Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seasons of Change

I can't believe tomorrow is October. It's starting to feel a little like fall around here with the cooler temperatures at night and the changing leaves on the trees. I have mixed emotions about the coming season because I feel a little gypped from not really having much of a summer this year. Each year, at the beginning of summer I think about all the things I want to do before the fall. I don't always do the things I think I'm going to do (I never seem to hit the pool as often as I would like), but this year I didn't even make plans or daydream about long, lazy summer days spent outdoors. Maybe I should stop watching those Country Time lemonade commercials because I always get a touch of nostalgia for my youth! Next year I plan to do summer right. I don't know what that means just now, but I will enjoy it instead of seeing it from my couch or a hospital bed. Meanwhile, I will plan on enjoying fall and seeing the leaves turn colors before it gets downright cold in winter. One season at a time!

My eyebrows are back! I am so glad to see them and my little baby eyelashes too. I'm also starting to get a little peach fuzz on my head and maybe soon I'll look like Demi Moore in "G.I. Jane". I'll look like a touch chick then!

Mike's boat is being fixed today and hopefully it will get done before Eric leaves the lake because he said he'll tow it back here for us if it's ready. We'll have to test it on the Potomac River when it is ready because we won't be able to get back to the lake for a while. October is a busy month for us with lots going on each weekend, but we can definitely take it down to the river for a weekend afternoon and drop it in by National airport. I love boating on the Potomac (not swimming - ewwww) because it's so amazing to see all of the monuments from the water. We usually head down towards Mount Vernon and then over to a small marina for lunch. Last year we went really far down the river with Kathy and Robert near Quantico, VA. I hope it is fixed so Mike can test it before he has to winterize it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Lake is a Jinx!

We took to our boat to Smith Mountain Lake last September and stayed with Eric & Denise and his parents at their lake house. All of us were in the boat on our way over to the marina for lunch, and we sucked up gravel into the intake because the water was so low and blew the engine. It was so sad because we just bought the boat last spring.

We went back to SML last weekend with Eric's family and were ready to have a great time on the water. We spent Saturday morning on Eric's boat and then Mike went to get his boat and pick up Eric's family from the house so we could all go to lunch at the marina. Mike came out of the cove with everyone on board (I was on Eric's boat) and said that his boat was taking on water. Eric and I could see the back end of our boat slowly sinking and he quickly got everyone off our boat onto his boat. Eric and Mike took our boat back to the house so they could put it up on their lift and get it out of the water ASAP. Denise hung out in the main channel with Eric's boat while we waited for the guys to come back on their pontoon boat so we could still go to lunch.

On Sunday, Mike and Eric pulled our boat out of the water and put it on the trailer so they could take it to Eric's local mechanic where it could be fixed. They spent the morning trying to diagnose the problem first and concluded that there's a hole in one of the tubes, as opposed to a cracked hull. We don't know what's wrong with the boat right now because the mechanic was in Miami last week at a boat show, but hopefully he can fix it soon. We'll have to drive back down there (five hours) to get it, but Mike wants to take it out on the water to test it.

Sunday afternoon when we were all leaving, we got in our truck to go and it wouldn't start. We first thought it was a dead battery but it wasn't. We didn't know what was wrong with it or how long it would take to fix it. Mike and Eric decided to stay behind and work on the truck and I rode home with Denise and the kids. It turned out to be a problem with the starter and they just had to go pick up a new starter kit from the store, which luckily was open on Sunday. It took them about 20 minutes to replace it and then they came home.

We did have a fun weekend, despite the back luck. I've concluded that SML is a jinx for us and our boat! It could also be that we shouldn't take the boat to the marina for lunch because each time we've done that something happened to the boat. I never got to try water skiing, but it was awfully chilly last weekend and I didn't need to get sick trying. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves as much as possible and I caught up on one of my books. Maybe next time, we can actually use our boat!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Say a Little Prayer

I am requesting your prayers and hopes for someone you probably don't know - Christopher Hodorvich. He is a friend's brother and he has stage IIIC colon cancer and he's already gone through one round of chemo, but a CT scan in August revealed that his cancer was growing. Tuesday's PET scan showed that the cancer has spread and is not operable at this point. He'll begin another round of chemo on Oct. 2nd. His oncologist stated that the chemo will not cure the cancer, but the hope is to shrink the cancer to where they may be able to remove it through surgery. He feels that Christopher's ability to be a candidate for surgery is a long shot, but miracles can happen. Christopher's sister, Jen, sent out an email to all the Jaycees today asking for our prayers and asking us to add her brother to our churches' prayer lists. I thought I'd extend the request out to my blog readers. Think of Jen too because she's going through a lot and this has got to be hard.

I am working on building up my strength by working out with my personal trainer twice a week and going back to my water aerobics class. I really struggle with balancing, jumping, and running. Tom, my trainer, had me jump two-footed over 6 inch hurdles yesterday and I really struggled with it. I used to be able to jump over 24 inch hurdles (and was quite proud of this), but my vertical leap definitely suffered. I can't quite explain it, but my brain really struggled with getting my lower body to cooperate and jump over the hurdles. It was really strange.

My water aerobics classmates greeted me enthusiasticaly on Tuesday with cheers and applause. I was really touched and teared up a bit when I saw them. I haven't seen any of them since the end of March and the last time I was in class, I was really winded. I did pretty good and kept up, when I wasn't too busy chatting with everyone. Next week will be time to get serious! I wore my swim cap because I'm too self-conscious about my bald head out in public. I wear my bandanna with no problem, but I can't bring myself to be without something on my head. I'm just so glad to be back at the pool.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Predicaments

Mike and Melissa think my hair is starting to grow in a little (but it's such a tiny amount I can't tell) and that's great. However, my eyelashes and eyebrows decided to fall out now! I thought I managed to make it without losing them and I was so proud that they hung in there through all of my treatments, but they tricked me and fell out after I was done. I can count about three eyelashes on my left eye and maybe five eyelashes on my right. I was trying to make my eyes look better with mascara, but I've given up trying now. I've gotten pretty good at drawing in my eyebrows. Jeff says I should have fun with it and maybe draw one eyebrow up or something to look surprised. I was thinking I could draw both eyebrows in so I look shocked. That could be fun!

I've noticed a couple of other things that are just annoying: my calves are really tight and my ankles have swollen. I saw the doctor about my ankles and she thinks they might have swollen because I'm not used to sitting at a desk for 8 hours anymore and I haven't worn "work" shoes in quite a while. My ankles don't hurt, but they are quite large right now. My calves actually hurt and I'm having trouble walking. I think I just need to keep stretching and get a massage and the pain will go away. I lost a lot of muscle mass over the course of my treatment, so that's most likely the reason why my calves are so tight. I have started to work out with my trainer twice a week. I'm painfully slow and my balance is bad, but my abs are strong! I can see a little improvement in my arms and back because I've added about five pounds in weights in the past month. My recovery is going to be a long and slow process, and I've heard from various sources it can take up to a year to get back to "normal." I'll keep plugging away and working out because my goal is to play volleyball in my league next spring.

We're going away this weekend to our friend's parent's lake house down in Southern Virginia and I can't wait. We are bringing our boat and I'm going to see if I can water ski. I've never managed to actually get up on skis before, but I want to try again. I know my body may not cooperate, but I really have nothing to lose (except maybe a fingernail or two - they're all falling out now too) so I might as well try. Last summer, I tried for over an hour to get up on the darn skis, but my legs kept trying to go in two different directions. I'm eager to get back into life. If I can't do it, I'll swim or watch Mike water ski. I'm going to relax and have as much fun as possible.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Back at Work

I've survived being back at work so far. My first test of the day came in the ladies room when I ran into a co-worker who said hello, but didn't recognize me. I could tell that she had no idea who I was! I saw her again today and she apologized for not recognizing me on Tuesday, but I've noticed that some people recognize me right away and others don't at all and I have to "introduce" myself to them. I don't know if I'd recognize me either if I came back to work after five months with a totally new hairstyle and color so I don't blame them.

Once I found my cubicle that Pete had actually set up for me (thanks, Pete!), my first day was a whirlwind. I volunteered to be on a review team for a proposal so then I was off to a meeting to discuss the project. I was also busy catching up with everyone and visiting. I also had to figure out my computer password that the IT guys changed on me a couple of weeks ago. I actually noticed because I couldn't log in to my email at home anymore. Thankfully Pete had been involved in the password change so he had my new password handy. I also had to take care of a bunch of stuff for Honeywell and complete some paperwork and take their ethics quiz. I'm still sorting out my desk because Pete did a great job setting up my desk, but he (rightfully) dumped other stuff in my desk drawer. I had a lot of junk in there that I forgot I had. It was like doing a time warp back to March and April when I suddenly ran out of work and into a new realm of wacky cancer reality.

Speaking of time warp, I found a bunch of emails from March and April from me or to me discussing my doctor visits prior to my echocardiogram. I had been sick for a few months with what I thought was a nasty cold or possibly anemia or possibly exercise-induced asthma. It was strange for me to read them, knowing now that it was cancer and not anemia. As I read through these emails, I kept thinking about how naive or blissfully unaware I had been that something evil was in my body. I also read an email I had written to Melissa right after the cardiologist had called urging me to leave work immediately to get my first of many CT scans. I remember now that I wrote her because I was freaked out and afraid and also because I wanted someone to know what the doctor found on my echocardiogram. I sent her an email because I didn't want to call her and say I was scared because I would have fallen apart and been hysterical on the phone. I saved the phone calls for Mike and my Mom. I remember that day clearly, and I had no idea how my life would change by the next day when I was diagnosed. I've saved those emails for now, but I might delete them sometime in the future.

I will say one thing about being back at work: I am not used to getting up at 6am! I do miss sleeping in until 8 or 8:30am when Riley would wake me up so he could go outside. I am so tired when I get home and fall asleep quickly when my head hits the pillow. I need to get to bed earlier and that will help tremendously. Whew, it's tough!

Monday, September 3, 2007

It's Really Here

I start work again tomorrow. I'm a bundle of nerves and excitement in anticipation of the big day. I wonder who will be around and who doesn't work there anymore since we were acquired by Honeywell on July 1. I'll have to set up my new cubicle because when I left in April I had an office on the 4th floor, but my proposal group was all moved to the 3rd floor after the acquisition and everyone has a cubicle. Pete, our go-to-guy, was responsible for packing up all my stuff (and he had fun with the bag of marshmallows I kept in my desk drawer-for hot chocolate). I wonder if all of my stuff is still sitting in boxes from when Pete packed it?

I'm wearing my wig tomorrow just because I don't think my bandannas are office appropriate. The wig will be strange for me because I've probably only worn it five times. I really don't like wearing it because it doesn't look like me, but at least I won't look like a "cancer patient" at work. I will whip it off and put on my bandanna for the ride home, though! Mike thinks my hair is starting to grow, but I honestly can't tell. I have to admit that it's been nice not having hair in the summer heat and I'm "glad" that I got sick in the spring/summer versus fall/winter because I would prefer not to be bald when it's cold outside. Although, I'd prefer having my hot flashes in the cold weather rather than a day like today.

I started reading a book I checked out from the library called, "Dancing in Limbo, Making Sense of Life After Cancer," and it's helping me ease into this next phase of my life. I relate to a lot of what the authors are saying and found myself crying this afternoon for no reason at all. I think it's because I agree with them that I want to get back to normal, but my life will never be the "normal" I had before my diagnosis and I'm mourning that carefree life I had. It is weird to be a cancer survivor because I'm so grateful to be alive and thankful for everyone's kindness and generosity, but I'm not sure how to think or feel now that my treatment is over and I don't have to go to NIH twice a week. I can't even fully explain how I do feel to Mike or anyone because I don't know the words. It's like how my body feels now. I feel weak and my muscles aren't working properly, but I'm not winded. My body just feels tired more frequently. My legs don't want to work sometimes and I can't walk a straight line. It's hard for me, but I know it will take some time to become "normal" again. I just don't have much patience - I want my strength back now. :-)