Reporting not-so-live from KATU studios

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Anchor potential? Livvie, Josson and Steven ask the tough questions.

KATU is working on feature stories to air for Race for the Cure. So they’ve been interviewing me and other survivors. Today, we did a quick interview in the studio. I bribed the kids that if they were good in the studio, I’d buy them all milkshakes. I didn’t really have to bribe them – they’re well behaved on their own. The producer, Kelly, was nice enough to give us a studio tour. If you wait until the last minute and thrive on stress, a career in news is just for you, he said. That means you, Josson and Livvie. Thanks, KATU! We had a really great time and all-new appreciation for what you guys do. Kelly says being a producer means you get paid to be curious. I love that.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Radiation #2 went much better. My boob was not on fire today. I was surprised when one of the nurses said my pain yesterday was in my head because they don’t give you enough radiation to cause pain. Okay, my boob was hot to the touch like it was running a fever, even when I woke up this morning. Who “imagines” crazy fire boob? Fire on the Mountain!

2- The kids ran around playing tag and tried to do flips in the grass with their friends. That’s what I’m talking about! Neighborhood fun, ya’ll! Why can’t they be “free-range children” like we were every day?

3- Brian came home from Seattle, and Livvie threw herself into his arms. I didn’t go all drama-like. Brian’s dad sent me roses. When I called to say thanks, I couldn’t help but apologize to him that his son has to go through this cancer nightmare, not that I signed up for it. But STILL, it’s been tough. Brian brought home a lemon tart, so everybody’s happy about that!

Summer…Unplugged

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Running up that sand hill with plenty of problems. Mommy out of shape.
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Look it’s that new iStick.
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Right after I snapped this picture, a doe and foal walked to the water’s edge and stared at us.

Just coming out of a blissful week of no cancer treatment. Getting a vacation at Neskowin Beach with nothing but beach, birds and beauty did the trick. We all went kayaking together for the first time. Steven said, “This is one of the best days of my life.” He probably said that because he was steering the kayak – one thing he could control. Now it’s back to cancer treatment. I had my first radiation treatment today. It’s a little alarming at the safety precautions between you and the radiation staff – like a metal door the size of Kansas. The beams zipped across my skin and viola! Instant sunburn. I was also alarmed at how much that little beam freaking hurt and how hot my skin was. Not sure what I was expecting, spa day? If the first one hurt, how am I going to make it for six weeks of treatments?

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Hanging out at Maria’s today with Shonda, Kari and Rea while the kids pummeled each other with rubber bouncy toys made me feel much less lonely about summer. We’re all in the same boat with minimal camps and cruise director status.

2- KATU News has been interviewing me and other breast cancer survivors for Race for the Cure. Tomorrow, they’re interviewing me in the studio. Wish I could grow some Chia Hair.

3- The kids have been so appreciative and sweet to me. I took them to see a movie last night and had the best time. Soon, they won’t want to hang out with their parents like that. So I’m taking it all in while I can.

The party’s over…sort of

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Considering the last day of school is today, it’s been one ridiculous busy week. That’s why you haven’t seen any blogs. First, I delivered a 45-minute speech on “Laughter is the Best Medicine” for 150 cancer survivors at PeaceHealth at Southwest Medical Center. That requires an all-points focus for me. The people were so nice there. One man came over to me afterward and said: “I didn’t have my hearing aid turned on, but you looked funny.” Then, there was Steven’s final class project: a reenactment of the Exorcist using paper bag puppets. Definitely straight to DVD. Next up, Liv’s bridge project constructed from the contents of every paper recycling bin in the tri-state area.

Meanwhile, I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the kids. But today is radiation mapping. Wah waaah. I’m trying not to be in a bad mood about that. So I’m going to keep what I learned from Livvie this morning in mind. She decided to wear a huge purple and black “tail” to school. Sure enough, someone pulled it and sent a sobbing hot mess Livvie into my arms. But hey, now it’s a not-so-ancient proverb: If you’re gonna wear a tail, someone’s going to yank it. So don’t wear a freaking tail. I’m putting mine away right now.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Trina, Ed, Gabe, Barrett, Ret and Sally did it again. They sent us a secret message to meet them at a Hawaiian place down the street. Then, they gave us leis, straw hats, retro Hawaii posters and one airline buddy pass. Bit by bit, we’re getting there! If I could fly on friendship alone, we’d be on the Big Island now. Thanks, most awesomest friends!

2- Steven “graduated” from fifth grade and immediately started making fun of us for saying: “Middle school? No way. Fifth grade? No way. Baby? No way.” Then he rolled his eyes, “You’re not gonna cry, are you?”

3- Looking forward to having an actual radiation schedule in place, so I can start planning Camp Mommy. When Steven heard I might have some summer work, he erupted. So it’s clear to me I need to make up for lost quality time. Lucky for me, I can.

Boobs with eyelashes?

It’s not like my boobs need to see where they’re going. I take care of that. I was walking my dog when it felt like a fishing line was tossed out with a hook, and my boob took the bait. When I got home, the incision lines on both were angry red and had a line of red dots across them. Infection not good. Infection means a breast reconstruction do-over. So I called the doctor, raced over there and found out, Oh the sutures are trying to come out. Wha? My body wants them out, like right now. They’re not dissolving fast enough. “Don’t be alarmed if they stick through the skin,” the nurse said. “Like eyelashes?” I said. “Yep.” So at some point this weekend, my boob might have more eyelashes than I do. I am SO drawing a face on it and taking a picture, not that I’d show you guys. I love return blog customers.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- One of Brian’s good friends from MCAD, a company that works with SolidWorks software, sent me the most inventive bouquet of local flowers. Thank you for kicking off my weekend with a burst of creativity.

2- Brian’s coming home from Seattle on the train. Always happy to have him home and both parents around.

3- Brian read my speech and gave me a surge of confidence, saying he loved every word. And he’s the guy whose brutally honest about my work. Looking forward to giving the speech to 150 cancer survivors next week.

Have a swell weekend!

 

Summer without a clue

Finally ripped the plastic off my dusty 2013 calendar today and curled the pages back to get to June. It’s as if January-May don’t count. The kids’ last day of school is next Friday, and I don’t have a plan. So I got together with my friends Shonda and Maria to talk about summer ideas to keep the kids occupied. In my mind, I thought we could switch kids around to prevent boredom. Like I could take the girls to do an art project while the boys did another activity. They leaned forward and wanted to take my kids completely so I can do radiation. But no! I want to take your kids too, I said. “Maybe next summer,” Maria said. “What am I going to say, ‘My kids are expecting way more energy out of you, Jacki.'” Oh hell. She’s right. I keep thinking I’m normal, but I’m not. Yet. I still need help.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Steven made it through an entire day at school and seems to be feeling better. Tomorrow, we’ll see if he can go to school again. Today, he got a Phys Ed reward for being a good student in gym class. Awesome!

2- An employee at Subway was snarky rude to me today. Then, I realized I was wearing a hat so you couldn’t tell I’m all bald and cancery. So there’s no reason to be nice to me when I look like any other customer. Business as usual in SE Portland. My thought that I am closer to normal was confirmed when a prostitute and her pimp came into Subway and got in an graphic argument. Steven said, “Well at least I know what all those words mean.”

3- Liv crossed over from Brownies to Junior Girl Scout. I didn’t make it two weeks in Brownies, so I’m really proud of her. She cited crafts as the favorite thing she did in Brownies this year, making me twitch in fear. I don’t know my way around a glue gun. How am I going to keep her busy this summer sans crafts?

Kicked in the butt by perspective

Getting a swift perspective change is like stepping on a rake. Somehow, despite the fact that my “jour-ney” is almost over, we are still overwhelmed. Then, we went to two cancer-related events. Seeing tiny kids with bald heads like mine forces all of the air out of my chest at a frightening speed. Seeing other women going through worse has the same effect. But yet there were a lot of smiles at the Cancer Celebration at the Rose Garden. I have to keep thinking: Eight weeks and radiation is over. Eight weeks and I’m planning on being healthy and done with Weird Cancer Guy. Eight weeks, and maybe I will move away from my “cancer” identity and into a job title. That’s what I’m going with anyway.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Celebrating friends is such a recharger. Check out my bud Steve getting a drink named after him (It’s called “The Reverend” because Steve Sharp officiates weddings and just plain rocks it.) at Savoy Tavern. Shonda and Maria joined me down there where we all had a rabid love affair with fried cheese curds. I loved “The Reverend,” which comes with a fiery orange slice. But I have to say, my body does not like alcohol anymore. It’s all like, Toxic. Hel-lo. Maybe I filled my quota already. Anyway, I really want something chocolate named after me – like Choco Lush. Wait, that sounds like a sex toy. Nevermind.

2- Overheard in the Sturkie kitchen: A conversation between Livvie and her friend Ella B.

E: “I really want a pet.”

L: “You can adopt a frog (on some weird online animal game they play).”

E: “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought we were talking about the real world.”

How many times is that going to happen with this generation? I want to give all the Minecraft kids a stack of wood and some nails. NOW build something, yo.

3- Steven’s still not doing so great with mono. He’s home sick again. But Brian and I sat out on the porch with him on Friday and had lunch. We also made up our own language that involves annoying clicking sounds. That made him laugh. I’ll do anything to make him laugh. Now the dog is sick, too. So I’m fielding two sets of medication schedules.

A piece of normal

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I never thought I’d say this, but I actually look forward to going to meetings and hitting deadlines now. It’s what healthy people do. So I met with the communications director of Komen this morning to talk about writing survivor profiles, and it was great. Plus, I got a sneak peak of the “Who Will You Race For?” campaign marketing. (I’m the egghead in the middle.) I’m excited to walk in the race since I’m such a lame-o runner. Apparently, survivors are treated all special-like. Anyone want to walk it with me?

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Tomorrow, my bud Steve is getting a drink named after him called “The Reverend.” That’s a whole new level of special.

2- Rolled around on the floor laughing with the kids and the dog for the best hour of my day.

3- Tomorrow is Friday.

Sometimes you’ve gotta say yes

Oh yeah! Choco overload.
Oh yeah! Choco overload.
Chocolate bling.
Chocolate bling.
Girls night watching Run Fat Boy Run.
Girls night watching Run Fat Boy Run.

Livvie got a gift card for Ben & Jerry’s for her birthday. Of COURSE she wanted a funnel cone the size of a dunce cap drenched in chocolate and sprinkles. I said YES! That’s something my grandmother would have done. I love spoiling the kids once in a while and making dinner “art” with spray cheese. We also found a house to rent on the Oregon Coast. It’s a quiet modern house with a view. Steven’s face changed when he saw it. “That’s exactly what I imagined, Mom,” he said. There’s a catch though – the kids are going to have to share a queen-sized bed. The house is so cool, they actually agreed to that. Yes! A plan. Finally.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Steven got some color back in his face and had a good day at school. Livvie said, “Oh Mom” and hugged me when I apologized for missing her field trip since Steven was sick. I beat myself up over disappointing her.

2- I met with a counselor today and agree with what she said: Dealing with cancer this summer is a full-time job. I didn’t know exhaustion sets in at about four weeks and continues after you’re done with radiation. At least I can plan.

3- I ran into my nurse navigator Annette today, who complimented me about this blog again. I don’t know where it will go after cancer. But I’m so happy to hear from Annette that it’s helpful.

An emotional toll

Somewhere in shouldering the weight of my cancer, Steven’s immune system let him down. Now he’s got mono. I told his doctor everything about how, since he was born, he took responsibility for things he shouldn’t. How he joined Brian and me in fighting cancer instead of staying a kid bystander. How he stayed so strong around me, then fell apart at school. I feel so bad about the amount of stress the cancer situation has caused. Then, he envisioned a summer of regaining fun only to find out that radiation could send him back into cancer duty. I realize we can’t hand him tools to deal with all of this. I’m hoping we can find the right person to help equip him for now and the rest of his life. Because this is just the first level of suck. Other sucky things will happen. I can only hope he gets better prepared because of this.

THREE POSITIVES:

1- Really looking forward to helping Steven return to the world of kids. Soon.

2- The radiologist/oncologist needs at least a week to plan radiation. That means we can go somewhere, but probably not somewhere sunny. As long as somewhere is not my house, I’ll be happy.

3- Brian set up a ping pong table Barrett loaned us. Dreaming of epic ping pong battles to come!

Instant beach vacation

In case you were wondering if I was still obsessed with going to Hawaii…why yes. Yes I am. Now my plan is to score a speaking gig there so we can physically go. But it seems like we can’t plan anything without messing up the radiation schedule. In the meantime, my friend Sharon made me this super-rad terrarium. I love it so much. (Thank you, Sharon!)

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Livvie loved it so much, she wanted to make her own sea world in a bowl. So I took her to Artemisia (artemisiaon28th.blogspot.com). She’s got such a designer mind, she reorganized her globe several times before announcing, “Perfect!” Nothing thrills me like doing something fun with my girl. When I looked around, the store was filled with moms and daughters – all lit up with excitement about their mini worlds in a bowl. Everyone should make one of these.

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THREE POSITIVES:

1- Brian and I made it through a few rough emotional days trying to figure out where we’ll find the energy to go the entire summer through radiation without a true escape of a trip. We’ll have to carve out smaller ones before my energy gives way.

2- Can’t stop thinking about going on stage last weekend. When I got introduced as a cancer survivor, people yelled out: “F*&k cancer!” So funny that CANCER got heckled.

3- There are now two little hummingbirds buzzing our yard. One has an iridescent red patch under its beak. Watching them do a full aerial chase makes my day. Livvie put her hummingbird feeder out loaded with sugar water. But now I worry that they’ll get all fat and be lying around fanning their bellies instead of flying.