Sunday, May 23, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It is always a great time with Claude!
I relay for you Claude. Love you lady!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Debbie is an awesome! We talked about all the crap that goes along with cancer and did all the crap that goes along with cancer right next to each other. We even got our new "girls" around them same time, right Debbie? The old ones were trying to kill us.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I never read this until after I was done with my treatment. My husband found it on the best of craigslist and I am unsure who the original author was.
I was a good cancer patient…no, a great cancer patient. I was tough. I didn’t curl up in a ball and hide, I faced it, I sucked it up, and got through it. I’m not looking for a medal, I just want to preface what I am going to say with the fact that I am not whiny or self-pitying, and that I realize that I am not the only one who’s had to deal with this crap, and that there’s worse things that could have happened to me. I have a wonderful family and caring friends that have formed a very lovely support system for me. I cannot thank them enough for all their help and love.
That said, here’s my rant…This goes out to everyone I know – friends, family, co-workers, doctors, nurses, radiologists, technicians, friends of friends, exes, and others…
1. There is no “good” kind of cancer. Yes, this kind of cancer at my stage has an 80-85% survival rate. That’s great, I am happy about that – really, I am, but that doesn’t make it “good” or any “better” than any other kind of cancer. Cancer is a scary thing, the treatment is excruciating, and at the end of the day, if you happen to get “lucky” and be one of the 15-20% that don’t survive, that statistic turns from a “good” one to a not-so-great one. Really. That’s like one out of five. Can you think of five friends? Picture them. If one of them up and died would you consider it a “good” number of them? I didn’t think so. So please, don’t tell me I got the “good” kind of cancer – don’t even suggest it. Don’t even say, “Well, at least you didn’t get _________ cancer, that would really suck.” Uh, hello, this pretty much REALLY sucks. Next time you get cancer I’ll ask you if you think the kind you got is “good”.
2. Don’t tell me things I don’t want to hear. For some reason, it occurred several times that when I told someone what I was going through (which is kinda awkward anyway), they would say something to the effect of “OH, my (mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, insert any other relative or even remote acquaintance here) just died last year of cancer.” Or “Right, my (insert distant relative here) died of Hodgkin’s.” What the hell?? I have been diagnosed with a terrible disease and am undergoing intensive and debilitating treatment, and you’re going to tell me about someone dying? What? Seriously? It’s better just to not chime in here. Again, next time you get cancer, I’ll try this line out on you and you can let me know what you think.
3. DO NOT ask me about my hair. With the kind of chemo I had, my hair started falling out around treatment #3, slowly at first, then lots at a time until I finally, and very sadly, shaved my head. THAT WAS REALLY HARD TO DO. It’s about a lot of things…it’s about vanity and feeling ugly, it’s about the stigma of being sick and that being obvious to the world, it’s about knowing or not who you are without your hair/eyelashes/eyebrows, it’s complicated. And, I take ownership of the fact that some of that is really superficial stuff – but it’s very real and it’s emotional. So, comments like “How’s your hair doing?” “Wow, it’s really thinning out!” “So is your hair just coming out in handfuls?” and “Is that a wig?” are not helpful and WILL make me cry. If you think this is stupid or oversensitive, let me say it again: next time you get cancer let me know how this goes.
4. Don’t tell me it’s going to be ok. Bottom line is this – I know I want everything to be ok, and I know you want everything to be ok – you wouldn’t be my friend/involved family member if that weren’t the case. Unfortunately, we BOTH know that it just might not be ok. We BOTH know that there exists the possibility that it’s not going to be ok and that the disease isn’t going to respond, or is going to come back, and that even if I am tough and brave, it could kill me. I have had to deal with that idea since the word “cancer” came out of the doctor’s mouth. In that moment, and in the hours and days to come, I knew that it could happen that everything was not going to be ok. If I didn’t know that, cancer wouldn’t be such a big deal. If that weren’t a possibility, we wouldn’t have shed tears when we heard the news. So, for my sake, don’t say that line. I know it’s the first thing that comes to mind, and I know you mean it well, but try something else that actually means something, like: “Whenever you need anything I’ll be there” or “This is going to be rough but I’m here for you” or “I’m on my way over with a last season’s Top Model” or even just “Give ‘em hell, sista”. I know you may not get it, but next time you get cancer we’ll share profound understanding when I tell you that I know it may not be ok and that I know that’s real scary.
5. Don’t comment about my weight. Ok, here’s something that I didn’t know before I started this. Chemotherapy is NOT a weight loss plan – YES, they have indeed discontinued all the fringe benefits from the cancer card membership. Turns out, they give you steroids that make you hungry all the damned time. And, you feel like complete shit and don’t even have enough energy to walk up the stairs, much less to exercise. In the beginning when I was still trying to figure out how to deal with crappy side effects like constant vomiting, painful mouth sores, etc, I lost weight because I just literally couldn’t eat. But once I got that under control, the hunger would come on, and man, I can eat a lot. I was in pretty good shape (at the gym five days a week, healthy foods, etc) when all this started and now I have gained weight and am up a pants size. The once-muscle has turned into mushy fat and I’m not happy about it, but during treatment there was just no fix. So, the “wow, you’ve put a couple on, haven’t you?” or “I thought you lose weight on chemo” comments are not helpful and again, will make me cry. Next time you get cancer, see how you feel when I tell you to “hit the gym.”
6. Chemotherapy sucks. I think everyone knows that – I don’t know what the first thing is that pops into your head when you read that word, but I would venture to guess that it’s not something warm and smiley. It sucks, it really sucks. You vomit, are nauseated (which is so much worse than vomiting) all the time, you get terrible headaches, you can’t sleep, you get sores in your mouth and chronic yeast infections, you get seriously seriously constipated, your brain malfunctions and you can’t remember how to get to the bus stop or where you normally leave the toothpaste, your whole body hurts, your toenails fall off (really? Yeah) and now they give you shots to stimulate white blood cell production (at least in my case) that cause relentless, incapacitating pain that made you simply want to give up on living just to make it stop. Ok, I said it, chemotherapy sucks – and I am really good at being tough and not letting everyone know all the crappy stuff that’s happening to me at once, but you know it sucks. So, no, I am not interested in hearing you whine about a cold you think you’re getting, your scratchy throat, your eye/ear/sinus infection, your sleepiness, your headache, etc. I know you really don’t feel good, but c’mon man, suck it up – or at least go tell someone else who doesn’t have cancer. Next time you get it, you’ll drop kick the jerk that spends ten minutes talking about how bad their hangover is.
7. It’s a REALLY long road. Eight months is a long time to be sick. It just is, and I KNOW (I really know) that it gets old. In the beginning everyone called all the time, offered to go to chemo with me, sent lots of e-mails, came over to visit when I was sick….but after the months drag on it’s like people get sick of it. I understand that – ‘cause I got pretty sick of it too. I got sick of calling in to work, not doing anything fun, not seeing anyone….even just answering the damned “How are you feeling?” question….I felt like it was better to lie and say “fine” than to say how I really felt because people kind of don’t know how to react or don’t want to hear it. I have a wonderful husband and mother who took exceptional care of me, even when they needed a break, even when it got old, even when they got sick of hearing me say I felt like shit. They did that because they knew I needed them. I needed other people too, I needed girlfriends to just come over with a movie or a dvd of a funny tv show, or to call me on the days they knew I had treatment, or to just call when they hadn’t heard from me in days. Some did and some didn’t. You know who you are and why you didn’t. Maybe you didn’t feel comfortable or maybe you were too “busy.” Regardless, I love you, and I will do it for you the next time you get cancer.
I really, really hope you never get cancer. I mean that for everyone – even if you’re a jerk, even if you write to me and rant meaningless crap about my rant, even if you really deserve to have something nasty happen to you – I hope you don’t get cancer. It’s awful. I’m not one of those “I’m a survivor!” types, I’m not one of those in-your-face super tough post-cancer freaks, I’m really normal and I will get over this. That said, if you do get cancer or if your friend or (insert any relative here) gets cancer, you can bet your bottom dollar that if/when I hear about it I’ll be on your/their doorstep with a big teary welcome to the cancer club hug and a mop and bucket to clean the floors, or popcorn and a DVD for the kids, or dinner so you/they don’t have to make it, or whatever it takes, for as long as it takes – and you won’t have to ask for it, and you won’t have to say thanks, because we’ll both just know. It’s a special club and we take care of our own.
Give a little, to what has taken a lot
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
She is a riot. Always a fun time with Judy around. There was a time shortly after she joined the group that another Judy joined the message board. From then on she referred to herself as "Old" Judy.
This is how I remember Judy.
She was a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She was from Nebraska and cheered for the cornhuskers. I learned that she loved ham salad and extra large kleenex. ha! Judy I know, you're laughing. To know Judy is to love Judy. Judy posted this funny story on a survivor's writers group she belonged to:
This morning I got a glimpse of my future, and it is not a good look for me.
Picture me this morning; lying on an ambulance cart, wearing a really old nightgown with one of Joe's holy (full of wholes) undershirt over it, with oatmeal stains from earlier breakfast on it. No front partial teeth in. Funny little hair sprouting into stick-out lumps all over my fat steroidal head. Now picture several absolutely adorable young EMT's hovering around me.
I was so miserable anyway, a little attractiveness could have gone along way in saving me.
I am now tucked in for the nite at a hospital in Loveland CO, in the section attended by hospice nurses. Thanks to wonderful drugs, and good nursing, I can breathe again!
A really have a hilarious story for you all. Nurses had each been asking if my cough was bringing up anything. Finally, I coughed up something of substance and saved it in a Kleenex to show a nurse. The next one that came in got a nice view of it, as I asked her if she thought the color in it came from blood? She did not scream and run from the room, but I then did see her name tag --- not "Nurse" but rather "Volunteer".
Love to you all, and if for some reason I don't write for a worrisome length, you can contact my daughter and she will fill you in.
I dearly love you all, and treasure the time we have spent together here;
Judith Warren Vasiliauskas “Judy V” passed away on 12/6/09, after a courageous battle with breast cancer.
She was my friend, and I loved her, and I still do. I love that she made everyone around her feel special and loved. I love that she loved life. I love that she found humor in situations that most people would not.
I love and miss you dearly my friend. I know you are in a better place and free of the pain that you knew in this world. But we still miss you. I relay for you Judy.
give a little, to what has taken a lot.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Mom fought for almost 3 years. She didn’t let the cancer get her down and she found ways to continue her life despite being tied to dialysis. Through her research she found a method called peritoneal dialysis that gave her the freedom to do her dialysis on her own and at home. This cut her tie to the clinic and allowed her the flexibility to travel. She visited me here in Colorado several times, she visited shortly after my youngest son was born, she traveled to Hawaii, she even took a cruise to Alaska with my dad and her siblings and parents.
It was during one of her trips here that things changed for the worst. Mom and dad were here to visit us for Thanksgiving of 2005 and for Tiffany’s baptism which was that Saturday. On Thanksgiving morning she had to go in for dialysis. (She had recently returned to clinical dialysis when her peritoneal dialysis port fell out and could not be replaced) During her treatment, she passed out. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and spent a few hours while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. They ended up sending her home with no defined reason for her passing out. That evening we had Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. Mom wasn’t feeling well so dad took her back to our house to rest after she ate. A little bit later, I got a call that mom was being taken from my house in an ambulance again. She had gone unconscious again. It was determined in the hospital that she was probably having mild heart attacks. Her weekend trip turned into two weeks in the cardiac ICU here. During that time she had 9 episodes of cardiac arrest and a defibrillator put in. Once she stabilized she was sent to my home for a few days to recover a bit more and then she returned home. When I put her on the plane to go home to Las Vegas, I feared it might be the last time I would see her alive.
This was the beginning of the end. She had fought long and hard and never ever gave up, but in the end her body just couldn’t take any more. It was just 3 ½ months later that I got the call from my dad that mom was once again in the hospital and this time, he didn’t think she was going to make it. I hopped on a plane and spent a very short amount of time with my mom on the evening I arrived. The next morning upon our arrival in the hospital, we were informed that during the night things had changed. She was now brain dead. We gathered the family and with each one of us holding some part of her, we had the doctor turn off the machines keeping her alive. It was just a short minute or two until her heart stopped beating. It was the saddest experience of my life so far but also one of the most spiritual. I don’t think we are ever closer to heaven than we are at the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. She passed from this life to the next. She was no longer in pain. No more suffering. She had moved on, but it left the rest of us here to mourn the loss of her in our lives. I have 34 years of memories of her. I have all that she taught me and all that she helped me to be. The saddest part for me is that some of my children don’t even remember much about her. It is only though pictures and the stories that I tell that she can remain in their hearts, but I will always be sure they know her.
I miss my mom every single day. I don’t know how many times I have picked up the phone to call her. She was my best friend. She was the one I called with all of my good news and she was the one who lifted me up when I was having a bad day.
Over the first year after her passing, I had good days and many bad days. I decided I needed to do something to honor her in some way.
Shortly after mom’s passing one of my best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is now a 4 year survivor and is the one who introduced me to Relay For Life. When I heard about Relay I knew that this was one of the best ways I could honor my mother. Now I do what I can to help our Relay team to raise money in the fight against cancer. I walk the track with my friends; some cancer survivors themselves and others who have also lost loved ones. We walk together. We share our stories. We share our memories. We cry and support one another.
I relay for my mom. I relay for my grandmother who died of brain cancer in 1990. I relay for my friend Eliza. I relay for my friends who have also lost loved ones. But, I also relay for my children in hopes that through our efforts, cures can be found, so they will not have to worry about cancer affecting their lives.
If you want o help my cause check out my Cancer T-Shirt shop at cafepress.com/mlsdesigns. A portion of proceeds from sales in the cancer shop will be donated to my Relay For Life team.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
give a little, to what has taken a lot