Meet Me Halfway?

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Round 3… Ding Ding!

Last night, the night before chemo, I once again couldn’t sleep.  Between the steroids and the impending day ahead, my mind runs while my body lays ready for sleep.  If you know me, you’d know there is a constant song running through my head (thus the spontaneous dancing that bursts out on occasion).  Last night heavily featured techno beats and the Black Eyed Peas singing “Meet me half way…..” on repeat.  Normally, this song conjures up memories a Greek vacation with a group of guys I’ve been lucky enough to have as friends who have become family.  And, of course, it still did because well… that was the soundtrack of an awesome long ago memory.  But, the song was firmly stuck for other reasons too.  Today, is the halfway mark into this chemo battle, and I’m walking into this final half with the most amazing prognosis one can possibly have, I’ll soon be in remission.  My body was humming with the excitement of knowing how far we’ve come.  Then it came to me, I think I’m halfway between who I was and who I’m going to be, and that is a very real struggle.

Being the middle of the night, I became introspective as the tune hummed on.   The sentiments of my last post had me feeling off.  As predicted, I instantly felt lighter of heart once I hit the publish button and the clouds cleared.  I don’t regret writing it because it was honest and I always try to be honest with you.  But, I now feel foolish for having such a deeply held funk in my spirit.  For the previous week, the words superficial, petty, and victim come into mind.  It is my deep hope that I am truly none of those things.  I hate the word victim most of all and I hate that I let a mood shade my amazing news.

Just sitting here in the chemo room was a big wake up call.  The people here are so much sicker than I am.  I assume many of them won’t see the words remission on their charts.  And here I was, not celebrating properly that we’ve come so far in a short time. The day after I found out the good news, a stranger I began following on social media saw the end of her battle.  It was hard.  She was close to my age and as a stage 4 diagnosed, she was never given hope of remission.  I immediately regretted everything.  Though this life is hard, it is wonderful.  I have been gifted with another life.  The girl I used to be is barely recognizable, and I miss her slightly.  There are a few parts of her I’ll hold on to (the rowdy and carefree parts), but a lot of her will disappear because the truth is…. she was just a girl and this was a wake up call.  Time to grow. Time to get stronger.  Time to stop with consuming anxiety and sweating the small stuff.  So much has changed in these three short months.  This woman that is evolving is one I can truly embrace.

Ashley the Riveter in action

Ashley the Riveter in action

So for round 3 of chemotherapy, I came dressed as my spirit animal, the quintessential woman.  Rosie.  And you know what… I CAN do this. We can do this. We are winning guys!  I won’t let the clouds back in, promise.  There is so much to be thankful for, we don’t have time to be bogged down with all the temporary.  Side effects.  Hibernation.  Lost time.  Physical appearance.  Say a few quick prayers for me.  Pray for steel in my spine, forgiveness for myself in my heart (for when I stumble), and a brief stint hiding in my burrow this round.  Reinforcements are already on the way to help.

The (re)Mission Statement

I have been having a hard week.  The hard ones are so much more difficult to write about.  I don’t want to be a downer but this Debbie had a full on pout going.  The funk still lingers slightly despite an amazing visit with my oncologist today.  I’ll fill you in on the negative first because sharing with you guys seems to help the weight lift.

You see… I’m very tired, physically and mentally.  The physical wore off for a few days but now it feels like it’s back.  It is so disappointing to watch the last few days before chemo disappear with the feeling of hibernation creeping back in.  Sleep is the only thing I want.  All day.  Every day.  If I were a betting gal, I’d guess my exhaustion is contributing to my horrible coping with the side effects.

Transforming back into myself, you can read the difference  on my face.

Transforming back into myself, you can read the difference on my face.

I think we’ve covered the chemo side effects basics before but this time they held on so much tighter.  It makes me fear what will happen after this next round.  But for a few days now, the problem has been so much more than the physically trying symptoms.  My vanity is really taking a hit.  Like many, I find my confidence boosted when I feel good about how I look to the outside world.  That’s not to say that I didn’t used to run around without makeup and yesterday’s hair.  Because I did.  All the time.  But now, I’m so uncomfortable with my appearance.  My eyelashes have started to go.  My head looks like a diseased animal.  And hardest for me… I’ve put on those 10 pounds they warned me about which means just being dressed is uncomfortable.  The worst part?  It all feels like it happened over night. There was no adjustment period.  I find myself overcompensating every morning. Put on makeup, how about a dress?  Do I look girly enough yet?  I don’t want to be this person but it’s less to do with looking good and more so about still feeling like a girl.

What could fix this problem? Not much.  The feeling clings and I’m tired of putting on what I’ve come to think of as the “makeup mask”.   But… it’s temporary.  I have a hard time remembering that.  But, today I got a big old reminder in the form of six words dripping in shock, “You’re going to go into remission”.

That’s right.  You hear that world?  I’m on a bee line for remission!  After a physical exam, the conversation with the oncologist went a little something like this… “There are no palpable lumps.  How long have you been doing chemo, two rounds?  Just six weeks? Wow.  They are really gone.  You’re going to go into remission”.  His shock was clear.  He may have bet me a dollar this would happen but the odds still remained at 50%.  There is no doubt in my mind that this never happens this quickly based solely on the reactions of the people in the room.  I thought we were going to have a party right there.  Guess, I’ll just have to bottle up that enthusiasm to tackle Chemo Round 3 on Thursday.

Ashley B.C. (before cancer), I barely know her anymore

Ashley B.C. (before cancer), I barely know her anymore

I don’t find it at all ironic that this amazing news would come in a moment when my game had been thrown the hardest during this fight.  It’s a reminder that all the dumb things that are getting me down are temporary (even if they seem like a big deal right now).  It’s a reminder that I’m going through all this hardship to earn that lucky title of “survivor”.  The longer this process goes on, the harder it will be to remember so I’m gearing up with a plan for this next round.  Every day I’ll try to do one thing fun, one thing active, and one thing productive.  With these goals, it will be much harder to disappear, and to worry about things that are better left out of my head.  Let you know how it goes.  We are almost half way done with this battle, guys!

SHE’S ALIVE!

Okay.  Okay.  So I was never really “gone” but man it sure felt like it for this past week.

Eyes open.... Make up on.... It's alive!

Eyes open…. Make up on…. It’s alive!

Today, I semi-emerged from the chemo fog enough to let you guys know what’s going on. (Has it really been 2 weeks since I last posted?)  We can officially say that round 2 (and most of the side effects) are OVER!  You want to know how awesome that is? Awesome enough to say that we are a third of the way through this battle. BIG FLIPPIN DEAL HERE!  I’m planning a little something special for the halfway mark at round 3 but I guess you’ll just have to wait and see….

So Chemo Day (last Thursday), I would have updated you guys but it would have been a total repeat of round 1.  We came, I got poked, I laid in the sun like a cat wondering if this was torture or a vacation…. yada yada yada.  This time only took a mere 5 hours in comparison to the 8 hours from the first trip, and all was smooth sailing.  I’m practically a professional.

Mr pretty much perfectly summed up the week with this snap

Mr pretty much perfectly summed up the week with this snap

The only marked difference was this time I knew what was coming.  There is good and bad in that.  The bad is, of course, anticipating flu-like symptoms and bone pain for one out of every three weeks.  The good was that I thought I knew how to manage them.  Notice I said “thought”?   Well, it would appear that after each round of chemotherapy I will be starting with a much lower baseline.  I felt amazing that last week pre-treatment so that means I’m normal again right?  Wrong.  The symptoms hit harder. Faster. Stronger…. Yeah, yeah I’m a pop song.  By Friday morning, I was down for the count.  The medications help a lot but they all come with their own list of side effects.  One week later, I’m basically still on limited kid duty and supervised outings.

The light at the end of the tunnel though… I knew there was one.  I knew if I got through it I would have another bright, shiny week of walking on sunshine and singing to woodland creatures like a bald Disney princess (yes, I’m that annoying when I come out).  The other thing I clung to, quite literally, was my boobs.  Every time things started to seem unmanageable the words “it’s temporary, feel your boob, it’s working” would come in my head.  Yes, I am now a person who apparently randomly gropes themselves without a thought in her brain.  Super creepy, yes?  I promise I’m not a perv!  It’s just… I can’t find them anymore.  No not my boobs… the lumps!   Where the heck have the lumps gone?  Righty used to have an egg (6cmx8cm) and now… poof!  Lefty has pulled the same disappearing trick too.  I know they go deep down to the chest wall but if they were this size I would have never even found them.  Poof!  Chemo Magic!  I had no idea it would work this well.  I see the doctor again on the 27th and I seriously can’t wait because I NEED to hear what he has to say.  Am I some sort of miracle patient or is this totally normal?

Look guys... a rare Mama sighting in the wild!

Look guys… a rare Mama sighting in the wild!

So, there it is.  Chemo is working and time is passing.  Time passes in chunks for me.  Big gaping holes of chunks.  It’s wonderful in a way.  I blink and Monday has become Friday.  But I’m getting that old familiar feeling from every deployment. It feels terrible to wish your life away even when you want nothing more than the passage of time.  Do I want to miss out on so much looking towards an end date? Heck no!  During this time with chemo, we’ll celebrate an anniversary, take a trip to Savannah, have some pretty special visitors, and most importantly… my babies will turn two.  Two years have come and gone and I’ve not wanted to miss any of it.   Next rounds, I’ll be trying my hardest not to get lost.  Till then, I’ll be here, enjoying the feeling of looking at life through wide open eyes.

Geared up!

Geared up!

Hello 29. Goodbye hair.

IMG_9422Today, I turn 29, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more excited about a birthday.  Okay, so maybe, five was an epic year but who can remember that? It’s strange because, I have never quite celebrated a birthday to this extent before.  The week started with the arrival of my best friend from college.

The bestie and the tinys

The bestie and the tinys

Megan and the mister schemed and plotted her appearance for Monday morning on a very unsuspecting me sitting at Starbucks (best birthday present ever, anyone?). With her arrival, I found new energy that I haven’t felt in months.  IMG_9255We took the little people to an Easter egg hunt, enjoyed surprise mani/pedis (courtesy of Megan’s equally sneaky husband), and did all the things we used to love doing back when our apartments were a courtyard away.  She even watched my tinys so the mister and I could enjoy a night out for a Battalion Ball.  IMG_9334

Last Wednesday, I even got good news as an early present from my doctor.  My labs were good enough that my shots (with the bone pain) are being reduced from seven to four after my chemotherapy!  HALLELUJAH. I couldn’t have been happier if he told me I was getting an all expenses paid vacation.  But then it got better.  A physical exam revealed that everything is already softening up.  He asked me if I noticed shrinkage and was shocked. Could it really be happening this fast?  Apparently yes, because today I could feel the first noticeable difference!  I wouldn’t be surprised if it had gone down by a third of its size.  So, my birthday for the first time in my life became an awesome birthday week.

If there was one thing that could have took me down a notch (shooting me straight back to reality), it happened Thursday night.  I was getting all fancied up for the Ball when it hit.  My hair was coming out.  In chunks.  I knew it was coming but it just happened all at once. No warning. So, I painted on a brave face and danced my worries away.  I told Cam we would shave it the next day.  And shave it we did.  It has been an adjustment (read: super hard on my vain soul) but I did it on my terms.

Oh hair... how I miss you...

Oh hair… how I miss you…

Here we go....

Soulmate, Bestie… Barber? Yep he does it all!

New revelation... Totally a girl who can rock a Hawk

New revelation… Totally a girl who can rock a Hawk

IMG_9398

And… now we wait for it to go. Going a bit shorter tonight.

It’s a funny thing.  Normally I would mourn the loss of youth with each passing birthday but this one is very different.  Before, I was dreading 29 (Hello, 30! I see you creeping).  But, birthdays aren’t for mourning, they are about celebrating life.  I’m excited to bid adieu to 28.  For the rest of my life, I’ll remember this year.  Every time I see my scars, have to fill out a medical form, or see the doctor for checks.  But, I know 29 is going to be even more memorable.  Its the year, I become a stronger person, with more appreciation, and less worry.  29 will be the year I get to tell everyone, I’m in remission.