Round four - am I done yet?

I keep hearing from friends and family - wow, you've been so strong and positive, how do you manage to keep such a great attitude? Well folks, the jig is up - today I lost it. If you want to keep thinking I'm this solid rock who doesn't ever cry or have a bad day, you might want to skip this post. Today was the day that I got mad that cancer invaded my life, today was the day that Safeway's incompetence resulted in my prescription for Emend (the drug I take to control nausea) not getting filled, today was the day that I felt sorry for myself that, while everyone else gets to cook their favorite foods on Thanksgiving (cooking the turkey is my THING - I've been brining my turkey for 7 years and following a special secret recipe, thanks Bev!, all the while drinking wine and loving the process - but this year I not only will feel like crap and probably barely feel like eating turkey at all, thank you chemo, but I can't even get near the oven with my wig even if I did feel like cooking!, and forget about drinking wine!, then sit back and enjoy their family, while I will be laying in bed wishing I could fast forward time several months, today was the day I got FED UP with this whole stupid cancer thing. Yes, ladies and gentleman, we've come to the point in the program where Amy proves that she isn't strong all the time. And while I know in my heart that it is normal and fine and acceptable, I don't want to feel like this. I want to feel strong - like after my ass kicking of a workout this morning (thanks, Lisa - who knew the bright spot of my day today was going to be three sets of burbees and running up and down the stairs until my quads were burning?!) not sad and angry.

But I know I'm human - not to mention an emotional person to begin with - so I should have seen it coming. I knew having chemo two days before Thanksgiving was going to be hard, I just didn't think it would hit me this hard this soon.

This blog is about being REAL, being AMY, so I thought it was important to share that I'm not all sunshine and roses (and pink ribbons!) all the time. I'm ready to be done, to not feel like crap for 7-9 days every three weeks, to be a good mom and wife again, to have cleavage again, for crying out loud! I'm ready for freedom to get on a plane, to eat sushi, to not have my killer workouts interrupted by 7 days of pathetic "chemo week workouts" where my "hard workouts" consist of slow walking for 30 minutes. I'm not even going to complain about not having hair - I'm actually still kind of enjoying the ease of wearing wigs, not having to shave my legs or armpits and being showered and ready to walk out the door in 20 minutes! - but I am really missing some basic parts of my "pre-cancer" life.

I'm going to apologize to the chemo Gods for ever thinking it would be a breeze - it's far from it. I'll head in tomorrow glad that Round 4 will be over, but not glad that two more rounds are in my future. I'm trying to be thankful that I only have 6 rounds - I talked to a friend the other day who had to go through 9 rounds, yikes! - but in the end, I know it may be a struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other for the next month and a half. But I will do it, and you know what? Maybe it's OK to have some bad days, maybe it's OK to cry, scream, cry again.

In the spirit of admitting that it's OK to feel sad and beaten down, but still able to come through it strong on the other side, I'll make "Stand Back Up" Round 4's theme song... Thank you, Sugarland...

Stand Back Up

Go ahead and take your best shot,
Let 'er rip, give it all you've got,
I'm laid out on the floor, but I've been here before,
I may stumble, yeah I might fall,
Only human aren't we all?
I might lose my way, but hear me when I say,

I will stand back up,
You'll know just the moment when I've had enough,
Sometimes I'm afraid, and I don't feel that tough,
But I'll stand back up,

I've been beaten up and bruised,
I've been kicked right off my shoes,
Been down on my knees more times than you'd believe,
When the darkness tries to get me,
There's a light that just won't let me,
It might take my pride, and my tears may fill my eyes,
But I'll stand back up,

I've weathered all these storms,
But I just turn them into wind, so I can fly,
What don't kill you makes you stronger,
When I take my last breath,
That's when I'll just give up,

So, go ahead and take your best shot,
Let 'er rip, give it all you've got,
You might win this round but you can't keep me down,

'Cause I'll stand back up,
And you'll know just the moment when I've had enough,
Sometimes I'm afraid and I don't feel that tough,
But I'll stand back up,

You'll know just the moment when I've had enough,
Sometimes I'm afraid and I don't feel that tough,
But I'll stand back up.

See ya on the other side... Enjoy an extra glass of wine on Thanksgiving for me, please!

To all my angels...

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe firmly in the notion that people (angels) come into your life for a reason, and that few things are coincidence. I know in my heart that everything happens for a reason, and that I have been blessed with so many angels who have walked into my life. As I celebrate being halfway done with chemo (yipppeeee!!!!) I want to thank all my angels for helping me along on this crazy journey....

My baby angel - Ty, my amazing little baby - because of you, choosing to come into my life at the time you did, my breast cancer was caught at a very early stage and treated immediately. You are my life saver, and truly my angel. Your huge grin, easy going personality and delight in everyone around you are so precious to me during this time in my life. You and your angel-brother Drew are the light of my life, and the reason I long for "life beyond cancer."

My milk angels - When it became apparent that a bilateral mastectomy would be necessary, and I would not be able to breastfeed my newborn son (something that was extremely important to me), 11+ "milk angels" came to my rescue, pumping their own breastmilk to share with Ty so that he would receive the immunities and nutrients to grow strong and be protected from winter's cold and flu season. From best friends to acquaintances, not one milk angel hesitated for a second when I asked if they would be willing to share any extra milk, taking time and energy out of their schedules to give Ty this incredibly unique, selfless gift. Everyone we talk to - including our pediatrician - has been blown away by the amount and number of angels who were willing to share this gift with us. And Ty is thriving and flourishing because of your milk - at his 2-month appointment, he weighed in at a whopping 13 lbs, 11 oz, in the 90th percentile for weight and 75th for height!! With milk still stockpiled in our freezer, we are overwhelmed and so incredibly blessed by your generosity and love.

My traveling angels - Charlotte and Jess, two of my best friends, travelled from the midwest to take care of me and my family when I needed them desperately - a week after surgery and a week after my first chemo treatment. Seeing their faces and having their hugs, kisses and extra special care made some really tough weeks more bearable. I wish you both were so much closer, but am so blessed to have incredible friends that will drop everything to fly to my rescue!

My "BC angels" - On this journey, I have met some incredible women who have blazed the trail ahead of me, giving me strength that this can be conquered, and that I can do it with the grace and style that they have. Gina, Brooke, Nic, Molly, Andrea, Lori - you are my heros for being my cheerleaders, hand holders and cancer SURVIVORS!!! Elaine - my partner in crime, together kicking this thing's ass in style, counting down the days until our treatments are over, our hair is back and we can laugh about this blip in the road with a martini in hand. And to all the other BC angels who have touched my life with their e-mails, blogs, cards, notes and books describing their own battle with this crappy disease, providing constant encouragement and sisterhood - you have provided me strength and knowledge that I can get through this, and will be forever changed - and not in a bad way - from this experience.

My friend angels - How do you know what to do to help a friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer? I never knew the answer prior to my diagnosis, but apparently someone informed my friends. They have known just what to do, everyone contributing in their own unique ways - coming with me to every chemo treatment, drinking champagne with me while I buzzed my hair off, shaving their own heads with me!!, popping back into my life and driving across town to shave 15 people's heads, helping me name my wigs, organizing 90 walkers to Race for the Cure, then making them all "chemosabe" headbands, sending me card after card and e-mail after e-mail to let me know they were thinking about me constantly, watching my kids as they would their own while I attend endless doctor visits, racing with my name on their backs, celebrating with me after each round of chemo, sending me care packages from across the US and world, buying me PJ's to make me feel cozy and loved on my worst post-surgery and post-chemo days, letting me talk about awkward things like which wig to wear while working out and how I long for cleavage again, calling me before every chemo treatment, coordinating the mowing of our lawn, organizing meal service and breastmilk delivery, taking care of cleaning my house, handmaking super special gifts and food to put a smile on my face, not telling me how crazy I am to be planning triathlons for 2010, but instead telling me how STRONG I am and reminding me that I shouldn't feel guilty for not being able to take care of my kids during chemo and above all, how I'm kicking cancer's ass like a champ.

My family angels - I would never be able to get through any of this without my parent and parent-in-law angels. They have made countless trips to Colorado to take care of my kids when I can't, taken time off work, coordinated schedules to allow life to go on as normal as possible for our family. When I'm rendered useless for days on end after surgery and chemo, they give my kids what I can't - constant love and attention. They take care of night feedings, daytime entertainment and everything in between. They keep my kids' lives together when I can't, and that is a special gift. I am honored to have been chosen to be your daughter and daughter-in-law.

My trainer angel - Having been addicted to exercise-induced endorphins for most of my life, I knew that this cancer battle was going to need to be fought on the gym floor. I hired my angel trainer, Lisa, for her unfailingly kick-ass attitude, fabulously enviable body and confidence in my athletic ability despite this silly cancer diagnosis. People ask me "does Lisa take it easy on you ?" My answer - a resounding HELL NO! And I would not want it any other way! She believes in me and pushes me to my limits so that I can walk away from each day at the gym feeling strong in body and mind. She turns my day from "blech, I'm feeling sorry for myself because I have to go through this icky stuff" to "hell yeah, I can take on the world... and cancer too!" With each training session, I feel stronger and stronger, mentally and physically... and luckier and luckier to have Lisa come into my life.

My husband angel!! Oh honey - you are and have always been my most important angel. The one I longed for all my life, but never thought I'd be lucky enough to deserve. The one to help me through what I used to think were hard things - job frustrations, co-worker friction, the stress of parenting. Through this biggest life challenge you have loved me, held me, and told me how beautiful, special and loved I am every day. You call me your hero, but you will always be mine. Not many people get to have a relationship like ours in their lifetime, and I will never know how I got so lucky as to have you by my side every day of my life. My soulmate, my best friend, my reason for fighting... I love you more than anything. I'm so excited to spend the next 50 years together; there are so many adventures I can't wait to have with you...

To all my angels - thank you for blessing my life with your presence, but above all, thank you for holding my hand through this journey. I haven't figured out yet exactly why I was chosen to travel this road, and probably never will. But I know that at least part of the reason was to fully understand the capacity of the human heart to love, to give and to help heal. I know that I will be forever changed by your kindness, generosity and love, and for that I will always be thankful...

Love always, Amy

Round three - ding ding!

Allright sports fans - are you ready for Round 3? I am, I guess. I went for a run yesterday to help clear my mind, and, due to my not really running after week 22 of pregnancy (ummm, yeah, that would be the CC Sneak in late April) and a tad of fatigue which I'll go ahead and blame on chemo, I was running REALLY slow and having a hard time hanging on to my goal of running 3 miles. Not consecutively, people, don't get ahead of yourselves. That's still a ways away. But regardless, I wanted to run 3 just to prove to myself that I could do it. To keep in mind, pre-baby, pre-chemo my "short, easy" runs were 4-6 miles, so 3 "should be" cake. Well it wasn't yesterday, and when I wanted to give up, to walk, I just kept telling myself, just a few more steps, just pick up the legs and keep moving forward, just keep doing it, because if you make it all 3 miles, girl, you're gonna feel like a million bucks. And you know what? It was hard, it sucked, I was exhausted and wanted so bad to give up, but I just knew that if I did, I would feel way less than a million bucks - I would feel like a dollar. And I just couldn't disappoint myself like that. So I powered through, and felt like a total rock star at the end. My piddly three miles, and I had a grin on my face that you couldn't wipe off all day. I've been dreading doing this round of chemo, and 3 more after it, for most of this week. But I'm trying to think of it like my run - just keep putting one foot in front of each other, just don't give up, just keep on keeping on, and eventually I'll make it to the finish line and it will all be worth it. But I know that every step will be hard, just like that damn run. It will hurt, it won't be pretty, it will be slow going sometimes and easier others, but in a few months, I get to receive the title of "chemo survivor" and I'm gonna be damn proud of it, thank you very much. Hats off to all the folks out there doing chemo - it's hard, it's not fun, but you make it through because you have to and because your spirit is strong.

Tomorrow will mark #3 of 6, a huge milestone to be 1/2 way through. (Well OK halfway through chemo, with 7 fun months of Herceptin every three weeks for a year, but I keep being told it will be "nothing" so I'm counting on that and trying hard not to think about that right now!) It will feel SO good to be halfway through, but it's still a long, tough ride ahead. One foot in front of another, one foot in front of another.... Repeat until January...

Since I've always been all about the music, I've adopted a "theme song" of sorts that I play to psyche myself up for chemo and other cancer-related toughness - an awesome, upbeat song by country singers Rodney Atkins. Here are a few excerpts...

If you're going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared, don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there

But the good news
Is there's angels everywhere out on the street
Holding out a hand to pull you back up on your feet
The one's that you've been dragging for so long
You're on your knees
You might as well be praying
Guess what I'm saying

Yeah, If you're going through hell
Keep on moving, face that fire
Walk right through it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there

I play it constantly to remind me to keep on pounding through, if I can just pick up my pace a bit I might sneak past the devil! Here's to hoping...

Love you all! See ya on the other side of hell, I mean chemo...