Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Winter of Discontent

I have had that week that tests both my patience and my hold on sanity. My children have both been sick and of course my husband is out of town. I am not sure why I am surprised by this; if I look back over my last nine and a half years of parenting I am sure that there would be a mathematical correlation between my husband walking out the door to go on a business trip and someone getting sick. Even so, I still feel like I have been blindsided every time it happens.

Yesterday, after my daughter had thrown up for twenty four hours straight, I dragged her to the doctor. I had to pick her up and carry her into the office because she was too weak to walk. Her hair was tousled and she was still in her pajamas. I also had my son with me. He had a cough that sounded like a freight train coming. Sure enough, he was diagnosed with bronchitis.

I had to pick up an antibiotic on the way home to treat his cough and my plan was to run in and get the prescription filled while I left the children in the car for a minute. Not a great plan, but one that was out of necessity because I don’t have any family in the area and the babysitter doesn’t want to be around my sick kids. Then the final blow came. “Mommy, my tummy hurts! I am going to be sick.” Thankfully, I had put a bucket on the floor of the backseat, anticipating this very moment. Clearly, there was no way I could stop at the pharmacy, so we went home.

I thought about what to do and then I came back to my mantra from when I was sick myself. I would have to ask for help, and be okay with accepting it. It doesn’t mean I am not a perfect mom (Ha!) it just means that I am in a bind and my husband, my mother, my sister or my brother are not nearby to help.

So I called my friend Lisa who recently moved to the area. We were friends before we ever had our children so we have a bit of history. “Lisa,” I began with trepidation, “Can you stop by the CVS for me and pick up a few things?” I waited for her response, hating to put any one out. “”Of course I can, Jeanne,” was her cheery response. “Can I bring you something for lunch too?” I was so relieved. “Well, I think I could use a bottle of wine more than anything right now.” I replied, starting to cry. I felt so alone and overwhelmed with all of the throwing up and coughing, I just couldn’t take anymore. “I will be there soon,” she responded and I hung up the phone thinking how lucky I am to have my girlfriends.

She arrived an hour later with the prescriptions, Gatorade, Ginger Ale, a beautiful salad for lunch and a lovely bottle of wine. “I will put some soup on.” I told her as I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t alone any more. We set the table with pretty placemats and wine glasses and sat down for a delicious meal of salad, roasted red pepper and tomato soup and a lovely glass of Chardonnay. “Sometimes you just have to pretend that you are at a cafĂ© in the South of France,” she joked. We ate and laughed and talked for several hours until it was time for her to go get in the carpool line. I felt like a new person.

“Thank you so much for coming over.” I told her. “No problem,” she replied. “Just remember, it is all about sisterhood and survival.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Overcoming Fear

Recently we made a trip out west to do some snow skiing. It was the first time we had taken our children to “the big mountains.” I was a little bit worried about how they would handle the sight of the 14,000 foot peaks but determined not to let them know that I had any trepidation about it. “You are going to love it in the mountains of Colorado,” I convincingly cooed. “The natural beauty is spectacular.” They were sucked in by my enthusiasm and we all became more excited as we boarded the plane and settled in for the long plane ride.

When we got to the resort it was late at night and we had just gone through the mountains. I was scared. I am afraid of heights, generally, and the roads were dark, windy and snowy. My husband navigated us through the mountain pass as the children slept and I held on to the door and pressed the imaginary brake at my feet.

When we awoke the next morning, it was snowing and overcast. We skied together on the bunny hill to warm up and then we did a couple of beginner runs. “Mommy, my face is freezing,” My daughter exclaimed a little bit after lunch. “I don’t want to ski anymore.” I understood her complaint. The winds were gusting and it was snowing. The problem was that we had two more days of skiing. “Fine,” I said, thinking that I was better off to take her in than to force the issue. “Let’s go for a swim and meet Luke and Daddy later.”

Off to the pool we went. Two and a half hours later, waterlogged and tired, we went back to the room to sit by the fire and have dinner. My mind was racing towards the next day when the children were in ski school and I would ski with my husband.

I wasn’t sure that I would be able to ski very well. It had been nine years since I had been to Colorado and so much has happened with my body. I used to run more, ski more and do everything more, now I have had major surgery twice and been through chemotherapy. Would my body cooperate? I would find out soon enough.

I sent the children off to ski school the next morning with facemasks and goggles because it was so windy and cold. After leaving them, I joined my husband on the lift to go up the mountain. I looked down at the beautiful snow and thought, “Sure, I can do this.” Then we got further up the mountain. The winds were blowing fiercely and the chairlift swayed side to side. Again, I thought, “Sure, I can do this.” We got off the lift and started down our first run. The snow was blowing so hard I could barely see and all of a sudden my fear got the best of me. I looked down and the mountain was very steep. I had a pit in my stomach. How was I going to get down?

At that point it hit me. What was there to be afraid of? I already had been through one of the most difficult things I can imagine. My body survived and now I am strong again. I thought to myself, “I know I can do this. I am strong and healthy and this could be fun if I am not afraid.” So I looked back to my husband and challenged him. “See you to the bottom! Last one there buys hot chocolate!”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Is Estrogen my Nemesis?

I would like to think that estrogen is my nemesis, but in truth I don’t know that for sure. All I have to go on are my unscientific observations of my personal health when my estrogen levels are askew. Recently my body seemed to have a reaction to estrogen; I missed my dose of Tamoxifen one day and then proceeded to get the timing of my daily pill a little bit off for the entire week. What followed seemed to be an imbalance in my hormones. By the end of the week, I felt a migraine coming and then I became exceedingly anxious. The next day, I felt another migraine coming.

Suddenly I had a flashback to the two years before I got breast cancer when I suffered from migraines first before my period, then before and during my period, then before, during and after my period (which of course, is all the time). I pretty much felt anxious all of the time too. My neurologist explained that my body was reacting to the fall in estrogen that occurs right before the menstrual cycle and the fluctuation in my hormones was causing menstrual migraines. According to her, it just happens to some women.

I am not sure what happened next to cause the migraines to become more frequent but suddenly everyday seemed to become one big migraine. I was getting rebound headaches and taking quite a bit of migraine medication. Then I got breast cancer and the headaches completely stopped.

I asked my oncologist if there was any correlation between my migraines and menopause. “You see, Dr. F I have hardly had a migraine since I started taking Tamoxifen. Is that because I no longer have that drop in estrogen production once a month?” I said. He assured me that my observations were sound. The estrogen was more than likely causing the headaches and probably the anxiety too. I wish I had known then what I know now. I would have taken better precautions. I probably would have eaten less red meat and exercised more. I definitely would have done more yoga. That might have helped with the balance of the hormones.

Then again, maybe there was nothing I could have done to prevent the cancer. Maybe I was just destined to get it sooner or later. I fit the risk factor profile; early menstruation, having children late in life, and dense breast tissue to name a few.

Regardless, I am just thankful that I am able to take Tamoxifen to help stabilize my hormones and keep that estrogen at bay. Nemesis or not, I just need to continue to work at keeping everything balanced, which of course is where we all would like to be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Looking Forward

I really detest the month of February. It is cold, the days are short and I am just trying to look forward towards the warm weather. As I gazed at the snow this morning, I recollected going through my treatment two years ago. I was finishing chemo just about this time of year and I really needed to look forward rather than back. I became obsessed with going to a warm, relaxing place when it was all over. My plan had to include lots of sun and fun for the entire family. So where do you think I chose to go, of all the places in the world? Disney World, of course.

I remember feeling like I had won the Super Bowl. You know, that commercial where the guy yells, “We are going to Disney World,” as he holds up the trophy for winning the game. Maybe I didn’t have a trophy for winning my game but I certainly wanted to celebrate the same way those guys did. So I spent hours on line booking our travel for April.

I chose the month of April for the trip because I thought that I would be back to my old self and fully recovered by then. How silly of me! Hair takes a REALLY long time to grow, which of course I didn’t know, or maybe didn’t want to know. I was still bald when we went on our trip, much to my chagrin and I still had on my wig for dinner each night. In spite of the fact that I was still bald, the trip was wonderful. Everyone had fun and the warm sun heated my tired bones.

Looking back on it, I am so glad that I made the plans for that trip. It gave me hope. Hope for the future and a life full of more possibilities. I am also glad that we went to Disney. It was full of magic for my children and they desperately needed a little bit of magic.

So as I sit here this February, I will try once again to look forward and think of the rebirth of the world that will happen again this spring just like every other. As the trees grow leaves and the flowers blossom, I will try hard to remember that we, like the earth, will have the opportunity to reawaken our mind and spirit. For that, I look forward with gratitude.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The OMM Spa

The other night I had the opportunity to experience the relaxation of the OM Spa. Now this is no ordinary spa, this is a spa that was invented by my seven year old daughter. “Mommy, come in here and sit down. Please relax and enjoy.” I was tired and really didn’t feel like playing but I went along with the game. I looked over next to me and there was my little red head with her arms raised and her palms open, sitting cross legged on the floor.

“Omm, Omm’” she chanted as I watched in fascination. “Welcome to the OM Spa. We do yoga and give massages here. We are going to do a down dog and an up dog now.” She instructed me in a soft trance like voice. Now I was interested. “When you have finished that, you will need to lie down.” She continued in her yogi like voice. I did my yoga poses obediently and then I became parallel on the floor, wondering what was coming next.

“What kind of massage would you like Madame?” She requested. “I would like a back massage, please.” I replied, starting to really enjoy this game. Two little hands began to knead my sore and tired back. I was thoroughly amused and was actually feeling a bit more relaxed. “Would you like an arm massage too, Madame?” The “masseuse” requested. “Of course I would,” I answered.

My daughter, with a very serious face and demeanor proceeded to massage my toes, legs, hands, and feet. “Where did you learn about yoga and massages young lady?” I inquired. “From my mother, Madame, she does a lot of yoga in our family room and she gives us massages in the morning sometimes.” I thought about this and realized how important my role is as a mother. “Well, young lady, it looks like you learned your lessons well and I know your mother is proud.” I responded, feeling both very proud and overjoyed. I guess that the OM Spa’s approach to wellness works, and I hope I will be invited back soon.