Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Kidder

About a year ago when I first started chemo treatment, I had a dream that I walked Jonas to kindergarten. It was a very comforting dream, because at the time, I wasn't sure if I would live long enough to ever be able to walk him to school.

Yesterday, my dream came true. I tucked some freshly sharpened pencils and new erasers in Jonas' backpack, sat Liam and Graham in the double stroller, and walked Jonas to school. I watched him skip happily in front of me, and we didn't even make it to the school before my chin started quivering.

He lined up with all the other kindergartner's, and he beamed with excitement as I joined the parental paparazzi, snapping pictures from every possible angle. Behind my sunglasses, a couple tears escaped, but I held it together to avoid being stereotyped as a "first-kidder." But as soon as the teacher led all the kids into the school, I dashed away, and made it to the street before I started sobbing. It wasn't just that my first little boy was grown up enough to go to school - it was that I lived to see him go to school. I said a silent prayer on my way home, thanking God for allowing me to take my little Jonas to school.

When I got home, I went in the back yard with Liam and Graham, and I lay down under a tree. It's become one of my favorite things to do. When I was getting radiation treatments, on the ceiling above the machine, they had a picture of flowering cherry branches hanging over a blue sky. It was winter at the time, and I used to imagine that it was springtime, that I was actually lying beneath a tree, and that I was well. Now that I am well, I love to lie under trees and look at the sky through the branches. Call me weird if you want. I guess I just appreciate simple pleasures more than I used to...

Life is good, I feel great, and I continue to hope for the best!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Checking In

It's been a couple months since I've blogged, but that's a good thing because it means I don't have much to report. A couple weeks ago I had the lumps in my back biopsied, and they turned out to be "benign connective tissue." So now, after an x-ray, ultrasound, biopsy, and five doctors telling me it's nothing, I feel I can finally lay the issue to rest.

I had my second reconstructive surgery on Thursday, July 8th, and I am pleasantly surprised at how much less painful it was than the mastectomy. Other than throwing up five times from the anesthesia, it's been smooth sailing. I can't lift anything for a couple weeks, but at least the pain is manageable.

As of July 13 I will have 8 months NED (no evidence of disease). The longer I have NED, the smaller the chances are that it will ever come back. After 3 years, I can say I am cured. I look forward to that day!

I have been feeling great, pretty much back to normal. I've been doing aerobics a few times a week and riding my bike. I LOVE having so much energy!

Well that's it for now. I think I'll succumb to my percocet-induced drowsiness....

Oh, one more thing - I finally finished the rough draft of my book! Now a couple revision runs, feedback from family/friends/editors, then off to literary agents/publishers. My goal is to have it ready for submission in six months.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good, Bad, Good

I'll start with the positive things, then I'll whine a little, then end with something uplifting. Sound good?

Okay, here are the positive things:
  • Keith got a big grant for school next year, so we don't have to pay for tuition!
  • I am running/walking in the Race for the Cure on Saturday for Team Haven. I got my T-shirt today, and the back says S"Haven" our Ta-Ta's. Um, okay. Well, I didn't really save mine, but I guess that's not the point...
  • I have the world's cutest kids.
  • Our "Lagoon Savings" jar has lots and lots of pennies. It has some bills and quarters in it too, but mostly pennies.
  • I'm almost finished with the rough draft of my book. And boy, is it rough. There are some sparkling gems buried in it though, which I am very, very excited about.
Now for a little bit of whining:

I've changed the title of my blog, because I've decided today that this war is over, and I've won. The truth is, I've been thinking about cancer way too much. I've spent the last few weeks prodding and searching my body for signs of metastasis, and I'm beginning to drive myself (and my doctor) mad.

First there was the harmless vein that poked out of my wrist, a couple little bruises, and a low grade fever. I figured the cancer was in my bone marrow. Had a blood test, and the nurse told me everything looked normal.

Then a couple weeks ago I found a couple symmetrical lumps in my lower back on either side of my spine. So I decided the cancer was in my lymphatic system. I went to see the PA, and he said that it was probably nothing and we shouldn't do anything about it. So I started crying, and he ordered an x-ray and ultrasound just to make me feel better.

The x-ray and ultrasound didn't show anything suspicious, so I felt a little better, until yesterday. My neck felt a little sore for some reason, so I started prodding around and felt something on my neck where it meets my collar bone. I convinced myself again that the cancer must be in my lymphatic system. So I called my doctor's office again. The PA called me back and said they looked at my x-ray again, and they reassured me that I was going to be okay and that there was nothing wrong.

After I hung up the phone, I started sobbing. It's a good thing Jonas and Liam were at preschool, and Graham was asleep, because I basically broke down. Not because anything is physically wrong, but because I am so tired of being scared all the time. And I haven't wanted to talk to anyone about how I feel, because I don't want to burden anyone. Besides, no one seems to understand anyway.

So I knelt down to talk to the only person who does understand. I didn't say much, mostly just cried. It was one of those times that I "knew not what I should pray for as I ought: but the Spirit itself made intercession for me with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26)

I prayed, and cried, and then I sat there and listened. A peace came over me, and words came to my mind, reassuring me (for the hundredth time) that I am healed; that I'm going to be okay; that I am going to be around for a while. I was reminded that I need to be patient as my body continues to heal.

I've also been thinking a lot today about a story Gordon B. Hinckley once told. He was talking about how he was discouraged on his mission, and he received a letter from his father saying, "Dear Gordon, I have your letter... I have only one suggestion: Forget yourself and go to work." He said he made a pledge to try to give himself to the Lord, and after that, "the fog lifted, the sun began to shine in his life." I know this works. Whenever I forget about myself and focus on helping other people, my fears dissipate, and I am filled with hope and happiness. So if you ever see me mumbling to myself, I am probably saying, "Sarah, forget yourself, and go to work."

Okay, now here is the uplifting part:

Tonight, Keith showed me an inspiring video:

It was exactly what I needed. It was a great reminder that it doesn't matter what cancer has done to my body, as long as I am still here for my family.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Running, Writing, & Hypochondria

The fear that I felt last month has mostly gone away. Most of the time I feel at peace and hopeful that the cancer will never return. I spend a lot of time reflecting on the blessings I received during treatment, my patriarchal blessing, and experiences in the temple that reassured me that I still have too much work to do to leave this life yet.

But a few days ago, a little vein popped out on the top of my wrist, and it was all bruised around it (I don't remember hitting it on anything), and I noticed a few tiny red dots on my skin. I've also had a low-grade fever since my hysterectomy (almost 8 weeks ago). So of course, I turned to the most reliable source of panic-inducing information: the internet. I discovered that these are some of the symptoms of leukemia. So for a couple days, I was panicking, thinking the cancer had spread to my bone marrow. I called my doctor, and they had me come in for a blood test, not because they were concerned, but because they wanted me to stop panicking.

Well, my blood looked great, and they said if the cancer was in my bone marrow, it would have affected my blood counts. But they also have no idea what is causing the fever, or the protruding vein and bruise ("maybe you hit your wrist," they said). But they don't think my symptoms have anything to do with my cancer. They aren't too concerned about the fever since it is low, but hopefully it will go away on its own so I can stop worrying about it!

Yesterday I went running for the first time in a year. I put Graham in a stroller and ran behind Jonas and Liam on their bikes. It was such a beautiful day and it felt wonderful to run without getting tired. We went to the church parking lot and Jonas got off his bike and raced me. Of course I let him win.

I've been writing like crazy lately, working on my book for a couple hours every day. It is a novel I started working on three years ago (what can I say, I've had some serious setbacks). I've made a goal to finish the rough draft by May 19th. Keith is being so supportive. He wrote "May 19" on our bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker to remind me, and he gives me time to write every night while he puts the boys to bed. The only problem is I've been staying up way too late, because once I get in the zone, I can't stop!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stalking Tigers

My friend and two-time breast cancer survivor Kim once warned me about how I would feel after finishing treatment. She said it would feel like there were tigers hiding in the trees along my path, waiting to pounce. I now understand what she was talking about.

I have fought and won a battle. I have slain the enemy with a mass of chemical weapons and now that the battle is over, I lay down my weapons and walk home. Now what? Did I kill all my enemies? What if one shows up at my door? I left my weapons on the battlefield; what will I defend myself with? If my enemy shows up now, I will surely be defeated…

Today I realized that it takes a great deal of courage (for me) to think positively. It is easy to fear and despair. It is easy to plan your last words and imagine your funeral. Because it is safe. If it never happens, great. If it does happen, at least I’ll be prepared.

But to dream; to hope; to plan for a bright future: That is scary. Because nothing can tear your heart to pieces like a dream ripped from your hands.

So I have two choices:

A. I can be optimistic and plan my future the way I hope it will turn out, and take the chance that my dreams will in fact be ripped from my hands someday.

B. I can be paralyzed with fear and toss my dreams on the floor. Expect the worst. Plan my funeral and write letters of final goodbye’s. Live life from day to day, but don’t expect too much out of it.

Okay, option B seems pretty pathetic.

So here I am, placing my heart on the altar of hope. And if my dreams are taken away, at least I can say that I fought for them.

I imagine myself in five years. I am 37 years old. I go to the oncologist for my yearly follow-up, and he says, “Your last PET scan looks great. Congratulations.” It is a warm spring day with a light wind twirling the blossoms from the trees. I drive to the elementary and pick up my boys from school, now ages 10, 8, and 6. We stop and get ice-cream before going to the park, where I chase them around without getting tired. When we get home, there is a letter waiting for me from a literary agent, saying that my second book has been picked up by a major publisher. Keith comes home and we all go out to eat to celebrate. After dinner, I go running – non-stop – for 45 minutes, not because I feel I have to run from something, but because I love to run.

And here’s the one that takes the most courage:

It is my 80th birthday. I sit on a soft chair in a large family room filled with my children, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and husband. My hair is short and white, and my face is wrinkled like a raisin. The purple veins in my hands show through my thin, spotted skin, and I look down at them, reflecting back on the day when those veins were used as a porthole for poison. A poison that I am grateful for, because it saved my life. Because it brought me to this day, to this room, filled with all the people I love. As my beautiful granddaughter presents a slideshow of pictures from my life (which, of course, comes from a beam of light pointed at the wall from her iphone), I look heavenward and thank God for sparing me, for allowing me to stay here to be a mother, a wife, and a grandmother. And most of all, for letting me experience sorrow, so that I can greater feel joy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Surgery Update

I had surgery on 2/16, and am now in the hospital recovering. Everything went well, but I'm on lots of painkillers. I miss my little boys more than anything. My sister-in-law helped them make me a huge valentine with their little hand prints all over it and hearts with cute things written on them that they told her to write. My favorite ones say "We are a happy family" (Liam), "Come home soon," (Jonas), and "I like you," (Graham). Whenever I talk to Jonas on the phone, he asks, "Are you looking at your valentine?" I tell him I am and how much I love it. I love my sweet boys!

Keith stayed here with me the first night, and my dad stayed here with me last night. Keith's work sent me some pretty white flowers, and the young men in our ward stopped by last night with the leaders and gave me some candy. It seriously made me cry. I thought about my little boys and how wonderful it will be to see them grow up into young men.

My red blood cell count was really low yesterday, and the doctor told me I might need a transfusion today if it didn't start coming back up. Luckily, it started coming back up!

I should be able to come home tomorrow or Saturday. If this post seems random, it's because it is. I have no editing capabilities right now!

I'll write more when I'm not so out of it - just wanted to let everyone know I'm doing okay.