Saturday, November 19, 2011

PCBG Sucks!

Ok so just so people don't think my whole life is about cancer, here's my random thought from Wednesday. I've been helping my mom with her class on Thursday/Friday and in NYC since Friday. This blog will lack more depth than some of my other blogs, so we're now at negative depth. You've been warned.

I was moved by Old Navy's boot-licious ads (big guppie right here) and went to Old Navy to look at fleece and faux furs boots. I decided that boots would not take away my chronic pain or at least make it bearable. The boots weren't cute. I should have known that Old Navy always looks happier in commercials than in person. It just so happens that Old Navy is right next to a Party City and I figured that cheap wedding crud might make me happier than cheap fleece crud.  I was right. It was so fun to figure out what I'm going to buy in the future. They've got a lot of the non-essential, essential wedding stuff - like bags for welcome bags, candy bags, favor bags, sand, vases, etc.

As I'm looking at unity candles, I heard another customer talking to the Party City balloon guy. What I heard annoyed me so much that I almost told these random strangers that they were the dumbest people I've heard all month. I didn't - you're welcome dumb Party City dude. So here's how the conversation went:

Customer: I need happy 3rd birthday balloons for my son
Party City Balloon Guy (PCBG): Ok
(boring conversation ensues about what balloons to pick out)
Customer: Yeah we had to waste our money on all this 1st and 2nd birthday stuff. Why can't we just get something that says "happy birthday" and then reuse it every year. Who needs balloons anyway? Not like the kid knows the difference.
PCBG: Yeah, I heard these parents in here earlier that had rented a moon bounce for their kid for his 3rd birthday. The kid won't ever remember it.
Stupid Customer: (nods in agreeance and makes some other dumb comment about wasting money)

I thought, "UM you do it because it's fun! That's why you get a moon bounce!" You're kid isn't going to remember anything until 3, but you still do fun activities with them - because you love your kid, you want them to laugh and have fun, and because it makes you happy to see them happy. That's why you get a 2 year old balloons. Why celebrate birthdays at all? if that's your beef. Their argument was more surrounding the wasting of money on someone that won't remember it than on expense of said balloon and/or moon bounce. I get the whole lack of disposable income to spend on fun, but non-essential stuff (like unity candles or candy bags). I was annoyed. So annoyed I had to call my sister, which in all honesty I call her when I'm annoyed, happy, sad indifferent, or gassy. One to tell her that I'm proud that she likes to take her kids to do things and is such a good mom, and two to tell her how proud she should be of me that I didn't yell at PCBG. After calling Lisa, I did what I usually do: Call my mom and have the exact same conversation again. She agreed that PCBG sucks and that Party City in general will be good for wedding stuff.

So that's your blog post for today. Sorry if  you were hoping to learn something about cancer. For those of you who read my blog for that reason: Chemo sucks and, in my case, causes ingrown toe nails. There. Feel better? I didn't think so.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lucky Girl

Sometimes I think I'm the luckiest girl in the world.

I know that sounds strange on a cancer blog and especially in contrast to my last couple of posts. However, I have so many wonderful people in my life. I feel so loved every single day. There's no possible way I could even list every person whose helped me through.

For starters, Eric takes such good care of me when we're together and when we're not. He's so understanding and wonderfully generous. I couldn't ask for a better partner in crime. Eric always can make me laugh - or at least stop crying. His family (both immediate and extended) is so kind and caring. I'm so lucky to spend the rest of my life getting to know them. His mother is the sweetest and most thoughtful.

My family makes me feel so lucky. Of course my mother and father are supportive as I've mentioned before. What I don't think I've mentioned enough is how much my sister, Lisa, and brother, Jacob, carry me through on the bad days. They're always around to listen to my complaints, make me laugh, and provide me with the one thing I'm clearly lacking: perspective. My sister despite being 3000 miles and a couple of time zones away always, and I mean pretty much always answers my calls - regardless of how loud her kids are screaming, what she's doing, or if she's at work seeing patients. She always, always makes me smile. Jacob is unequivocally the most thoughtful person I know - he literally said to me the other day that he's upset because he couldn't think of enough ways to help me through chemo. Jacob, News Flash: you are awesome and do a ton for me. There's not one request that I've asked him to do that he has said no to - and I ask for a lot of help. Every girl should be so lucky to have siblings as awesome as mine.

My cousins are awesome. Dale and Diana dropped everything on like 15 minutes notice when we surprised them with a visit. I'm so excited for Diana to make my wedding cake! and Dale never ceases to amaze me with her speed of response to my every illogically posting. My cousin Enna comes to visit me in the hospital often and even though I don't need them, brings me fabulous treats that I love.

My second mother, Diane, is one of the most selfless people I've ever met. I hope she knows how much she means to my mom and I. I'm pretty sure when she moves to Denver (aka one of the saddest days ever) that it will take multiple people working overtime to fill the hole.

I cannot even begin to describe the outpouring of love I feel from my friends. And no one would believe me if I tried. I get amazingly thoughtful care packages from my sorority sisters, Darden, college and high school friends, family friends and coworkers. I love and read every card, email, and Facebook message. Please don't think the lack of speedy ( if at all :-|) response doesn't mean that I'm not truly touched. It would seriously be near impossible to respond to everyone. Just to name a few, thank you Becca, Culp, Sylvia, Laura, Antonio, Hawkins, Hartman, Sue, Jackie, Oren (for the awesome Facebook message), and Mrs. Schilling.The list goes on and on. No way I could even list everyone. Not a day goes by that I don't get a phone call or card from someone unexpected. I love you guys.

My bridesmaids put up with me sending the most random and sporadic emails. Anyone who has gotten married knows that picking bridesmaids can be very stressful. However, I'm so happy with my choices. I'm so lucky to have Kelly and Stephanie in my life.

The most unexpected part of being sick is how kind strangers are. I've been annoyed that thus far I've done all my treatments in-patient in the hospital. Having roommates would normally annoy me and any other normal person, but I've been so lucky to meet the nicest people in the hospital. Complaining about cancer and sharing treatment horror stories I think forms a bond. The hospital staff is so friendly, including the meal chick, the techs, the nurses, the admin staff.

If it wasn't for cancer I wouldn't know how strong my support network is. I wouldn't know how loved I am. It's really a gift on most days and I know I'm a very very lucky girl. Even if there aren't pain meds strong enough to make me feel better, I'm still so full of love that today that the pain didn't matter.

P.S. I love you mom. You're my bestie.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Just to fill up our cancer calendar (and to make sure we're doing everything possible) my mother and I went to Philly to explore the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) a few weeks ago. It was actually an extremely positive experience, especially considering that the commercials had a high cheesy factor.We went to explore the possibility of an ovarian cancer vaccine called ovax for my mom. (Note: my cancer was not evaluated, but discussed some). With every doctors appointment we learn a little bit more about cancer and how to treat it. What we learned in this trip could fill a couple of blog posts, but I'll just cover some of the highlights of CTCA for anyone interested in reading.

The cost of almost everything was covered. The only thing we had to pay for was $75 for the hotel (total for up to 6 days - not per night) at the Radission which was very nice and I thank them for the free champagne from 5:00 to 7:00 daily. Ok back to the cancer center. Travel to and from the hotel was covered. Meals for both my mom and me as the caregiver were covered. Cafeteria was awesome and even had tons of vegan food for my mom to enjoy.

First off, they said that in order to do the vaccine they have to have a sizable tissue sample collected a certain way during surgery. Surgery, however, can't be done for the sake of the vaccine; it has to be medically recommended for the benefit of the patient notwithstanding the clinical ovax trial. Given the latest scan we got today, my mom probably won't be a surgical candidate because she doesn't have enough cancer. (Never thought I would say that phrase "not enough cancer".) Ok but back to the treatment center runnings...

The three day orientation we experienced was a little bit of a cyclone of different meetings with all different kinds of people who work together to treat the patient. It was a very holistic treatment plan. I used to think that "holistic treatment" was code for crunchy granola treatment not approved by western medicine. No offense to my Eugene, Oregon readers. I love crunch granola as much as the next dirty hippie. However, I've come to appreciate that holistic just means they're treating the whole person instead of just the cancer. So, in addition to two oncologists, my mom was also evaluated by a nutritional, a naturopathic (aka herbal supplement guru), a physical therapist, and a pastoral counselor. They also has occupational therapist, massage therapists (for both patient and caregiver!) Reiki therapists, and exercise therapist people.

The idea is to empower the patient to take an active part in their own treatment. Every doctor and therapist can talk to each other and records are integrated. Instead of your oncologist saying "you should get some exercise", they can refer you to an exercise person who has programs and classes. Then your oncologist can check up on you. Speaking of that, note to self: exercise more (and by more I mean at all). One of the ideas that my mom found really interesting was that stress in the body is an impediment to healing. So that needs to be treated just as much as the cancer does. She in particular found the pastoral counseling interesting. I was taking a nap in the car. Sorry. I was in a lot of pain and very tired.

At CTCA, 80 to 90 percent of the patients are from out of state so we weren't alone in that regard. We met A LOT of very friendly people. I think it was a criteria to work there. Overly friendly and bubbly. I was actually relieved when I found a receptionist that rolled her eyes every now and then. Nice to know one of them was human. CTCA also boasts a higher than average success rate. You can actually go to their website and look up the national average survival rate and the CTCA success rate. For those of you looking up colon cancer stats on my behalf, just know that I don't fall into a statistical category because only .9% of people diagnosed with colon cancer are below the age of 34. I was 27 at diagnosis and 29 now. (Median age of colon cancer diagnosis is actually 71 years old - go me for beating that?) Ergo, none of the stats apply to me.

Other highlights from the trip included:
  • Seeing my mom's high school bestie Ellen at Cheese Cake Factory
  • Registering at Crate and Barrel
  • My mom getting a  dress for my wedding - She looks beautiful
  • And Surprising my cousins in Reading, PA. Much love that they dropped everything within a moments notice to spend time with us :)
Unrelated, I finally got my computer back from the Geek Squad up and working so hopefully I'll be back to blogging on a more regular basis and everyone can go back to not reading them on a regular basis. New oncologist is good so far. New treatment sucks. Also, I have a PET Scan later this week that will hopefully tell me that they made a horrible mistake, I don't have cancer, and instead have been producing metastatic gold in my lungs that can be harvested to pay off my student loans. Not likely, but here's hoping! I'll let you all know how it goes at any rate.

Vanity Update: Only 1 more pound until I reach my wedding goal weight! Totally unrelated to any effort I've made.