Sunday, March 1, 2015

The one where I am so stupidly grateful.

For those of you following along at home, here's an update.

I made it through my first round of chemo just fine. It was a little dicey for a few hours with a nausea that was pretty intense, but nothing a few pills couldn't fix. The day after was pretty much a blur. (I slept through most of it.) Then each day after that got progressively better and I felt like Jenn again within 3-4 days. So, now I know what that's like and am prepared for the next one. As of right now, the hardest part for me is walking into the infusion room and being the youngest one in there. It's a weird feeling to see pity in the eyes of other folks who are on the same damned boat as me. Just another reminder that even us younger folks need to be diligent in maintaining our health, regularly getting check ups, doing self exams (breast and testicular), and so on.

Just a gentle reminder to the ladies to go ahead and give yourself a breast exam. DO IT.
image found on the internet - colleenclarkart.tumblr - Thanks Colleen Clark!

Also, can I just say that my litte Sigourney Weaver port is a frickin' godsend!! Honestly, I was so squicked out by the idea of having that device inserted into my body, but now I cannot be more relieved that I have it. Thanks, Sigourney. The veins in my hands and arms are so thankful. You can see in the pic below the little "scar" mark from where they put in Sigourney, and then the little white circle is actually like a capped needle that just pops on top of my port and the meds go in! Pretty slick (and painless) deal.

Now here's the thing. I've had some time to sit and stew and ponder and think. What I've come to know with 100% certainty is that my support system is as wide as it is deep and I am just not sure if I could be any more grateful, thankful, lucky, and happy to have you all. From the funny text messages to the Facebook PMs, to the IM's, the dinners you have cooked, the cards you have sent, and the rage you have expressed on behalf of my situation is almost overwhelming. I don't know that this process will ever be easy, but you all make it bearable. Thank you, thank you, thank you x 1,000. To know that you're there for me, Ben, and Sadie is such a relief and a comfort. I'm doing my very best to make sure that I am passing along all of the light and love, however I can. We've made cookies for the staff at the cancer center, and I'm planning on bringing the nurses donuts on chemo day. Gotta keep the goodness going.

Well, I don't want to sit at the computer any longer today. It's a lovely day and I feel good. I'm going to clean my house (never thought I'd be excited to do that, but here we are) and nag my kid about homework and practicing her guitar (again, never thought I'd be thrilled to do that either).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The One About Cancer.

Friends, there really isn't an easy way to bring this up. On Saturday, January 28th, 2015 I found two lumps as part of a routine self breast exam. One lump in each breast. For a minute I thought I was going to be a billionaire because I had found the insta-cure to tiny boobs. I had found the miracle plank workout that grew boob muscles. JACKPOT! But then reality hit and I remembered that my mom, grandma, and my two aunts have all battled breast cancer.

Guys, it's true. I have breast cancer. I'm 32 years old and I definitely have breast cancer. I am 100% convinced that I saved my life by doing regular self breast exams. I have an aggressively growing cancer (cells growing at a rate of 82%). Had I not gone immediately to the doctor after discovering my lumps, I might not be in early stages of cancer. I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR EVERY WOMAN TO DO REGULAR SELF BREAST EXAMS!! Don't know how? No big deal. Go here and the American Cancer Society will tell you how:  Seriously. You don't need insurance or an appointment, just do it in the shower, or when you lay down for bed. The best defense is good offense. Or should I say #TheBreastDefenseIsGoodOffense. Defend your boobs, ladies. If you don't want to perform the self exam yourself, ask your husband/wife/partner/friend/someone you trust.

So anyway, modern medicine has come a long long way. And thank goodness because my terrifying fear of needles was going to pose a large large problem. So, let me introduce you to Sigourney Weaver. She's my tiny little alien inside my body. Sigourney is a fancy port that stays under my skin and allows the best nurses ever (for real, my nurses are amazing) to do blood draws and administer my chemo just by plugging into my port.
Sigourney Weaver IRL

What Sigourney looks like under my skin. 

So, I've got great doctors, amazing nurses, the cancer center staff are unbelievable (yes, we've made them cookies already). I've got love, support, family, friends, insurance, and good anti-nausea meds. I have also got about another week or two with my hair. So, I went ahead and chopped it early so that I could donate to Locks of Love. (If you have 10" of hair that you'd like to donate, check out Locks of Love.)
Before "the cut"
After "the cut"

Then I went to play around with wigs. Still not sure how I feel about the wig. It's quite an investment. I felt better about some options as opposed to others:
Very librarian chic. I kind of like this one. Makes me want to say words like "Money Penny". 
Maybe a little too Pulp Fiction?
Okay, okay, okay. I think that's enough heavy stuff for now. Is it scary? Yes. Am I determined? Yes. Will I ever be alone in this fight? No. And now the big question. The thing everybody wants to can I help? What Can I Do? Honestly, you can make sure that every single woman you love checks her breasts regularly for lumps. It can save her life. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Music. More than just boogie down tunes.

If you know me at all, you know that I love music. I will shush you in the truck when a good song comes on. I will dance in any Target or grocery store or waiting room if one of my jams comes over the speakers. I have very specific play-lists for happy days, crappy days, melancholy days, etc. Music matters to me in a way that is hard to express.

BUT, I have finally found a way to explain it. Sort of. The look on the guy's face at 4:30 in the video below is everything. It's love, it's hope, it's faith, it's happiness...all of it. That's what music does.

Whether you are playing music or listening to music, it can be whatever you need it to be. Music never asks you "why" and it doesn't ask for anything in return. (Well, it might ask for $0.99 if you want to download it...)

Also, this is what writing does for me. It lets me feel whatever I need to feel. It lets me get out whatever I've been harboring inside. It doesn't ask me why and it doesn't ask for anything in return. So, on that note, I'm going to make a pot of coffee, hit "play" on a meticulously chosen list of tunes, sit in my favorite chair, open up my notebook, and write..and write, and write, and write, until I get it all out. Then I'll sing and dance...and dance, and dance, and sing until I fill it back up.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Not just a's a home.

Growing up, I lived in 15 different houses. I can mark time in my head based on which house I was living in. When I say that I hate moving, I really mean it. Moving makes me physically ill. January 16, 2015 was the ninth anniversary of officially owning my own home. My little family has lived in this little house for nine years -- the most amount of time I have ever lived in one house.

On those particular days where I feel defeated by the world, I remind myself that things could certainly be worse and I am so damn lucky to have the life I do. There is a specific kind of comfort in coming home after a shitty day, flopping on your couch, wrapping yourself up burrito style in a quilt your great grandma made, all while fending of slobbery kisses from your dogs, and listening to your husband and child make dinner for you in the kitchen. Because they want to make you happy. Because they care. It's one of the top five best feelings in the universe. Not everyone gets to have this feeling because not everyone has a happy little house with a happy little family inside. It is really hard to hold on to the mad/sad when you find yourself in a vortex of good.

So yeah, it's not just a's a home. It's a place where people come to hang out and just be. My house is home to more folks than just my little family. A couch to crash on while you're going through a divorce, a garage where we play darts when you're stressed about work, a patio where we barbecue and reminisce around the fire, a front porch that is "base" for neighborhood kids playing tag, a kitchen to hang out in while we make potluck style dinner and share heavy of right now I have three kinds of beer in my fridge that folks have left because they know they'll be back to drink it.

I don't think in all the years I've been writing that I have ever written a poem about a house -- or more specifically, a home. I guess it's time to give that a whirl. Posted below is my start. I don't want to put any more on this blog because after some more work (read: blood, sweat, possibly tears), I think this might be something I will eventually want to submit.

House Home

What is the most amazing thing about my house?
The folks who come inside
and make it my home.

The friends and family who walk in,
who comfortably open my fridge,
who know which cupboard holds my coffee mugs.

I own this structure
the wood and cement,
the plaster and lathe,
and I keep building it up
fleshing it out
filling it with heart

but you have the guts...

Yes. This is my home. Isn't it the cutest bungalow EVAR!?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I tried to name this post, but they all sounded like Nicholas Sparks book/movie titles...

(Seriously, I tried to come up with a good name for this post, but they all started to sound like Nicholas Sparks book/movie titles..."a walk in their shoes", "a mile in his shoes", "a walk to remember", etc.)

So, there is that famous saying, "until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes," or some variation thereof. I have done that. Literally.

Many moons ago, my baby brother outgrew a pair of Chuck Taylors. He outgrew them in less than a year so they were still in pretty good shape. Being the kind and gentle giant he is, he gave them to his big sister. At the time, he was 10 and I was 25.

Now, I'm 31 and the shoes have started to quite literally fall apart. The bends around the toe area (you know where they crease when you walk?) have split apart. Threads are coming undone at the seams and are starting to fray. The black trim around the shoes has left for parts unknown. Every time I take them off, I need to dump out the little pieces of rubber that brake off in crumbles from somewhere in the heel area. It reminds me of shaking the sand out of my shoes after running around on a playground.

"The" shoes.

Another shot of "The" shoes.

...and the required pic of me and my baby brother. We're at a Husker basketball game. GO BIG RED!

The point I'm trying to make is that these are more than "just shoes". They are happiness wrapped in memories. I remember the first time I put these on my feet. I remember my brother being so excited that we wore the same size shoes. It was one of the few things we had in common at the time. Believe me when I say it's not always easy to find the middle of a Venn Diagram for a 10 year old boy and a 25 year old woman. I tried the shoes on, they fit, and I didn't take them off - - just continued to wear them even though they didn't match my clothes and were not the best shoes for riding horses. (Our activity of choice on that particular day.) I remember thinking that these shoes jumped from playgrounds and P.E. to working in an office and standing in line at the DMV. But that didn't really matter. He liked the shoes, I liked the shoes, and the "hand-me-up" made us laugh.

For the last six years, these shoes have been a constant reminder of my baby brother, and have made me smile each and every time I put them on my feet. (I feel like you should know that my baby brother, as of right now, is 16 years old, 6'5" tall, and wears size 15 Nike's.) It was much harder than I thought it was going to be to put them aside and say goodbye. Seriously, it's just a pair of shoes, right? Wrong.

Well, I did just what you would expect me to do. I stewed on it, felt all the feels, and then wrote. Here's the beginning of a rough draft of a poem you probably guessed was coming. I don't really like it, but it's what I've got right now. Poems come in fits and starts and sometimes I really suck at writing them. Anyway, here's the "poem" as it stands:

Yours, then mine. 

Shit-kickers, Mile-high heels, Jesus Joggers, and Waffle Stompers.
It's not the shoes that make the man, but where he goes and how he takes care of them.
Right? Right.

All shoes can be dancing shoes with the right music.
All shoes are created equal. Just like the people who wear them.
Right? Right.

Hand-me-downs or up-cycled.
Thrift store bought or Saturday night swap between girlfriends.
When I put your shoes on my feet, my toes curl into the grooves you made.
My heels are cradled by your indentations.

Your indentations, but my intentions.
Your old shoes, but my new journey.