Ready. Set. Fly!

So… It’s here.  Precisely 173 days in the making, tomorrow is surgery day (5:15 am to be exact).

Last weekly date night for awhile

Last weekly date night for awhile

I wish I could write you a blog post full of awesome thoughts and dark humor but… I’m absolutely exhausted from the prep stage and this brain just isn’t swinging around the wit the way it normally does.  So what CAN I tell you….

Conquering fears with my main mister

Conquering fears with my main mister

Well, for one, I am so ready.  There is no fear.  No regret.  No dread.  I remain steady in this decision.  The hardest part of preparing has not been at all mental and completely physical.  I’m the strongest I’ve been since we got the diagnosis. The chemo effects have completely gone from body.

High Ropes and Zip Lining... no prob

High Ropes and Zip Lining… no prob

Just to prove how tough I am (I suppose to myself and my Mr), I decided to tackle a fear.  Flying.  Okay, this fear hit more so on my heights issues but… but for arguments sake, we can consider zip lining a form of flying, no?  Either way, this is not something pre-cancer Ashley would have been demanding to experience.  But guess what, it was amazing!

High Ropes Course Domination

High Ropes Course Domination

The thing about fear is it holds you back.  I’m learning that fear (along with anxiety and doubt) just don’t have a place in my life anymore.  And… THAT is the biggest reason I have not second guessed my decisions in treatment, or approached them with anything other anticipation.  I’m telling you… the anticipation for those words are killing me.  Soon… “There is no evidence of cancer”.  Sweet Remission!

Stick, Scan, Doctor, Repeat.

Guys, I know it’s been awhile. (Deja vu?)  Yes.  I know, I usually start with some variation of that sentence but this time the delay was completely intentional.  Yes, seriously.  I’ve been super busy getting all my ducks in a row.  (I mean… I had no less than 6 appointments just this week!).  And now all the stats are in and I have so much to share.  But where to begin….

Eli is so helpful... always keeping my head warm!

Eli is so helpful… always keeping my head warm!

So last time we saw each other, we were celebrating my last chemo.  Irony of all irony, I’m currently sitting back in the infusion suite for “maintenance” as the staff here likes to call it.  Still no more chemo (yahoo!), but I still have to show up every three weeks for hormone receptors to help prevent reoccurrence.  So, does that mean I’m in chemo induced remission?

The bad news is… I’m not.  The good news is… I will be (most likely), in exactly 13 days.  The chemo did better than anyone could have ever expected.  The largest mass on my right side (8cm x 6cm, previously) is now down to just 1 centimeter.  And, the three masses on the left have shrunk to one measly 8 MILLIMETER lump.  On August 5th, we’ll finish them off for good.  Singing “Another One Bites the Dust” into the surgical suite,  I’ll be undergoing a bilateral modified radical mastectomy with reconstruction and auxiliary lymph node dissection on the left and a sentinel node biopsy on the right. (Click the links for more info).  Reconstruction will take at least two more surgeries after this one and probably won’t be completely finished until spring of next year.

We can also add one more surgery to that list because my genetic testing came back positive for the BRCA1 gene.  Did you know that only 12% of women get breast cancer, and of that 12% only 5% are connected to this gene.  Once again…. just proving how special I am… yay me! (Could you hear that eye roll?)  I’m choosing to undergo a prophylactic surgery to remove my ovaries.  Helloooooo menopause!  Thank God for my tiny people or this would have been the hardest decision of my entire life.

But back to the game plan, 5-10 weeks after surgery, I’ll have to undergo 6 weeks (5 days a week) of radiation.  Even though I expect to already be cancer free by this time, radiation will help ensure that any microscopic traces of the cancer cells are toast… literally.  Three months post radiation, we’ll start back on the reconstruction surgeries again.

So… now that we have all facts on the table, I guess you are wondering about “human Ashley “and less about the science experiment that has become my body.  The truth is… there is anxiety.  Of course there is!  But the stress seems to be stemming more from being overwhelmed about the time commitment that treatment will be demanding over the next several months. How do I maintain self and still do everything on the agenda?  It will be less of a balancing act and more like juggling.

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Look! It’s here! The hair is coming! The hair is coming!

That aside, I’m scary excited to start this process.  I’ve been waiting for this surgery since February.  Will I mourn my gals?  Well, honestly no.  The betrayal runs deep, y’all.  Adieu and good riddance you big old jerks!  But seriously, the price of remission (and staying that way) could never be too steep for me.  I know when I wake up, there will be some self image issues.  Let’s be real straight here.  I’m thicker than I’ve ever been in my entire life (let’s not count pregnancy, there were twins in there people!). The hair on my head could rival that of a newborn duckling.  Okay, I’m actually fascinated and thrilled about that… for now.  And now, I’m going to be flat as a teenage boy in two weeks.  We aren’t operating with the best proponents for confidence here.  But, I’ll deal with all that if (when?) it happens.

One year ago I would be ashamed of this stats but not too shabby for my first day back!

One year ago I would be ashamed of this stats but not too shabby for my first day back!

For now, I’m focusing hard on some of the things I can control.  Making 300 lists.  Making freezer meals.  And best of all, I’ve hit the gym hard.  Me and that sweet lover have been apart for far too long.  You better believe your sweet sassafras I’m going into this round strong as all get out.  My heart is ready.  My brain is mostly on board.  Now I’m just getting the body built up to once again get hit by a freight train.  Go ahead, knock me down.  I’ll always come back stronger.

Let Freedom Ring. No Mo Chemo!

Today may only be July 2nd, but this is my Independence Day! We just conquered chemo and I’m almost free from the chair!

Just showing the cancer center who is on top!

Just showing the cancer center who is on top!

Now, I’m sitting hooked to bag 3 of 4 and hoping and wishing and praying that this will truly be the last day I have to sit down and pump these poisonous drugs into my system.

You may be asking yourself?  Did we skip from treatment 4 to 6? Did I miss a post somewhere?

C and G

C and G spinning in the cups

Snuck in some 4th Festivities on Saturday

Snuck in some 4th Festivities on Saturday

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B mean muggin’ on the Ferris Wheel she INSISTED on going on.

The answer is yes to the former and no to the latter.  Chemo round 5 was bad.  Really bad.  Symptoms that typically drop by on Saturday night/ Sunday morning made a sharp appearance on the Thursday night.  Then, they persisted for the next two weeks.  I just got my feet back underneath me to wake up from the chemo coma and discover it was that time again.  I’m sure this time will be no better but…. This is the last time I have to do it and that makes it all the more easy to sit here and press on.

So… today we conquered chemo, what is next?  Since I wrote you last, I’ve seen lots of doctors and have lots of information to share with you.  Next week we start the poking and prodding again.  Test after test will be ran to find out where we now stand pre-surgery.  Somewhere in the vicinity of the last week of July, I’ll be undergoing a double bilateral full mastectomy with a full lymph node removal on the left side and the first step of the reconstruction process.

I know that these two snugglers are ready to care of me.

I know that these two snugglers are ready to take care of me, which ever outcome.

Here is where the cancer get’s to play “choose your own adventure” after all the tests come back.  IF I am in chemo induced remission, we are done.  I’ll undergo the final two reconstruction surgeries and pray with each remission check up that this was just a blip in my 20s.  If there does happen to be cancer still hiding out in there, radiation will be on the agenda for an unknown amount of time and we may have to do another 8 week round of chemotherapy.  Both these paths will make reconstruction surgery further away and much more complex.  They’ll have to take muscles from my back to be placed into my chest.  Yes. Seriously.  The thing I wish the most right now is that the doctor could have waited a few more days to tell me about the chemo possibility because my Independence Day now has a dark cloud looming.

Honest to goodness, I FEEL it though.  I’m as sure as I can be that we are in remission. Even though the odds were not high, my oncologist continues to be shocked time and time again that every bump, lump and hardness has vanished.  If the cancer is still there, it is deep.  But even deeper, in my heart, I just feel like I won this battle, whatever the next step happens to be.  I am so excited, so grateful, so proud that we conquered chemo.  Happy Independence Day, y’all!

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No Mo Chemo! Adios Chair!

Where’d you go?

FullSizeRender_2PEEK-A-BOO!  Yep…. that’s pretty much how my days go….

Ok guys! I know… Naughty blogger.  It’s been almost a whole month.  It’s been busy…. and very sleepy (Is it bedtime yet?).  So lets start where we left off…

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My sleepy hero

Chemo Number 4.  Shew!  That was a rough one!  Unfortunately, this was also the round I told my mom she didn’t need to come and the mister he didn’t need to miss work by taking leave.  Wow was I a cocky little devil with that game plan.  Again, shows me for setting expectations.  Okay, yes.  I get it.  I got to stop thinking I know what’s happening because I have no idea what’s next!

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Two tinies celebrating two years

Thankfully, that round was violent but quick.  I felt good enough to plan a party for the tinys (can I get a hallelujah, Amazon Prime).  My tiny humans turned two on June 1st and I still can’t get over it.  Where did the time go?  I have to confess something. This year was so amazing that I think I couldn’t really help but get over chemo fast enough to celebrate.  Sure two is a great age and all (okay, I’m loving it, you caught me) but celebrating year one was laden with horrible PTSD style flashback memories of an overly traumatic delivery.  There was a fear that each year would bring back the memories good and bad (how selfish am I? Girl get over it).  I’m so grateful that was not the case.  Year two only brought nostalgia rather than vivid pangs from an anesthesia free abdominal butchering.  So why am I telling you this?  I honestly think it was the cancer that helped me let go of the anger and fear associated with event.  You just have to let it go…. LET IT GO!  LET IT GO! (oh no…. it’s in my head).

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My girls

The birthday party weekend was followed by an epic crash.  That pretty much tells me I was running on pure adrenaline trying to make sure the twins didn’t feel any birthday neglect thanks to this situation.  So again…. I fall into exhaustion.  And again…. I made an epic attempt to pull it together for the weekend.  I have these best friends.  I’ve known them since middle school.  And 5 of the 8 of us managed to sneak off to Tybee Island/ Savannah for the weekend.  BEST MEDICINE EVER.  To say these girls have been with me 147% through this entire ordeal would be such an understatement.  I’m glad they could finally see me because it hurts me to no end to think they worry.  I know they’ll still think about me, but… like I’ve said before, once you see me, it’s hard to treat me like I’m sick (Thank God! No one likes a pity party).

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The mister and me ready for a Savannah Date Night

And, because it’s been groundhog’s day for the last four months…. we are back to exhaustion.  Maybe I over did it this round.  But then again, the doctor told me to brace myself.  Apparently, round five and six are going to be real doozies.  This is about the time your immune system gives up and your body stops fighting the chemo and starts embracing it.  Got to earn it right?  But I really don’t care.  I can feel miserable for 30 straight days and I’ll be okay with it because we are precisely 22 days away from my last chemo.

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Juice cleanse to prep for next chemo round. I’m a bit juice addicted!

Fun fact though…. my doctor in passing mentions that I’ll still have to come in every three weeks for a year!  Whaaaat?!  Way to spring that on a girl!  Turns out, one of the hormone blockers has to be administered for an entire year.  The good news is there are no side effects, its a year from the start of chemo not the end, and infusions will only last 30 minutes.  The bad news…. this is the drug that requires monitoring of my heart because it can really damage it.  After that surprise, I was a little uncomfortable about any other “fun” new information.  But, the only other thing he told me was to get cracking on a surgeon.  Don’t have to tell me twice!  Appointment was Monday, by Tuesday morning my referral was already processing.   Hopefully, the next time I check in I’ll have all the details on my upcoming surgery.   Let’s shut this thing DOWN!  (you can’t see it but… there’s a party dance happening).

ps. How awesome is my family? So awesome!

Getting their walk on! #teamjordan!

Getting their walk on! #teamjordan!

The “Kick Chemo” Formula

So…it has been two weeks since I’ve posted.  And, guess what?  It wasn’t because I “disappeared” again.  It is because I’ve been really busy living!

Out on the town... Finally feeling comfortable in the faux hair

Out on the town… Finally feeling comfortable in the faux hair

Apprehensively, I approached my third round of chemo knowing full well that each round’s side effects were going to be progressively worse.  Turns out I should really stop assuming things.  This round was by far the easiest yet.  I think this had to do with several factors.  After round two was so terrible I made a commitment to do three things everyday; one productive, fun, and physical.  Having a focus to move each day helped me to not let the fog that comes consume me.  By Wednesday, the haze felt lighter and each task was easier to accomplish.

Having a degree in nutrition, it didn’t really take a brainstorm to realize the foods I have been eating weren’t helping matters.  Of course, there was counseling with a dietitian when we first began this process. And, of course, all that went straight out the window when reality set in.  Food is a constant battle.  Between dead taste buds and constant nausea, I was eating whatever I thought I could stomach.  Most of the foods were falling into a category of things I would never dream of eating before all this started, especially on a daily basis.  It was plain and simple.  Eat better.  Feel better.

There was one more thing that made a world of difference.  It sank in today as I watched my husband make a speech.  He was saying goodbye to yet another leadership position and a group of people he respects and loves (in his own alpha male macho man way, of course).  He said, “You take care of family.  You take care of family, first and foremost, and everything else will fall in line”.  I can say this is true because I saw it happen last week.

The day of chemotherapy, my mom, grandmother and cousin arrived to cheer this girl up.  I can tell you I held off the side effects a lot longer than I’ve been able to in the past.  I could feel the fight to cherish those moment.  The following week, my mom helped me keep up on those pesky goals I had set up for myself.  And, achieve we did.  I was feeling “alive” for a better lack of words when she departed Friday, a few hours shy of our friends’ arrival from Colorado.  I’ll say it again and again.  The military does not create friends.  It turns your friends into family.  I could not have been more blessed with the people taking care of me last round.  To them it may have seemed like visiting but for me… they were definitely renewing my spirit and nurturing that motivation I’ve been desperately clinging too.  Everything just fell into place.

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Summer is here and we are soaking it up

I am more hopeful than I have been in a long time.  The next round of chemo doesn’t seem to hold the threat that seemed to hover over the previous rounds.  Better still, my guests have given me a gift.  They may not have said it but I could see the relief.  My visitors were thinking they were going to walk into the house and see a different version of me.  A sick, weak Ashley who was struggling through but painting on a brave face.  I keep telling people “I’m not sick. I just have cancer”.  Through their eyes, I know I really am still just me.  I’m not trying to fool anyone.  I wish I could see you all so you could see it too.  Maybe then you’d know… Cancer ain’t got nothing on me!  How’s that for some motivation?

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

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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.

Cancer. Sunny Side Up.

Okay.  We did it.

We survived Round 1, eight hours in the chemo chair and 7 shots of immune boosting hell! It’s been a week and change and I feel like I’m finally coming out of the fog. That “chemo brain” symptom is a real thing because I have never felt more dumb in my entire life!  (Thus the whole lack of updates here).  So far, I’ve run the gauntlet of symptoms. An entire sheet of symptoms were there daily but each day one would pull ahead of the pack and make my life a little more confusing.  The one constant… I can’t taste anything. My favorite foods now taste foul.  The only thing I want to eat lately… Thai food. Weird. I know.

Bone pain hit me last Tuesday night and I can honestly say it is worse than labor pain. It comes in waves just like contractions and suddenly you are gripping the closest piece of furniture to keep from falling to the floor.  I’m going today for labs to see if we can maybe ease up a bit on the white blood cell shots for the next rounds. But there is already good news. All my symptoms are manageable with medication and we hopefully have a game plan of what next time will look like and when to take them so that it doesn’t have to be quite as bad.

I’ve said it before but one of the biggest shocks of chemo was that… I’m sick.  I’ve been sick all along but I didn’t feel it till now. Feeling and knowing are two very different things.  I know he won’t mind me telling you this but, the other day the mister and I were arguing about mundane, boring, married people household things when suddenly I heard myself say “But, what happens if I die?” First off, holy way to fight dirty, Ashley!  And trust me, he won the argument right after the words escaped me ( mostly because I realized the argument was coming from somewhere other than my conscious mind).  But second, I figured out just how scared I actually am.

If you think I’m not scared, you haven’t been paying attention.  My resolve comes out when I’m terrified. If it’s fight or flight, I’m a mean mother.  Some of you think I’m positive, but honestly I’m just a scared girl literally fighting for her life.  My battle plan has always been get FIGHTING mad, don’t dwell on it, live your life.  But, in the back of my mind it’s there.  I can say with 100% certainty I’m not scared to die. Something like this really cements your faith, one way or another.  At the same time, I’m absolutely terrified of what happens if I’m not around for the people I love.  In a way death isn’t about you, it’s about the people who love you.  Every now and then you have to think about these things.  We all do.  We all die someday.  For me, it felt better to acknowledge the fear.  Once I know what I’m scared of, I can manage it, put it in its place, and not start stupid fights with an amazing person out of subconscious fear.

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Like a Boss… Always

Cancer has already gifted me with a stronger marriage.  The mister has always been my best friend but now he’s also my battle buddy.  Watching the words “in sickness and in health” become a real life mission, changes your perspective on a person.  If you think after ten years you know a person in every way, you’re wrong (or you stopped looking at them properly).  We have evolved, changed, and come back different people.  Getting to see his strength through this has given me just one more perspective on how perfectly I chose my other half.

Funny thing is, cancer should have taken a lot from me (and it’s still going to… umm, goodbye boobies much?).  I honestly feel like it has given me a lot more.  A new-found inner peace and strength.  Time with my amazing family who I wish lived closer.  The extreme kindness of strangers known only to those in the Cancer club.  Strangely, an acceptance of my body that I have never known.  And in the end…. brand new perky gals with some endless wardrobe possibilities. Adios, bra!