Saturday, February 10, 2018


It's been over a month since my last post and a lot has happened. The best thing is that we have become more optimistic that we were at the end of December.

I made it through Christmas; I wasn't feeling great but wasn't feeling horrible. I ate a wonderful Christmas dinner that my husband made and it was delicious.  But I knew something was wrong because I really wasn't hungry and I took small portions of everything. Nobody seemed to notice and I was full. On the 28th I had a liver biopsy which confirmed that my liver was full of breast cancer.

I felt horrible a couple of days after Christmas and I knew we'd have to tell the kids soon, so we took down the tree and the decorations so that the kids wouldn't associate this blow to their childhood with the holiday. Within the week, I was too miserable to participate much in family life, and I was very tired. My stomach really hurt. New Years Day came along and I felt like I barely made it through the day. We had a birthday party for my grandson and everyone noticed how yellow I had become. My eyes had even turned yellow at this point.  I refused to go to the doctor though because I had an appointment for the morning of Jan 4th, so I didn't want to go to the ER before that and pay a higher copay when I could just wait a couple of days. So, that's how the holidays went. I was very sick and it was taking a toll on me very quickly.

I had the appointment set up for Jan 4th, but on the 2nd we called bright and early to see if I could get in right away. Sure, they said. I really felt horrible at this point. Just as we were leaving, the doctor called and said not to come to the clinic, go to the ER. He said he needs to run tests that my insurance will have to pre-approve and it could take them days unless I go to the ER where I can get the tests run immediately without pre-approval from the insurance. Well, geez, I could have done this days ago and here I was waiting it out for the cheaper copay.

Off we went to the ER.  I had bloodtests and a cat scan. They just said, it looks pretty bad. It really progressed since I was in for an appointment just a couple of weeks ago. They weren't set up to take care of me in this condition so they were sending me to a bigger hospital 200 miles away more equipped to deal with my situation. Did I want an ambulance ride or a helicopter ride? Oh wow. Well, I wanted my husband to drive me there in my nice comfy car. They said to hurry up, they'd be waiting for us.

Off we ran to Sioux Falls. Got there and had to wait in the ER for a couple of hours until they were ready to look at me, so not sure what the big hurry was all about. They did a cat scan too and they admitted me right away.  They took lots of blood, they did an MRI, another cat scan, got a picc line, and I was examined and poked and squeezed and questioned for days. They ended up deciding that I was in liver failure and I was in a dire situation. My liver was full of tumors and they found it on my spine as well. The breast cancer doctors and the GI docs all visited me and conferred about my treatment.

They decided that I would benefit best from a strong uncommon cocktail of chemo drugs. I got the feeling that it was the last resort type of chemo, like if this doesn't work it is, "adios, Mary." So, sure, I'll take the cocktail of chemo drugs that is stronger that strong and meaner than mean and never used together, etc. They hooked me up with that right away.

The side effects were about the same as what I had with my first round of cancer. Lots of nausea, etc. Being in the hospital helped with that. They could shoot meds in my picc line for pain and anything else that I needed. After a few days, I really felt better and my blood results were showing a big improvement in liver function. I got to go home!

I was placed on weekly chemo and able to have that here in town. Luckily, I kept the picc line so I didn't have to get stabbed all the time. Each week I was tested for liver function in my bloodwork and each week it has gotten better. I've also had a Pet Scan, which didn't show anything new. Nothing new is good news! I am now on a 3 week schedule for chemo and will be indefinitely.

I also got my picc line out and a port placed in my chest.  I'm not exactly thrilled about it because I had so much trouble with my port last time, it even hurt for months after I had it taken out!  This port is on the opposite side. The seat belt won't rest on it while I drive, but I don't really go out and about like I did in California so I don't know if that matters. It's in though. My next chemo will be done through the port. Stabby stabby stabby.

Now that my cancer seems to be controlled by the chemo and I have this whole treatment schedule and all, I'm hearing the doctor say things like "in 6 weeks" and "from here on out" and "someday" and "indefinitely". These works imply a future! I'm going to make it! 

My new life with incurable cancer will be different, my new life will  have restrictions, my new life will not be the same, but it's not over! I can live with cancer and I can plan and think ahead to all the things that mean so much to me. I hope to never fear what my kids will go through without a mom, I hope to feel this optimism for many years to come.

Optimism sure feels great!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

How do I say this?

This is hard to write, hard to share, and very hard to face. 
I guess there is only one way to say this: I have been diagnosed with cancer again.  Here we go...

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, nightI was feeling kinda yucky one day just about 3 weeks ago. Keith and I were Christmas shopping in Sioux Falls; we shopped at Costco and Sams Club and we had food samples at both places.  We were really having fun, and we went out to eat at Chevy's before the drive home. I drank half of my margarita and suddenly felt horrible. I couldn’t eat my burrito at all, and I wanted it!  I assumed that I had a food sample at one of the stores that just didn’t like me.  

Working in a school, you get exposed to every bug out there, and this felt no different to several other minor illnesses over the year.  After still feeling yucky for another week I went to the doctor. He ordered a CT scan, and we got the results on the Friday before Christmas.  The scan detected spots—which the doctor called cancer-- mostly in my liver, but also in my ribs, spine, and pelvis… a recurrence of breast cancer.  The doctors never said it could possibly be something benign.  They have seen this before.  So, this is incurable stage IV cancer.  To firmly diagnose it, the doctor ordered a liver biopsy, an MRI, and another CT scan, which were done this morning, with a bone scan this afternoon.  Right now, I’m radioactive from the injected dye.  This sucks on so many levels. 

If you are anything like me, a billion questions just popped into your head. Honestly, I don’t know the answers to most of them yet. We are at the beginning of this journey, and it is going to be a very different road than the one I went down before.  Once we get a biopsy pathology report on the 2nd or 3rd, we’ll know more and probably have an exact treatment plan.  The treatment to battle this will include both radiation and chemo, but not all services are available in Pierre-- that will complicate things.

Right now, I don't feel good at all.  My current symptoms escalated quickly just the past week or so.  My energy level is very low, and I am battling pain and severe nausea because of the impact on my liver.  Regretfully, I will have to take leave from my job at Kennedy Elementary, since I simply don't have the energy level that it takes to be there. I really enjoy my job there. The team of teachers and staff is like a family and they have been very friendly and kind to me and my family since my first day on the job.  Libby really loves knowing I am in the building, and hanging out in my room after school.

Last night, we told Grace and Libby the news.  We said that the doctors believe the cancer came back.  We won’t tell them what the statistics say about it.  Instead, we will convey to them our own hope for successful treatment, and express a continual positivism about battling it.  If treatments are not successful as time goes on, we will have that discussion with them separately if and when the situation presents itself. 

As there is no cure for stage IV cancer, it is hard to find balance between realism and hope, between wishes and statistics.  I am obviously saddened, but I’m not lying down to die just yet.  I must acknowledge the reality that this kind of cancer will shorten my life.  Even in the best-case scenario, I will probably not live long enough to see my 60s. I am 52 now.  I won’t live long enough to grow old with my husband and have that time with just the two of us.  It is most difficult to think of my daughters.  All of our daughters have always been my pride and joy!  It is hardest to think that my young daughters may have to face life without a mom. Coming out of childhood into young adulthood is already hard enough.  I am very sad that I may not be there for our youngest two as they navigate teenage life and become the incredible young adults I already see budding in them.  I truly cherish them every day.

For those that live near, Keith and I understand you may want to help, but we just don’t need anything specifically right now.  Once treatment starts, we will have some very specific things that we would need help with, and I will post that then.  In the meantime, I am counting on each and every one of my family and friends to give my sweet daughters and grandsons a shoulder to lean on when they need it, or a fun little escape, or a smile, or a nod of support as I begin to battle this thing.  Your thoughts, prayers, and positivity will definitely help too.  Thank you for those, and thank you for being here for us.


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Newsiest News of the Year...

Guess where we are going for our summer vacation!
South Dakota! You got that one right didn't you?
Guess what we're going to drive on our roadtrip?
A big U-Haul!  You probably didn't get that one!

The time has come to begin a return to our South Dakota roots.  We are MOVING this summer...well-- sort of.  We are going to occupy  both of our houses for a while. Keith, Lexie, and Charlie are going to reside in the California house for one more year before we sell it, while Mary, Gracie, and Libby take over the South Dakota house.  The separate homes for a year is inspired by Katie and Andrew, and the way they handled things when Andrew deployed to sea. 
In California, Keith will work another year at his middle school and University jobs, and work on a big fix-it list to get the house updated and sold. Oh yeah-- he also will write his doctoral dissertation. Writing will be easier with fewer people around, and making home repairs and updates will be easier with a mostly-empty California house.   

Moving back has been our long term goal for years. I'm looking forward to returning to the working world and spending a bit more time with adults! Gracie and Libby will get to attend the same elementary school-- which is brand new in our neighborhood in Pierre, having just opened this school year.  That's a really good thing, since the following year Gracie goes to MIDDLE SCHOOL already!! Gaaaahhh!!  Keith is excited about eventually hunting again with friends and family, as well as enjoying all of the fun available each season in Pierre.  Between our homes, we'll call, text, Facebook, Skype and all of that sort of thing, and we will have holidays together too. 

Roadtripping in a U-Haul, it's happening soon! We are planning to hit the road in a big truck crammed full of beds, bookshelves, boxes, and stuff by July 1.  The 4th of July will be in Pierre this year, and we are all really excited!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Test post

This is a test.

I  downloaded an app on my phone to write blog posts! How cool is that! We're about to find out I suppose.

I  might be typing in Italics, oooooo, I  am!

Let's test the bold font.

Wonder how publishing will work?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Welcome to 2016

Oh my, this poor neglected blog. I have no idea why I quit writing, but I did. It felt like the thing to do, or undo. Simply put, I didn't feel like writing.  Very odd for me, but I went with it.

I poured my heart and soul into sewing and embroidery. I am glad I did too because 2015 was a growing year for me in textile creativity. I loved almost everything I made! Most things, I made two or three.  I participated in a couple of craft fairs, both went poorly as far as profits, but they were a lot of fun and good experiences. I sold a few things via Etsy and Facebook too, just enough to keep me in thread, which works out just fine! I made loads of gifts for friends and family. And I made lots of tote bags for shopping and toting things around. Those were fun, luckily, I saved a few for myself.

The kids are doing well. They have all grown so much that I have recently cleared out their closets and dresser drawers. Nearly everything went in the "Too Small" bin. I hate to toss out nice clothes that my daughter has been wearing for three years, but in reality, three years is an awfully long time for a child to keep anything. Good thing Santa brought longer pants for everyone!

Grace has decided to give up the i in her name, she's growing up and it sounds too cute. Dear me. She started going to public school for 4th grade after graduating from Lower Elementary in the Montessori school. She loves it! She is doing very well too! She does her homework without complaint and she works hard.  We didn't see this in Lower El, so it's very refreshing! Libby is growing bored of Montessori. I'm sad about that because I always thought it was her style. I might send her to public next year for 3rd grade, but she needs to finish 2nd and then we'll see. She's doing really well and loves Math the most. Charlie is doing too well in Kindy. He's bored and not enjoying it. He is reading books that are marked 3rd grade reading level at home, so it's no wonder that he is bored at school. It's sure nice to have intelligent kiddos, their problems are the kind every parent hopes to have.

Keith is succeeding in his doctoral program! He is earning almost every point in the entire program of coursework. I'm very proud! His accomplishments aren't easy; he works two jobs and overloads on classes so that he can finish earlier (thus saving tuition). He'll be finished with the coursework soon, then he has comprehensive exams, then he'll start his dissertation. The dissertation phase should begin in May or June, and then he'll probably take a year to write it.  Which is astonishing!  Pretty soon, I'll be "Mrs. Doctor".

We have been discussing our future a lot lately. It's been fun to think about the kids being teens. These things tend to creep up on a mom and I really love their ages that they are now, but it's good to think ahead and I imagine them all growing into smart, healthy, responsible teens (mostly). And tall, I imagine that I will be the shortest one in the family again. I've also been thinking about getting a resume written and jumping back into the world of working adults. It'll feel like a foreign land after 14 years of being a stay-home-mom, but I'm the adventurous type.

My favorite thing about 2015 was camping. We bought a pop up camper and took it halfway across America and back. I didn't sleep good in it, not even once, but I sure loved going camping with my family. I have to remember to bring my own pillow.  I am looking forward to another summer of camping in '16.

My health is good. I have been cancer free all year. I finished Herceptin in May, had a heart health scare in June, and I got my port out in September. I'm on Tamoxifen now, which has side effects that are annoying, but nothing too terrible. I have to have a scar revision and I have to have a total hysterectomy. I tested positive for Brca2, which increases my chances of ovarian cancer. So, still battling the battle, but if we can keep cancer out of the equation, it's all good. Along with that, I need to get into the dentist. Ugh. The thought of going to the dentist makes me groan and slump.

That's pretty much the 2015 wrap up, with the 2016 forecast. Nothing too exciting, just living the life with sprinkles of this and that thrown in. This is good! Hopefully, we will have a boring year. Boring is a good thing! Boring is peaceful. I don't know how much I will write, if at all, but I am pretty sure that I will be sewing miles and miles of stitches. I did start up a sewing Instagram account to document my projects. I don't really say anything about them, I just post up a picture once in a while.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sorry for the Severe Blog Neglect!

Sorry!  I haven't been blogging at all!  Bad, bad, blogger.

I've been sewing a lot rather than blogging. It's very therapeutic. Well, blogging is too but sewing is in a different way. The creative side of me needed to come forward and well, it sort of took over.

Let's see... where did I leave off?

January I posted something about getting new slippers in an after Christmas sale, and that was pretty much the excitement for January.

February was a bit of a rough month for me because I felt badly about hitting the one year mark of my breast cancer battle and it's not even over yet. But as I was having my little pity party, I met two people that put things into perspective for me (although I didn't tell them that they helped me quit feeling sorry for myself).  While dropping the kids off at Michelle's Place to the kids' counseling group for kids whose parents have/had cancer, I met a man and after a little hello and small talk, he shared that his wife died of breast cancer less than a year earlier, and his 6 year old son was dying of another illness and had already lived longer than his life expectancy. Suddenly, surviving breast cancer didn't seem like all that much of a sorrowful thing. Then I met a homeless family, they are happy and healthy and having fun living life without a home. They're awesome. They don't complain about their life, they brag about how awesome it is. And, no, they weren't religious freaks or cult members or anything, just normal people who made my little messy house feel like the Ritz. They are living in a tent and I was commiserating about needing to repaint the interior of my house again. So, Febrary was a roller coaster of emotions for me and it ended on a good note.

March came along and my little girl turned 9 years old. Hard to believe! (I say that every year.)  Also in March, my daughter Katie asked me if I wanted to host a vendor table with some of my sewing wares at a Natural Parenting event she was organizing. She got a little part time job at a baby boutique, and part of her job was to organize this event.  I agreed to be a vendor, which actually, I know I wouldn't have done that if anyone else had asked me.  I spent most of the month sewing up baby items and things for the vendor booth.  I sewed like a maniac!

In April, I went to the craft fair and had my vendor booth. It was awesome!  I did great!  The crowd was smaller than they expected, and many vendors didn't do well at all. I made $100. That isn't much by any means and only covered my expenses a tad. I'm totally in the red, but it was a great boost of confidence and a good experience. Now, I think I could actually be a vendor at a larger craft fair event or farmer's market.  I put all of my leftover inventory on Etsy and we'll see if it sells. In the meantime, I'm sewing other things. I have been taking a few orders.

I had a crazy experience this month that I'm sure I'll never forget: I had an anxiety attack at my last Herceptin treatment and so the nurse gave me a second dose of Ativan to calm me down, which was great and it worked well, maybe too well.  On the way home from the chemo clinic, I was driving in the left lane (not the turning lane, the left driving lane) and I blacked out behind the wheel.  I have a dashcam and the video shows that I accelerated as I drifted across the right lane of traffic and hit the curb against the sidewalk. Amazingly, I didn't hit anyone or hurt myself or my car! But when I smacked the curb, I came to again and immediately realized what happened. Good thing I didn't drift to the left into oncoming traffic. I put the car in park and turned on my hazard lights and called my husband. I managed to drive it the rest of the way home, aprox 2 miles, and then I went to bed. The girls hitched a ride home from school with a friend because there was no way I could pick them up in the shape I was in. Thankfully, I didn't get arrested for a DUI.  Dumb luck that nobody was hurt, it was really crazy!

Now, it's May.  Usually the busiest month of the year (at least it ties with December).  Gracie and Charlie are in soccer, Libby is in ballet, The kids are all winding up their school years, and I'm still sewing away.  Why not! Some excitement coming up: I have my last Herceptin infusion on May 8th. Keith is taking the day off to drive me. I'll be so glad to be done!  The other exciting news is that our exchange student from Germany, Anna, is coming for a visit at the end of the month. Yay!  That should be fun.

I guess that's the update. We're busy and doing well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Eye Exam

I went and had my eyes checked today. I have to blog about it even though it's a boring subject because I need to remember when I did this. I can't remember when the last time was that I got my eyes checked, but I know it was at Super Target and the girls had their eyes checked too. I think Gracie was in kindergarten, but I can't remember exactly. So, for my own memory (or lack of), I got my eyes checked today: Jan 28, 2015. Now, in two or three years, I just have to remember where my reminder is.

Again, I had my eyes checked at Super Target. It was a weird appointment.

First of all, I had to take my 4 year old grandson with me. His mom was sick, so he became my eye exam helper. Luckily for him, it didn't take long.

My appointment was for 10:00 am and I was called back to the exam room at 10:15. I was in my car in the parking lot at 10:30.  Not even kidding.

The doctor had me look in one machine and look at a picture. I'm pretty sure this is the machine that measures the eye. I looked at the picture. It was a highway with a hot air balloon on the horizon. Then I had to look in the machine that puffs air onto your eye. I hate that one! I jump so high every time, even though I know what's going to happen.

I moved up to the big chair and looked through the giant thing that hangs from the ceiling. He said "Can you see that row of letters?" Then he said things like, "which one is better A or B? A or B? 1 or 2?"  We did a few rounds of that game and then he wrote out a prescription.

He wrote it for almost the same Rx that I had last time, and I know for a fact that my eyes are worse. This Rx is not worse, it's better. Plus, he added a bifocal Rx to it. He didn't even test me for up close reading. I'm so confused.

Now I am wondering if I should get my eyes checked again, use my old Rx to order glasses, or what. I guess I'll go to Walmart and try out all the reading glasses and see which one works best for me. I really don't trust the prescription since it was a total guess. I'm sure my insurance won't cover two eye exams in one year, so I think I'm kind of screwed.

{Insert sounds of me growling in grumpiness}

By the way, Charlie was very good while I got my eyes checked. I bought him a stuffed pink pig and he was a happy little boy with his new pink pig, which he promptly named Pinky. It's a boy.