys eat shaved ice, bike riding and doing everything that I would not be able to do had I been on chemo, thus no complaints by me.

Here is my weekend at a glance...

 Playing at the camp site

 My boys all fished and Ben caught seaweed
 They later learned about the different types of seaweed in the Junior Ranger Program
 My boys got shave ice! Yum, but they chose crazy flavors!
 Eating their shave ice, YUM!

 Probably cleaning up my boys' trash!
 Ben ALWAYS gets brain freeze!
 My boys love to boogie board and I was able to join them one afternoon!
 Lil surfer Ben!!
 Josh goes way out to where the waves first break and rides them all the way in
 Cutie-pie Ben in a Bay Watch move!
 Zach fishing, Sean actually caught a few fish (nothing good enough to bring back)
 Zach and Ben playing in the sand, they always end up making sand angles, love them!

I'm on the Stand Up Paddle Board, trying to catch a wave in!
Our camp site from our beach view!!

And on Monday night after we returned from our great weekend, I started my chemo. It was pretty normal, I was tired and laid in bed a lot. My boys played with friends and went to the movies! I'm so happy that week 8 is over and I'm 3/4ths of the way through!! Four more rounds really sounds like nothing...although I'm sure I wont be thinking that before my next round which will start on my boys' first day back at school on August 18th. I'll power through that week as well, because that's just what I do...it's what I have to do for my family!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

40 before 40...on top of the world!!

So a couple posts ago, I mentioned that I wanted to do 40 things out of my comfort zone or that I wouldn't normally do, before I turn 40 on June 4, 2015. I played kickball and put that as the first thing because it's not something I would normally do, especially being on chemo during the game, even though it wasn't out of my comfort zone.

I have really enjoyed hiking for the past couple of years and my daughter told me about a hike she wanted to do to "Potato Chip Rock" and I said that I would do it with her. Then I saw a photo of a friend who did it, so I mentioned that I want to do it, but that my daughter was worried about it being a 7 mile hike up. My girlfriend told me that she does it the back way, so it's 2.2 miles up on a paved service road. She set up a date and time that she, my family, and our friends would go. So we did this morning (and of course it happened to be the morning after my boys returned from camp)!! Here is our hike through photos...

Our group before the hike at the start of the trail.

Early on in the hike
Josh and Zach doing some basic training, lol! I did make them stop after the photo, because I didn't want them to wear themselves out. 
 Little brother, Ben, always trying to keep up, had to do some push ups.

Those push ups may have tired Ben out too early, because Zach is carrying him at this point, but it only lasted a few seconds. 
 And then it was my turn

Josh and Zach had so much energy and they climbed nearly everything!

Daddy's turn to carry Ben. We left for the hike early in the morning and Ben put on his old shoes (slightly small) without anyone knowing, so his feet hurt too bad for him to walk uphill a little over half way through the hike.

Josh and Zach climbed this rock and since Ben was being carried, Daddy took him up the rock so he wouldn't miss out.

Half way up, checking out the view and seeing how far we'd come!!

Posing for a quick photo at the half way mark.

We knew we were at the top when we saw all of the television satellites on top of the hill.

This was the line to go out onto Potato Chip Rock

And once in line, this was what was on the ground to our left...it was a cliff drop to our right!! Notice the rock with the pole sticking out of it, I climbed that a little after going out on the "potato chip"

Faith and her boyfriend, Nicco, on Potato Chip Rock.

My boys were too scared to walk out to the edge of the rock because of the drop you could see on the right hand side. So we took a quick family picture on the rock, just not out on the edge.

Carrying Ben off the rock, he was the most afraid of it out of all my boys.

I was trying to think of a good pose for Sean and I to do on the rock and thought this would be a cute one, although it didn't turn out like I thought it would. I wanted it to look like Sean was saving my life as he has through out this cancer journey.

Out on the edge of the rock with the girls! Laura, my friend furthest from the edge was the one who lead us on this hike and she was the most afraid to go out to the edge. She had to scoot to her spot!!

 And then it was my turn on Potato Chip Rock...I decided I would hang ten and give a little surfing hand gesture up there!!
Here is the pole cemented into the rock that I mentioned earlier. I HAD to climb it!

And then I had my "I'm on top of the world" moment!!

As my boys were a little scared to go out on the potato chip, we walked around at the top of the hill and found this rock with a gorgeous view (if only it wasn't so overcast) for a family picture! Possibly one of the many photos on our Christmas card this year!!

My mini me, trying to climb this pole!

Ben poured water on himself many times to cool off, it was the cutest thing with his smile. Seeing my kids happy brings me so much joy!!

My little climber Zach, had a blast climbing everything he could!

On our way down the hill Josh and Zach got a little ahead of us and when we rounded the corner, we saw them meditating, so cute!

Little brother had to do it too!

Our walk down was fun because it was so much easier that straight uphill, so I climbed into this rock that Sean named "butt crack rock" and he happily called me a turd when I got into it, lol!

And of course a hike with my family wouldn't be complete without an injury and Zach got a thorn stuck into his calf which bled once removed. He was fine, but had an instant bruise.

And with boys, you never have to find them a restroom!!

It was a great hike and we all had so much fun...now to find 38 more fun things to do to complete my list!!