Monday, June 30, 2014

i am not my hair i am not this skin i am not your expectations no no i am not my hair i am not this skin i am a soul that lives within...

Ok y'all. My hair finally had enough and wasn't planning to hang around much longer. I tried to wash it Friday afternoon after chemo, and got immediate handfuls of hair. Eeek! I let it go one more day, but by Sunday afternoon it was beyond time. My parents came by to document, and Connor lovingly shaved my head.

It really wasn't as emotional as I was expecting. I think when I am actually bald, it will probably be a little weirder, but for now, I look like GI JESS, total badass. :)

Getting psyched up!

Can't change your mind now!

Faux hawk with chiminea hat.

Almost there.

All done! Thanks for loving me no matter what I look like! Oh and please ignore the giant bruises on my arm. Turns out not all the nurses know how to use Portia and have to go the old IV route. GRRRRRRR.

*EDIT* The lady that gave me that bruise was not a nurse. She was a CT Scan Technician. All of my nurses have been absolutely wonderful, and I am so thankful for each and every one of them! This has been a lesson in when it is ok to be pushy! Ask for someone who is trained to use a port! Always!

Alright so there you have it. No rubbing my head for good luck, yet. It's still tender!

Love y'all,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

my people we don't know defeat we crush the strong and percolate the weak. daily we make our moves to improve our groove because we love to rule where we lay yo! work and play we started at the bottom and now we're leading the way and yea! i'm havin a fit kickin it at the top because i'm too legit to quit...sang!

Hello friends. Today, I am two weeks out from my first chemo, and feeling really good. That first week was educational to say the least. I am curious to see if the next round will be the same, or if I have learned from my mistakes and can make this round easier! Hoping for easier! Although, really it wasn't bad... The anti nausea meds they have really, truly work. Acid reflux on the other hand... Turns out the lining of your esophagus is made up of fast growing cell like your hair, so it get's all messed up from the chemo. Ugh. GIVE ME ALL YOUR REMEDIES. I will try anything!

The day of chemo almost felt like the first day of school. I had the same kind of nervous energy the night before.

Will I wake up in time? I did.

Will the other kids like me? Too many selfies.

What do I need to bring with me? Way less than you thought.

Will I like my nurse? Nurse Josie and Nurse Carrie are the best.

What do I wear? Lower cut shirts make for easier access to Portia!

It's safe to say that I overpacked for the first round. I had a giant bag full of activities, my laptop, and a lunch bag. Next time I think I can fit everything in the giant bag. I'm an old pro now. Seriously though, after this next round (Friday) we will be 1/4 of the way done, which seems HUGE.

The first weekend after chemo, my mom, Sarah, Connor, and I went wig shopping to prepare for the inevitable day when my hair falls out. They told me it would probably be 2-3 weeks, so at this point I feel like I'm on borrowed time. I don't know how to prepare for this! How does this work? Right now it is beyond itchy, and I'm afraid to touch it. I feel like if I leave it alone and don't mess with it too much then it will hang on a little longer...

OK - about to nerd out for a second. You know that scene in Prisoner of Azkaban where the seasons are changing from fall to winter and the whomping willow gives a little shiver and then drops all it's leaves? That's what I feel is about to happen with my head. Although the day it starts falling out enough to buzz it will be a happy day for me, because what that means is the chemo is doing it's job. KILL THOSE FAST GROWING CELLS!!!!! For now, I am looking up tutorials on youtube for how to tie scarves into head wraps. I'm going to look fabulous this summer, y'all. Gypsy chic.

Until next time, I leave you with wig shopping pics. See if you can guess which one is my new alter ego. :)

And yes... for some reason there is a market for wigs with roots. 

Love y'all,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

someday when i'm awfully low, when the world is cold, i will feel a glow just thinking of you, and the way you look tonight...

Up until yesterday, I had been feeling pretty good. I kind of hit a wall and am maybe figuring out that this isn't going to be as easy as I had hoped. Simple things like riding in the jeep are a little too rough. Remembering to keep a little bit of food in my tummy at all times is hard. Once it's too late, it's not pretty. Acid reflux is not nice. I am thankful for a husband who loves me and realizes that I am not going to be at my best through a lot of this. So thankful.

I am also thankful today for a man who has taught me so much about looking hard things in the face and tackling them. My daddy went through double knee replacement surgery just so we could get the picture below. Ok, maybe not just, but this is my blog. I can say what I want! What a special, special time for me. The lyrics in today's post are from the song we danced to at the wedding. It's definitely on my playlist. :)

Dad messed up his knees pretty good in high school, for FOOTBALL and GLORY and the Grand Prairie Gophers. What a man. He always says his claim to fame was falling on top of a fumbled football in the endzone. Worth it! 

Because of this, he went for years and years without cartilage in his knees, and never complained. I think it took a trip to NYC, and coming face to face with all that walking that finally convinced him he should get his knees checked out. When he finally went to the doctor, he was amazed that dad was walking without the assistance of a cane.

A few years later, Daddy was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer (have you ever heard of the ampullary duct?) and had to have a very scary surgery, plus chemo and all that goes with that in order to save his life. Mark that up as yet another thing that he just did. No complaints. He just took care of business, and is now cancer free, and the best Granddad ever.

What an example. Daddy, I am so proud to be your little girl. I love you so much, and can't wait to celebrate father's day properly with you next year.

Love you oh so much, 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Yarbro Photography

Friday, June 13, 2014

this ain't the girl i used to know, no, not anymore. TKO. i'm out for the count, yeah, girl, you knock me out. it's just a TKO...

OK y'all... these are just too good (bad?) not to share. Connor's best man, John Griffith, has photoshop skills that can't be denied!

Thanks, John. These definitely put a smile on my face. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

get up offa that thing, and dance til you feel better! get up offa that thing, and shake til you feel better! get up offa that thing, and twist til you feel better!

So yesterday was the big day. First chemo. It was a Tuesday so it wasn't very crowded, and the people that were there were mostly in their 80s. Or at least they looked it. Lot's of mouth breathers enjoying a nap! I say that endearingly.

We arrived about an hour earlier than we were supposed to, so that we could sign up for an exercise study where they have you walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes before each treatment to see how activity on the day of chemo affects your side affects/recovery/etc. Thankfully, the paper he drew from the envelope put me in the group that has more time on the treadmill. (Although I am a little suspicious it was rigged... whatever... go with it.) The exercise facility was actually really nice, and on top of that, I can use it whenever I want (during office hours) for the rest of my life. Tons of equipment, and even a few group classes. Cool. (Don't be jealous of my cancer perks.)

We did our time on the treadmill and headed upstairs to see Dr. O. I just love her. Even though I had to wait about 1/2 an hour in the exam room before I saw her.... sigh. We talked about all kinds of things including this new treatment option called "zoladex" that they have been using for a long time for women who's cancer is fed by estrogen (mine is not). Dr. O was actually at the conference, and attended the lecture where they presented the findings of the study, which looked into the effects of using this treatment on women who's cancers are NOT affected by estrogen (ie: me). All of this has come out since the last time I saw her, so I am feeling very blessed to get to benefit from this study.

The drug effectively shuts down the patient's ovaries to stop them from producing estrogen (and thus induce early, hopefully temporary, menopause. Yay.). What they found was that women who don't have estrogen positive cancer had a higher chance of regaining their full reproductive function after treatment, and it even bumped up survival rates. Sign me up, ya'll! This shot was not fun (actually some kind of pellet thing they inject under the fat in your stomach. Yeeesh.) But I think it will be so worth it. Nurse Carrie didn't want to even give it to me, but I think her constant building it up of how awful it was made it seem not quite as bad.

Chemo itself was pretty uneventful. And yes... the headphones were MINE. We were in and out in about 1.5 hours. I was expecting something more like 4 or 5, so that was a very pleasant surprise. Connor and I took lots of pictures, which I'm sure would have been really annoying to the old people if they had been awake enough to notice. As for side affects, so far so good. I'm feeling really good, albeit a little tired (but that's normal for me for this time of day). I'm ready to go back and start round 2!

adriamycin, aka "the red devil" aka what's going to make my hair fall out

no sweat, this is easy

what up, chemo?

for my aggie friends, "beat the hell outta cancer!" ps: i was told i could use this, so everyone act civil.
ok, well that felt a little dirty. how about we also WRECK CANCER.

feeling so loved

and here's where we started getting on the old peoples, nerves
you just wish you looked this cool when dancing in a chemo chair.

totally not staged at all.

Thanks for your continued prayers and vibes!!

Love y'all so much,

Saturday, June 7, 2014

lend me your ears and i'll sing you a song, and i'll try not to sing out of key... oh i get by with a little help from my friends

This is the last weekend before chemo starts, and I am feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. I have so many people in my life who have reached out. Facebook messages, emails, cards, hugs, prayers, thoughtful gifts, good vibes, books, survival stories, playlist suggestions... the list is long.

My friend, Andrea, sent me this verse:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine;
When you pass through waters, I will be with you;
and through rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flames shall not consume you . . .
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored and I love you.
-Isaiah 43:1,2 &4

I felt such a sense of calm rush over me as I read those words. Like something leaving my body...

So, this weekend I had planned to deep clean my house. From top to bottom, because I had no idea when I would feel up to doing something like that again. I did a preemptive strike last weekend starting with reorganizing my bathroom, dresser, and closet. I say reorganizing, because I think at one point they were in order?

I gathered all of my winter clothes, and switched them with the summer clothes in the guest closet. I picked all my shoes from off of the floor, and hung them on the rack and out of the way (not sure why I don't always do this...?) I carefully organized all of my hair ties, clips, bobby pins, and other hair paraphernalia into a concise bin, which I think I will be successful in maintaining mainly because I have no clue when my hair will be long enough again to use these things! All of this was step one to get ready for "the big clean". 

This Thursday, Connor and I went for a walk around the neighborhood to our nearby park. We are starting a walking/exercise regimen because we have been told by Dr. O, and have read that exercise has been proven to improve survivor rates by 50%. 50% y'all. That is incredible. Thursday was night one. I am ON A MISSION. No laying around for me! Hold me accountable! Seriously! Help!?

When we got home, there was a quick double ring at the doorbell. I went to investigate, but no one was there... I looked on the ground, and saw a note on top of a feather duster. What the? I looked out at the yard and street and no one was to be found, except for a suspicious Ford Escape fleeing the scene. Hmm.

I picked up the note and opened it. Y'all. It was the Corgan Interiors fairy. My incredible team at work has paid for a maid to come and clean our house while I am at my chemo treatments this summer. I can't even tell you what an awesome gift this is. "The gift of clean" is what the fairy calls it. "Happy tears" is what I call it.

my work crew. at the end of our 75th year as a firm. awesome, awesome people.

I started working at Corgan in 2006, and this has been my one and only job since graduation. Seven (and a half) years later, and I can't imagine being anywhere else. I am beyond blessed. I hope that all of you are as fortunate as I am - to work with such kind, selfless, giving people.

Alright y'all. Chemo starts Tuesday. Start your countdowns for my second major haircut of the summer. :)

Love y'all,

Edit: Our next door neighbor just dropped off guacamole. Heaven, y'all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

e la canzone ti fa dimenticar soltanto ciò che ti rattrista il cuore e sospirar ti fa...

Have you heard of the song Crapa Pelada? No?

1940s. Italian. Milanese? All you need to know.

One of my old friends, Andrew Koss, sent me this song for my playlist along with about 20 other GREAT songs. Seriously, all so good. Andrew and I sat across from each other on the first day of 4th grade in Mrs. Leger's class, when I was the "new kid". Do you remember that, Andrew?

As I was going through his list, Crapa Pelada came on, and I knew I had heard it somewhere before, but I couldn't quite place it. I did some googling and realized it was sung by Gale Boetticher in Breaking Bad in his apartment right before a visit from Gus Fring.

still no?

This morning I messaged him to tell him thank you for including such a fun song, and to let him know I remembered it from Breaking Bad. Then I got curious. What does the song mean? I don't speak Italian!

Once again, google came to the rescue. Y'all. This song is hilariously appropriate. Listen to the song on youtube, and read the english lyrics at the same time. I'm not sure if Andrew is an evil genius and knew what he was doing, or if he just included it on a whim. Either way, I love it.

Crapa Pelada

(english translation)

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you
The story that drives me to despair
For seven months now, I have watched my hair fall out
Now I'm bald, disappointed, sad;
I don't know what to do about it.
But listen to what he says,
That poor sad man!
Don't complain,
just try to sing
this song with us!
Crapa Pelada made tortellini
he didn't give his brothers any - oh-oh-oh-oh
His brothers made an omelet,
they didn't give any to Crapa Pelada
Crapa Pelada made tortellini
he didn't give his brothers any - oh-oh-oh-oh
Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà.
Badabaddà badabbadà badabba babbarara pirulirulirulirulì
Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà, Crapa pelà.
Paaaaaaa pararappappa pappa paraparapà.
And this song makes you forget
Just those things that sadden your heart and make you sigh.
Who knows if I will ever get my hair back?
Try, try again!
I have tried and retried every sure and suggested cure!
Quinine is a must, but my head is still bald; still bald.
Come on my friend, don't despair!
With bulbomicillina with bayrum and petrolina I tried and retried, but I am still still bald.
Why? I don't know.
Who knows why?
Why? Why? I don't know!
Parapappa parapappa tarattatà parapà parapappa parrappappà parappa pararara pam.
Is it you?
Crapa pelada, Crapa pelada,
Crapà Crapà Crapà Crapà.
Bidibadi bidibadi bidiba bidiba bidibà bidibà bidibà bidibà
parappappà parappa pappa pappa pappappà
Crapa pelada made tortellini
He didn't give his brothers any - oh-oh-oh-oh
Crapa pelada,
with a wig
perhaps you can recover!

Y'all. I know. If you need me, I'll be making tortellini, and sharing it with no one!

Love y'all and your playlist suggestions,

PS: Bonus link for those that want to see Gale sing it.

PPS: I think I'm going to start watching Breaking Bad again from the beginning. Feels appropriate.

Monday, June 2, 2014

here come bad news talking this and that (yeah!) well give me all you got, don't hold me back (yeah!) well i should probably warn you i'll be just fine (yeah!) no offense to you, don't waste your time...

I've had a few people ask, "what inspired you to start the playlist?"

The morning of the first surgery (you know, the one where we were removing the benign lump) we were listening to the radio in the car on the way to the hospital. NPR, which is my usual jam (HEY. Don't knock it til you've tried it...) wasn't delivering that morning. I think it was pledge week? So I tuned to my second favorite station, 91.7 KXT. This is the most eclectically awesome station I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. That morning, Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" was playing. I thought to myself, YES, the radio is speaking to me. Every little thing is gonna be alright.

The next song came on, and I was even more convinced.  It was Pharell's "Happy". I know everyone out there is so over this song, but I WILL NEVER BE OVER THIS SONG. Even thinking about it makes me want to get up and dance. And do dishes. Or something. Third song was, Justin Timberlake "Not A Bad Thing". At this point I am just over the top happy. It was time for surgery.

You all know what happened next, but what happened right after "next" was that I couldn't get "Three Little Birds" out of my head. It played on a constant loop. Comforting me. Telling me not to worry.

Saturday night we were at my parents house. I told them about my song that was always on repeat in my head. My mom couldn't place the song, so I started to sing it for her, "don't worry, about a thing, cause every little thing..." My voice cracked. I was trying so hard to believe that every little thing was going to be alright, but I couldn't quite make it believable. Fake it til you make it, people.

can y'all believe my mama made these for me!? my three little birds are always singing me "sweet songs, melodies pure and true..."

The next day, the song was still coursing through my brain. I have recently become obsessed with spotify, and the seemingly endless selection of music. I have many different playlists. One (titled: childhood) is just all the old records that Kathryn and I used to play dress up and dance to in our living room (The Pink Panther, Hello Dolly, The Sting, Oklahoma...)  I have a playlist of the CD's Ma had at her house that we would listen to while playing ping pong (Mahalia Jackson, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys...)

I decided to compile my happy songs into a playlist that made me feel strong, or at least "better." Three Little Birds, Happy, Katy Perry - Roar. If you noticed, I titled the blog, "Dancing through the Fire." That is straight up plagiarized from Ms. Perry, herself "I've got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar!" Then Sidney's plate showed up on my desk. "Just Beet it."

I realized I was on to something with this playlist. Music is such a powerful thing. I was in band for *cough* 12 years *cough* so I know a lot of music people. I was just sitting on this beautiful, untapped resource. I wrote the blog, and asked for songs, and man oh man have y'all delivered.

The playlist is currently 381 songs, clocking in at 24 hours and 11 minutes. That's an ENTIRE FREAKING DAY of strength and happiness. I listen to it every day, and dance in my chair at work. I feel like I already have the cancer beat, y'all. It's just incredible. Thank you everyone for sending in your happy songs. I'm always accepting additions, so send them in! And yes, I actually add all of them. If I can find it on spotify, then I add it. That's the rule.

Playlist fun facts:

Most suggested song: Mandisa - Overcomer
Most suggested artist: The Beatles - who unfortunately are not on spotify. :( I'm finding lots of fun cover songs.

Love y'all,