Mar 11

Nuts. Again.

In a terribly guilty-inducing fashion (for me), Anna had her second run-in with the dreaded tree nuts in less than a month. We were at a (very nice) restaurant. We told our (very nice) server that Anna had a nut allergy and asked to be informed about which dishes contained nuts. We specifically asked about the bread on the table (one was a wheat bread, one was a seeded sourdough). Better safe than sorry. She told us that she was also allergic to nuts, tree nuts, and that made me relax a bit, to know that she really understood. She said that she ate the bread all the time. And, indeed, the bread was fine.

Then we had appetizers, main course, and dessert. Dessert was cheesecake. Anna asked for a bite. I ate a bite first, thought to myself….oh, it’s fine, no nuts in here. Anna took a bite, then immediately complained that her tongue hurt. And then that her tummy hurt.

It was getting late (for her, not us, at 8:30 pm!), and Adam wanted to chalk it up to being tired. But she kept on with the whining and I gave her some Benadryl. We hurriedly left the restaurant (in such a hurry that I left my cell phone, which Anna had been playing a game on, on the table) and drove home. I put her to bed, but she was feeling terrible. She woke up after about 15 minutes, throwing up all over everything. Our friends with whom we had gone to dinner received a call from the restaurant (the reservation was under their name), in which they (the restaurant) wanted to check to make sure that “the baby didn’t eat any of the cheesecake….it has pecans in the crust.” Ohhhhhhh yes. That would explain it. And also, GRRRRR. Adam wants to blame the restaurant, but I blame myself, as a parent, for not having the foresight to really and truly protect my child. I feel terrible that she had to go through that.

Perhaps pecans are not as big an allergen as walnuts? Though they made her sick, it was just sick to her stomach and itchy tongue, no hives, no breathing difficulties. Who knows. The whole allergy thing is so mysterious. I will admit that I had less understanding of others who had allergies before Anna’s allergy came to light. NOW I get it.

After she threw up, Adam changed the sheets on her bed and remade the bed while I bathed her, washing off her body and her hair. She seemed to feel quite a bit better after getting it out of her system. Poor baby.

I know that these things happen. I just feel terrible that it had to happen so soon after the last incident. I feel terrible that restaurants are so fraught with danger. I walk the line between being that really annoying parent who questions every food set down in front of my child and really protecting her from something that at the least makes her feel very sick and at the most could kill her.

Lessons learned? BE the annoying parent. That is more important than trying to look cool. I would rather save my daughter from one terrible scary moment than try to save face in front of perfect strangers.

Mar 11

Getting my mind straightened out

I was just casually looking back over my iPhoto pictures which hardly ever ends up being a casual thing, at least not if I go back a couple of years. It’s like….ok….here I am now, everything great….go backwards a bit and BAM! Bald Jen. Sick Jen. Then pre-cancer Jen. Aaaaaw, the sweet, innocent, young thing. Sniff sniff.

I can’t look at those pictures without thinking about how much I’ve (cheesy) matured these last couple of years. I want to say “aged” but it’s more than that. It’s more than a few grey hairs and some laugh lines. It’s like….a deeper understanding of life. A desire for more meaningful relationships. A totally and completely changed perception of….everything. Everything!

I’m still reeling from it. Even now. Even yearspast it. I still do that thing where I wake up and then remember the bad news (Cancer! Me!) and do a little freak out. It’s over and yet it’s not because it is still there, in my head.

I look back at those pictures and I see a woman who was more rounded and expectant, in so many ways: pregnant. Mother of a very small child, a less-than-two-year old. Ready for the wonderful new surprises that life was going to throw my way. But then it was like a wave of the evil fairy’s (ack! too many Disney movies watched with Anna lately!) magic wand and no more baby, no more hair, usher in the sickness and the heartache.

I’m still trying to get it all straightened out in my mind.

I feel like I’ve come home from a war and I’m trying to get used to wearing civilian clothing instead of my fatigues. Like I’m trying very hard to fit in but not really feeling it. Like a rush of time has come past and everything else has swooshed past me and I remain behind, running to catch up. Like I’ve been asleep while everyone else has been living their normal lives and I’m trying to rub the sleep from my eyes and figure out how they are doing what they’re doing.

Everybody wants me to celebrate and I feel like I’m only barely beginning to round the corner into health. This is my year, right? From now until February 2012 (seeing as how my last chemo was the beginning of February 2011): this is my year to get back on track. To find myself and rescue the ME that I know is still in there, somewhere.

Feb 11


I am forced quickly, in some ways, into recovery mode because Adam is back to work now so it is back to regularly scheduled duties for me. Fixed breakfast for Anna and I, cleaned up the kitchen, must do all the stuff that needs doing all day today. I’m afraid I’ve become spoiled these last two days of having Adam home all day, every day, doing the parenting and the cleaning, and the cooking, and the caring for me. There is a certain feeling of unbalance that occurs when it is like that, but, really, it is so blissful to just chill out and relax and know that everything is going to be taken care of.

I know that the Prednisone “eat everything in sight” thing has kicked in because yesterday I went to Lazy Acres after my acupuncture appointment to pick up some probiotics and I brought home a bag of chips. Chips! That is so very, very unlike me. Adam’s eyes goggled out of his head when he saw them. I gave him that look, the look that says, don’t you DARE say a word about these here potato chips. And don’t you DARE eat them because they are MINE ALL MINE, OH YES MY PREEEEEECIOUS.

Also, I woke up at 5 am (pain med wore off) and I thought, briefly, about getting out of bed and making a coffee cake. What? I didn’t do it. I only thought about it.

And….that is all.

Feb 11


The nurse in the ER complimented me today on how calm and together I seemed, how I really “held it together” for my child. I told her that she didn’t see the part where I couldn’t find my car keys, after I administered the EpiPen, the part where I had already buckled a screaming, coughing, pissed off Anna into her carseat and I was running between the house and car screaming, “Someone help me! I can’t find my KEYS! OHGODMYKEYS!!!!!! KEYS! HELP!” That part was less calm. By the time we got to the entrance to the emergency room, though, I kind of had my shit together. I was ready to do the calm parent thing. I held and soothed and brushed back sweaty hair from her forehead, and explained things, and used the super calm parenting voice that I remember my own mother using with me, the one that says that everything is going to be ok.

And it was ok. It is ok. And yet, it really was quite frightening.

Anna had a bite of a muffin at school, at lunchtime, just as I was coming to pick her up (I came a few minutes early today). She said it tasted yucky. At first I started to scold her for not just quietly saying no thank you, but then she started crying and said it was making her whole tummy feel yucky, and her mouth, too.

“There aren’t any nuts in here, are there?” I asked. I’ll admit it….I’ve become a bit nonchalant about the nut allergy. I figure that they all know it at school. I figure that Anna knows to ask, that they won’t offer if it contains anything nutty.

And then I ran to my car for the Benadryl (they had some there are the school, but in that Super Hero Mom way, I was SURE that I could get OURS faster than they could get to theirs. At first it was hives and itchy skin, then a tummy ache. A really, really bad tummy ache, the kind that had her writhing on her bed and screaming GET IT OUT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT! And then the cough started. I called the doctor, to confirm what I already knew. Labored breathing, coughing, inability to catch her breath. Crap. Time for EpiPen.

NEVER has Anna been more angry with me than that moment when I plunged the needle into her chubby little thigh. She was so MAD that I would DARE hurt her. Oh God. If only she knew, if she could REALLY know, what it is like. No. Scratch that. I don’t want her to ever know what it is like to have to do something like that to someone you love so much. I tried to explain that I had to hurt her for a minute in order to help her. Anna screamed at me in the car, all the way to the ER (admittedly, only less than a five minute drive, but it felt forever), then she cried and cried as we were admitted and went through triage and initial assessment (“But WHY did you have to do the NEEDLE in my LEG??? It HURT ME! Do NOT do that AGAIN!”). She wanted to go home. She did NOT want to cooperate. She told the nurses that she felt fine (as she coughed and coughed and couldn’t breathe). Umm, yeah.

Some steroids and a breathing treatment later and she was fine. Fine and fine and fine. Oh thank goodness. Life feels too much on the edge when we have these moments. I don’t like it. I can rally if I have to (I DID find the car keys eventually, after all) but I really don’t like it.

Feb 11

Absolutely the only thing of any consequence around here

I have been feeling Terrible. For, oh, approximately three weeks. Give or take. This weekend it morphed from low-grade “fever-lite” (you know, 99.change) + body aches + general malaise and fatigue into holy crap have I ever got a fever (103???) and “I absolutely cannot move my body anywhere of my own accord.”

So. That wasn’t fun.

I am very grateful, on this day, like very many other days of my life, that I am not a medical doctor. Doctors are cool and necessary, but when I contemplate that there were at least three doctors (Dr. Mimi, the ENT, and my oncologist) consulting with each other, during dinner time no less, about little ‘ol me and my big ol’ fever…..well….let’s just say I’d rather be eating dinner.

They all think that the antibiotic I’ve been on for more than a week possibly isn’t working (duh). Apparently the nasal probing produced a non-significant sampling of my nasal disgustingness, so….maybe they aren’t treating the right thing? I meet with the ENT tomorrow to discuss options. I do know that one of those options is more probing of my sinuses, this time with me under general anesthesia to spare me some “discomfort” (doctor code word for “we have to knock you out because otherwise you will be emotionally scarred for life”). Or…..? Staph infection was thrown around today. Who knows.

All I want is to feel better. And to not wake up at 3 am, alternately sweating and shivering, applying cold damp washcloths to my neck.

Oh–they DID check again for the cancer. Because….you know. Apparently my counts are all terrific, totally normal, 100% great. So hooray for that. But, in a way, this might all come back to the cancer, in a roundabout sort of a way, thankyouverymuch chemo for making me so immuno-suppressed. Damned sinus infection. At least it isn’t cancer. This is all so very…undignified, however. I am unused (well, in my non-cancer-patient-life) to having this little energy and feeling this generally like total crap. I would really, really, really like to be better now.

Also, my mom ROCKS. She didn’t hesitate for a moment when I invited Anna and I over to her house ALL day today, simply so that I could rest and she could entertain the child. And it was wonderful. And she sent us home with dinner. See? AWESOME. Best part of being sick, being taken care of by Mom.

Feb 11


Day one of prednisone.

Cried three times (so far).

Yelled once (not proud to admit that).

Breathed deeply and told myself to calm the hell down….too many times to count.

Indulged a food craving zero times (feeling nauseated instead).

Also notable: started my period, heavy cramps and all. It’s official: my body hates me.

Jan 11


It was clear to me, once again, just how worth it is has been to our family to have our lovely Dr. Mimi Doohan as our family doctor. Friday I had a phone consult with her, just to check in, to follow up on my visit to the ENT doctor and as a mid-chemo cycle check-in. She asked me how I was, I told her how absolutely CRAP I have been feeling and within 20 minutes, on a Friday afternoon, no less, I had a new prescription for an antibiotic (that will, hopefully, help me to start feeling like less crap, and soon). BUT, the biggest thing for me, the part that brought tears to my eyes, was how she knew why it is so important to me that I don’t feel like this. It’s not just because it sucks to feel crappy. It is because these symptoms are a lot like “B symptoms,” and she said, without me saying anything to her about that, that she suspected that I would feel much better, emotionally, if I weren’t worrying about their similarity to B symptoms.

Yes. She gets it.

Because there is nothing more terrifying to a former cancer patient than to feel something like she used to feel, back when she wasn’t sure what it was, but she was pretty sure that something was not quite right. Fevers, night sweats, fatigue. The hallmarks of disease.

I am looking forward to feeling differently than I’ve been feeling this week. Feeling more like a healthy, well, non-cancerous person.

Jan 11

I really didn’t like the part where she put that thing up my nose

I got in to see the ENT doctor on Tuesday and she looked at my CT with me and said, “Hey! Whoa! Yes, that is QUITE the infection you’ve got going on!” and then she stuck a light and a camera up my nose and then she swabbed disgusting mucus from somewhere way up near my eyeball (again, up through the nose) and THAT? That was not fun at all. This doctor mocked my coping mechanism, which was, in this case, making a humming sound and clutching my two sweaty hands together around a disintegrating tissue. “Is that noise helping you?” she asked me, as I nervously hummed and clutched and hummed some more, as she probed around up there. “Hmmmm” I said, “Hmmmm….Hmmmm….Hmmmm” (I didn’t want to risk talking as I might accidentally move my head to look at her and then that long thing might poke me even more).

So. Swabbing up the nose. Not fun. That got sent to the lab. I will get antibiotics and Prednisone (boo!!!!! and Booooo!!!! some more) and then, maybe, if my luck remains as it has been these last couple of years, maybe surgery to clear out the rest of the gunk that is apparently clogging up the works in my sinus (one side only, apparently). She said that she doubted that it would all clear up on its own. Thanks for the optimism, doc.

On a brighter note, I no longer have an instrument of any kind up my nose. They’ll save that for later, for the recheck in a few weeks. But Yay Me! for being brave enough to survive this. I think I found this much more horrible than having needles stuck in my arm (maybe I’m just used to having IVs inserted and blood drawn, but I would never say that it is my favorite thing), but perhaps not as terrible as the time that the other ENT doctor approached my neck with a gigantic needle (to take a biopsy) and said, “Now hold, on, this might hurt a little.”

Jan 11

Snow Angel

She loves it!

Jan 11

Scan follow-up

Definitely sinusitis. I will follow up with an ENT. It is a relief, but it is also annoying because Holy Hell! Haven’t I had enough health issues already? When is enough enough?!?!?!

Just didn’t want to leave anyone hanging. Apparently I’m going to live. : )

I have no clue what to expect with the ENT doc. I think I’ve had symptoms for quite some time but was ignoring them because I just thought that suddenly my allergies were kicked into high gear. And that the Claritin wasn’t working anymore. Or the Flonase. In hindsight, I’m awfully unobservant. Oops.