Thursday, October 8, 2009
finished radiation treatments about two weeks ago and I asked the therapist to snap my smiling face next to my "home away from home" for 6 weeks. I knew all of you would love to see where I spent so much time. I'm also going to share the cookies that I made for all of my therapists and the staff at the radiation center. I wanted to do something special for them, so I decided to recreate the radiation machine in cookie form! LOL I'm sure they had never seen a cookie quite like this before!
They are truly a very special group of people and they made a difficult time a lot easier. The weekend following the end of my radiation treatments I went to Chicago and stayed with my daughters Carly and Jessica. My sister flew in from Dallas, and my youngest daughter, Rachel, came up from college in Indianapolis. We all walked in the "Race for the Cure" in Grant Park. We had an amazing time, the only down side was that I came down with a horrible cold. Let me tell you though, I was actually glad to be PLAIN OLD SICK and not cancer sick...so there is a bright side to everything! :-) I have tons of pics from the walk, but will wait until the next post and show you some of my favs. I also have the most recent pic of me taken at school this morning. I thought you'd all like to see my hair "progress." It's coming in quickly and is now fuzzing out on the sides and in the back. I've tried to use gel to tame it, but it's no use. It's also wavy on the back of my head, but nowhere else. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next.
I have my next herceptin infusion on Monday and I have begun taking my "five year" medication, which along with the herceptin, will help stop the cancer cells from reforming in my body. Both of which are a WONDERFUL thing! Life seems to be getting back to normal and I for one am very glad. Now if anybody knows a way to keep chatty fifth graders quiet, please let me know. It's nice to be worrying about "normal" things for a change! :-)
Have great weekend!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Radiation is going well (as well as radiation can go I guess) and the only issue I've had is that I've broken out in a radiation rash, which they told me is common. I had tiny little red bumps in the area receiving treatment which reminded me of chicken pox. (no, I'm not showing you a pic of that!) It was extremely itchy!! They recommended cortisone cream and I raced to the local pharmacy and picked some up. It did help and I'm continuing to slather it on each day. Speaking of days...I only have SEVEN DAYS LEFT of radiation treatment! Everyone chant with me...HIP HIP HOORAY! I'm sooooooo looking forward to being finished with this part of my treatment.
Maybe things can get back to being semi normal for awhile.
FYI...I love my new fifth grade class and I am extremely happy to be back at school. I am so lucky to work with such a fabulous staff that continue each and every day to show me their love and support, as well as the many school families that have told me how happy they were to have me back. It means the world to me. Thank you SO very much to all of you.
Have a wonderful weekend...I'm planning on sleeping through most of it! :-)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I've now had 12 radiation treatments and so far so good. It's just stressful to be going and coming every single day, as well as getting there ON TIME! The treatment itself isn't painful, except keeping my left arm up over my head for 30 minutes isn't very "comfortable." Alas, I fear that the left side of my upper body will take quite some time to recover, and I've been told that it may never be the same. I will just have to adjust and get used to how it feels...or should I say how it DOESN'T feel since there is little sensation there. I have been asked quite often what the machine looks like that administers the radiation, so I thought that I'd let you see what it looked like.
Basically, I lie on my back on the bed of the machine. My body is kept in place by lying in a cradle that was molded to my body. I'm sent in, and the machine does the rest. I just lie there, sometimes listening to my iPod (it's broken now however) or just thinking about random things.
Today, I think I actually fell asleep for a little while because before I knew it, I was done! Remember the movie, "Ground Hog Day?" Where the exact same thing happens day in and day out? Well, that's exactly what this feels like. Same procedure, same people, just another day. But, this too shall pass. I am a little worried about teaching and receiving my treatment on the same day, but that won't happen until September 8, so I'll try not to worry about it right now. I will figure out a way to handle both at the same time. I may in bed at 6:00 PM but at least I'll get through it.
I now have 8 weeks worth of hair growth and everyone who sees me exclaims over how "LONG" it is. LOLOLOL I guess "long" is a relative term. I'm just happy that I'm no longer bald, so ANY hair to me is a welcome sight. I'll have to post a new hair pic soon.
Thanks for checking in. I'll try to not go so long before my next post.
Friday, August 14, 2009
When I was "mapped out" last week they made something called a cradle for me. Basically, it's a mat that I lie on every day that is molded to the upper half of my body with both of my arms extended up over my head. I use my right hand to hold onto my left wrist. That was a definite OUCH when they did this the first time as my left arm doesn't extend very much due to the surgery. But I've been doing stretching exercises at home and now, even after the third treatment, it goes into position much easier. Anyway, this cradle is waiting for me on the flat bed of the scanner when I get there and it's covered with a sheet. I lower myself into "position" and lie still. The room is freezing, but at least I can wear my pants! (use your imagination for the rest of me! lol) Yesterday I remembered to bring slipper socks and at least my feet were warm and toasty as well.
The techs then make sure I'm in the right position and line up my TATOOS (three tiny ones but permanent thank you very much) with a laser level (inquiring minds wanted to know how they knew I was in position...so I asked) and I'm ready to go in. The flat bed moves me into the unit (like an MRI machine for those that have had one) and scans me for several minutes to make sure everything is in the right position. Then I move back out of the machine, still lying in the cradle on my back, freezing, and wait. and wait. and wait. Finally a tech comes back into the room, pushes the button and I move back into the tunnel of the machine and the radiation begins. No, it's not like a laser light show, although that would be cool! Basically there is only a very loud noise from the machine which is constantly circling my body. I will be able to replicate that noise on demand (for anyone that would like to hear it) for the rest of my life. After about 15 minutes I come back out and that is the end of that.
I finally asked yesterday if I could wear an ipod while getting my treatment because nobody even mentioned that to me. I was told,"Yes, LOTS of patients do that." Well thanks for letting me know. Today I will have my ipod charged and ready to go. I'm taking suggestions for what to listen to.
As of today, the only side effect I've had is being tired. So what else is new?! I keep looking at the skin in that area to see if I'm glowing (kidding) but it looks the same to me. I'll keep you posted.
Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for checking in on me.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
There is a strange resemblance between my head and the ever popular Chi shown above! I do have a covering of "hair" on my head and it does stick out in strange directions. Thank goodness mine is not green and sprout-like but even that would be welcome at this stage of the game. I couldn't resist the urge yesterday to run a comb through it. OK I know that was silly, but I just wanted to go through the motions! I'm even using a pin point amount of shampoo on my head and lathering it up. LOL The bravest thing I did this week however was going out into public without my trusty bandana on my head. Steve and I ran errands on Sunday and I decided to go au naturel. I did take my baseball cap with me in case I chickened out, but in the end I walked all the way through the computer store and Trader Joe's market with just my growing fuzz. It seems I am making progress after all! :-)
Tomorrow I have my last "filling" at the plastic surgeon (THANK GOODNESS is all I can say about that) and Thursday I have my second visit to the radiologist and she will possibly map me out for treatments that hopefully will start next week. I also have my second herceptin infusion next week at camp chemo. All in all things are moving along and with my newly "sprouted" head of hair the only place to go is forward!
Thanks again for checking in and keeping me in your thoughts.
Monday, July 27, 2009
It's actually more like fuzz but at this point I'm happy to have anything! My husband told me yesterday that it was actually "blowing in the wind!" LOLOLOL I'm thinking it's more like Ronald McDonald hair...you know the way his sticks out straight from the side of his head. It's still very uneven but there is a definite shadow everywhere. I examine it closely everyday and who knows, by the time school starts after Labor Day, there might be actually be full coverage. (even if it's just fuzz) I'll keep you posted...because I know inquiring minds want to know! :-)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I had my consultation this past Tuesday with the radiologist and she told me that I would begin radiation as soon as the plastic surgeon was done "filling me up." She explained that before radiation treatment can start, she needs to map out the places on my body that will be receiving the radiation. Once she maps the areas, I cannot be changing sizes which is why the plastic surgeon needs to finish what he is doing first. I spoke with him when I saw him on Wednesday to receive my second "filling." Hopefully after my third visit (next Wed.) we will be able to evaluate if I will need a fourth visit or not. I'm kind of hoping that we are DONE after next week. I also had my first infusion of Herceptin at camp chemo and I am happy to report that no side effects surfaced after the treatment. Turns out that my next infusion is not for three weeks...yeah! I also seem to be growing fuzz on my head! You really can't call it hair yet, but I'm happy to see whatever it is.
So all seems well with me and the universe. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that it remains that way.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Well, a week has passed since I told all of you about the new "regime" lined up for me that will keep me cancer free. (yeah!) I can honestly tell you that I've ridden the roller coaster of emotions in the past week. In fact, you could say that at one point on my ride, the cart derailed, crashed, and burned. Yes, it was that bad. But....I've found my way out, and can honestly say that it was my family and friends (yes that means all of you) that helped me find my way back.
It seems unbelievable that my journey started only seven months ago. Boy, does it SEEM longer than that. What I thought was going to be my journey's end in a short amount of time, is now not to be. But that's ok now. I'm really not sure why I was chosen to travel this path. The reason may be clear one day, or maybe I'll never know. What I do know is how much I have to live for and that in itself is what keeps me going and brings me up when I'm feeling low. I think it takes a disease like cancer to make you think about priorities and what's important. It all boils down to what kind of person you are and how you choose to live your life. It's a good thing that I've always been a "glass half full" kind of person!
It's really hard to thank everyone who has helped me along the way. But I would like to try my best to thank:
1. EVERYONE that has been reading my blog and following my story
2. Family and friends that have left me words of encouragement on the blog
3. Friends who don't (or can't figure out how) to read the blog but STILL take the time to email
me to find out how I'm doing (you know who you are... and so do I! lol)
4. Friends that check in with me by phone instead of emailing
5. Friends that take the time to send me cards (LOVED the buff muscle guy I recently received)
6. Friends that bring YUMMY Pot Roast (complete with homemade cookies and bags of choc!)
and Chicken Enchilada dinners...right to my house!
7. Friends that take time from their busy lives to pick me up and drive me to the doctor (XOXO)
8. Daughters that call frequently, from far away (MA, CA, IL) to check in on how I'm feeling
9. Mothers and sisters that send a LARGE candy basket filled with nostalgic childhood goodies
(who remembers SKY bars Mallo Cups?)
10. Sisters who give up vast amounts of their own personal time to look after me! (What would I have done without St. Melissa?!)
11. Brother in laws that can be counted on for ANY and EVERY thing if I so need it
12. Mother in laws that send beautiful bouquets of flowers along with hand written poems and
father in laws that worry about me on a daily basis
13. Sister in laws that call all the way from ALASKA to see how I'm doing
14. Dear friends that have volunteered their time to help me get ready for the new school year
15. Friends from far away that send DELICIOUS home made goodies in to me in the mail
16. A husband that tries his best to take care of me and tries to do the million and one things
that I used to be able to do around the house by myself
I know that when I come back to read this, I will remember someone that I've forgotten to write down. But know that in my heart, you are remembered, and that's where it counts.
Each and every day it is because of all of you that I am able to continue to fight this fight. Thanks so much for always being there.
This afternoon I have my first consultation with the radiologist. Hopefully she will let me know when radiation can start, and I will let you know what she says. I also have my first infusion of Herceptin this afternoon which should take about 90 minutes. (only the first round will be this long)
Lots of love,
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I had a round of doctor's appointments this week starting on Monday. My dear friend Mary (from school) picked me up and drove me to my oncologist. This was my first visit with him since I had finished chemo. He examined me said I was doing well and then told us to meet him in the consult room. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to hear what he told me. (here comes the "lows") Even though I am cancer free (definitely a "high") in order to keep me that way, I must have my port put back in (surgically!) because I need to receive infusions of a drug called
"herceptin" for up to one year!!! I can honestly tell you that when he was telling me this, I was unable to process it. I just looked at Mary (thank GOODNESS she was there with me) and started to cry. Just when I thought the light was visible at the end of the tunnel, it turns out that it's just a dull glimmer. Herceptin is an antibody that targets Her2 Neu, a protein on the surface of certain breast cancer cells. Sadly, my cancer is Her2 Neu POSITIVE. :( Which means that taking this drug will prevent my cancer cells from reforming...which don't get me wrong is a GREAT thing! But I was unaware that this was an option for me, so it came out of left field and left me visibly upset. The infusions will be given every three weeks, except the first three, which need to be given three consecutive weeks in a row to make sure there are no reactions.
OK take a deep breath now. I KNOW it's a lot to take in. But as my mother told me, "Joanne, it's just an unexpected bump in the road, and it's a bump that will keep you CANCER FREE." Of course I said that I was planning on going back to school this Fall, and they told me that there was no reason why I couldn't. That's all I needed to hear. Herceptin is not like chemo. It does not keep hair from growing, or have any of the horrible side effects that chemo does. (Yeah...my fuzz can keep growing) It specifically targets the bad cells and keeps them from reproducing, which is a WONDERFUL thing!!
After the oncologist left the consult room, the physician's assistant came in and I told her how shocked I was to be told the news. Of course I asked why? She told me that nothing about my cancer journey has been "normal" or followed a regularly prescribed route. LOLOLOLOL Mary and I began to laugh, and Mary said, "She's EXACTLY like that a school, and always marches to the beat of a different drummer, why should her cancer be any different!!!!" Of course, those of you that know and love me know how true that is. Yes, I do love being an "ORANGE" person, but who knew that being orange would extend into cancer as well! (for those of you who are clueless...there is a personality test based on the colors blue, gold, green, and orange. When our school staff was "tested" lol I was the ONLY orange person on the staff!)
So, as someone special that I know says, "Onwards and Upwards!" I'll be darned (kids read this blog) if I've come this far, fought this long, to let this get me down now. I will do whatever it takes to get to the finish line. And I WILL be back at school this Fall...just watch me.
Today's appointment boys and girls is with the plastic surgeon where the process to "pump me up" (as our favorite Calif. governor would say) will begin. I also have a consult a week from today to begin my radiation. Is your head spinning? I know mine is! This is the immediate plan:
Port Replacement (back to hospital to have this surgically done in O.R. in a couple of weeks)
Weekly "pumping up" from plastic surgeon
Herceptin Infusion weekly for first 3 weeks, then every 3 weeks after that (back to camp chemo)
Radiation daily (yes I said daily M-F) for approx. 5 weeks (I'll let you know when that will start
after I see that doctor next Wed)
So dear friends, I still need you more than ever! With your love and support I've come this far and I will continue the fight.
All of my love to everyone reading this.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Yes, the "third time WAS the charm!" The surgery took place as scheduled, although there was one brief moment where I panicked that it would NOT happen. After the epic road trip to California with Carly, I flew to Dallas for two days to stay with my sis (then she would fly back to MI with me for surgery.) We were inside a Crate and Barrel Store and my husband called to say that I needed to call Dr. Kirby's (my surgeon) office right away! They had phoned and left a message on our answering machine. OK, my sis and I gave each other the panic look and did think, "Oh no, not again." I phoned the office only to find out that surgery had been backed up by 45 minutes. Whew!! We reported to the hospital at 7:15 and they were wheeling me in to the O.R. by 8:30. When I came out THIS time...the girls were gone, and I had had these rubbery strange tubes coming from where they used to be! I guess I was REALLY out of it because I kept telling EVERYONE I spoke to about a cramp in my left leg...multiple times! LOLOL Well, it must have hurt! I spent the night in the overnight ward and was the only patient there, with two fabulous nurses at my beck and call. One of them asked me, "Do you like chocolate?" LOLOL You know the answer to that one! She continued, "I know where I can find us some in the hospital!" And she was off. She appeared a short time later with mini candy bars of all kinds, and I did eat one right away. Chocolate can make anything feel better I figured!
I went home Friday morning about 10:30 and settled into the downstairs pullout bed. There wasn't any way I would be able to navigate the steps upstairs to a bedroom. My sister assumed the position of head nurse, water/food nazi, exercise director (JOANNE...you need to walk three times around the family room, after you take the 20 steps to the bathroom! Never mind that those 20 steps seemed to take me an hour to get to the toilet!), and most importantly...the chief drainer of "THE TUBES." (said in a deep and ominous voice) What the heck ARE these things?
They are sutured to my chest, two on each side and are approximately two feet of long rubbery tubing that end in plastic grenade type "thing." I have named them Lucy, Ethel, Ricky, and Fred! The "grenade" is where the "stuff" drains from the surgery and all four have to be emptied and measured twice a day then entered onto a chart, so inquiring minds (not me) will know their output. LOL Like ANYONE would want to know this! Anyway, my sister, Melissa,has done ALL of the above and MORE on a daily basis since I've come home. In my opinion, she is a SAINT (never mind that we are Jewish...she still qualifies for Sainthood) But nothing that Saint Melissa had done, could prepare her for what she would have to do this past Monday. (You'll understand in a minute why a Jew should be granted Sainthood)
I got up Monday, feeling good and drank some tea and had a piece of toast. I thought, "You know, I'm feeling pretty darn good, I should take a shower today!" Since I hadn't had one in four days, my family was appreciative.(the dogs didn't seem to mind) My sis helped me upstairs to the bathroom, turned on the water, and helped me into the shower. OHHHHHH did that shower feel good! I even turned the warm water up a little. (which will turn out to be a bad idea) My sis stayed in the bathroom while I let the warm water wash over me. I told her, "This feels GREAT! I should have done this a few days ago." I realized I couldn't stay in there forever, no matter how wonderful it felt, and I turned off the water. That's the last thing I remember Blog fans! Remember my little "episode" in the snow this past winter during chemo?? Yes, fans, I fainted dead away in the shower! I've done it again!
I have no recollection of ANY of this, so I'm just reporting what my sis told me. But, she went to hand me a towel, and she said that she could tell from the look on my face that I was "going down." Luckily she got her arm around my back and helped to lower me rather than have me go crashing down. (Hey, there was no snow this time to cushion the blow) OK, I know this is not a pretty thought, but picture my sis, standing over this wet, naked, bald, boobless wonder lying unconscious on the bottom of the tub and getting no response. I scare myself just looking at the bald and naked part! (Are you seeing now where automatic Sainthood needs to be granted to someone who has done what she has done?) Apparently, she kept tapping my face and calling my name, but I was in that faraway place and didn't really hear or feel anything. After several attempts I heard her and came around, but only for a few seconds, and I passed out again. This happened a total of three times before she was able to rouse me. I managed to get to my knees and out of the tub.
When I was finally out of the tub, she sat me down on the toilet. That didn't last long though, as I proceeded to pass out one more time! Somehow after that, she moved me to my daughter Rachel's bed, and phoned the doctor. They said, "UMMMMM NOT normal, get her to the E.R." NO KIDDING...fainting four times in less than 15 minutes isn't normal???? Thanks! That will be $500.00!
My sister phoned my husband, he came home from work, and they both got me downstairs, and into the car. Back to the hospital. I was checked thoroughly: EKG, Blood Sugar, Chest Xray, and Blood Pressure. Turns out my blood pressure was REALLY low 87/55 and they started pumping me with fluids. After several hours there, and seeing a multitude of doctors (some so young they looked like Doogie Howswer! One did confide to me it was his very first day in surgical rotation and he was a third year med student, so only a STUDENT doctor, not a REAL one) they decided it was safe for me to go home. All my tests came back normal and my blood pressure was back to where it should be after all the fluids they gave me. The only thing they could come up with was that since I was dehydrated and in a warm shower (OK a slightly WARMER shower than my sis started for me) it made me dizzy and down I went.
Moral of the story: Do not take a warm shower several days after surgery, keep hydrating yourself until you feel like you are floating, and most importantly DO NOT SHOWER ALONE! ;)
Where do I submit my application to the church for our newest Saint? Saint Melissa Day will now be celebrated every year on July 6! St. Patrick's Day will never hold a candle to this one! Everyone raise their water bottle to my sister!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I know I've been a serious slacker once chemo finished! The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Rachel packed up and left to be a camp counselor in Mass. and I survived a cross country trip with Carly to Los Angeles! I'll have to write all about the trip when I have more time.
I returned to Michigan via Dallas with my sister, Melissa, in tow. She will be with me for the next week helping with post surgery "stuff." My surgery is this morning at 8:15 at the Alice Gustafson
section of St. Joe's Hospital and will last approximately 6 hours. YIKES!! Since I'll be in la la dream land, I'll be counting on all of you for positive thoughts and prayers. I know I will come through this and am looking forward to being cancer FREE!!
Well, my P.J.'s are packed, as well as my Ipod (I'll be spending the night at the hospital) and I'll see all of you on the other side of this.
I love you all, thanks for traveling on this journey with me.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Wow, does that sound good! Hard to believe that it was January when I began. Snow was everywhere (remember when I fainted in my backyard in the snow!) and now the sun is shining and the grass is green. The chemo chapter ends today and the surgery chapter will begin in 21 days. (once again, I'm counting) I do have to head back to camp chemo on Monday for a check up and I will also see my plastic surgeon that same day. What are my plans for the upcoming 21 days? Well, I'm taking a ROAD TRIP! You all know that my daughter Carly graduated several weeks ago and even though she did graduate she has one class left to take and the class is in Los Angeles! La La land, home of Rodeo Drive and the excessively rich and beautiful people. She will be taking a four week class at Raleigh Studios.
(Raleigh Studios is the longest continuously operating studio in the country. Raleigh's entertainment companies comprise the largest independent studio and production support operation in the Nation. Not bad, huh?!)
Since she needs to get to Hollywood, I have volunteered to be her co-captain in what is sure to be the road trip of the century! lol Hey, I just need to get the "heck out of here" before I'm once again tied down from surgery, recovery, and radiation (EVERY day for 6 weeks). Besides, what's a mom for! :-) Stay tuned to the blog where I will report from the road (hopefully).
Also in the works for the next 21 days is my youngest daughter, Rachel, leaving to the Berkshire mountains in Mass. for her summer job as a camp counselor, and my oldest daughter, Jessica, coming home for my surgery and then a friend's wedding. No rest for the weary (in this case chemo weary lol)
So dear friends, one chapter ends, and another begins. But isn't this what life is about? Thanks for your continued support and love. I could NOT do this without any of you.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I can now say: ONE MORE CHEMO TREATMENT TO GO!!!!!!! WOOO HOOO!!! Sorry, just a LITTLE excited! :-)
It was fairly quiet at camp chemo this past Tuesday. By 11:00 the morning "gang" had left, and the afternoon "gang" hadn't showed up yet. I looked up at one point and it was just me and one other camper down on the other side of the room. In a very strange turn of events, there was a woman getting treated next to me when I first arrived, and her husband was keeping her company. We began to chat (doesn't take much to get me started lol) and it turned out that he had been the principal of MY elementary school for a very long time and retired the year before I began there! HOW STRANGE IS THAT! Of course we knew many people in common and it made the time go by quickly. When they finally got up to leave, I realized that the woman had been DONE with her treatment and they had just stuck around to talk with me. It was an absolute pleasure to talk with them, and it IS a very small world!
I also wanted to share a lovely poem that my sister sent to me, I think you will like it.
I Will Wear Pink
In celebration of those who have won their battle
Looking forward to the future, when one day we will find a cure
Living well, Loving much, and Laughing often
With excitement over the advances we have made
Eagerly awaiting the advancements yet to come
Remembering those that we have lost
Promising to show my support
In honor of all of those currently fighting the battle
Never giving up….
Knowing that There Is Hope!
Hope that put a smile on your face...I know it did on mine!
Have a great week!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
I woke up yesterday morning around 7:00 and went through my usual routine. Turned on the tv, fed the dogs, and made myself some tea. As usual, I had the channel 4 action news turned on (they are my favorite) and I listened while I busied myself in the kitchen. I heard the news reporter say that he was broadcasting from downtown Detroit where "Race For the Cure" was taking place that morning. What?!! Race For the Cure?? I had heard of the "Three Day Breast Cancer Walk" but didn't even know that today's race was going on. How could that be?? I've been sitting in chemo now every week for 10 weeks (not to mention Round 1 which started in January) you would think that somewhere along the way I would have heard about "Race For the Cure!" But I hadn't, so I turned and watched the newscaster for more information. Then he said the magic words, "There is still time to register for today's walk, some come on down and help fight breast cancer." Well, that's all I needed to hear! Being the impulsive person that I am (who me?) I got dressed, printed off directions to downtown Detroit (sorry, don't go there much) and jumped in the car! Half way down I-75 I did think, "am I crazy?" But I answered myself with a resounding YES...and kept driving. (absolutely no surprise to those that know and love me!) I felt compelled to be there. I know I'm not alone in this battle, but sometimes it feels like I am, and I just wanted to be with others (ok THOUSANDS) that knew how I felt. I had no idea the emotions that were going to come from this experience. But I was soon to find out.
After I parked the car, I started walking toward Comerica Park (where everything started) and all I could see was a "sea of pink" flowing down the streets. There were people everywhere! Two ladies passed me in the street and I asked them if I was going the right way. (nobody wants to get lost in Detroit) They took one look at me and started hugging me tightly (this was going to be happening a lot) and pointed me in the right direction. I found my way to the registration table, filled out the form, and paid my money. (proceeds go to Susan G. Komen foundation) I then proceeded to pick up my race number and tshirt. Now, survivors were supposed to get a pink tshirt, while everyone else received a white one. But considering how late I registered (like two seconds ago) I was told there were no pink shirts left. I said no problem and was about to walk away when a volunteer from behind the table came running over with a pink shirt! She said that it was THE VERY LAST ONE but it was a size small. Hmmmm...small and I have never been mentioned in the same sentence, but she told me to take it along with the white one. And I did and just draped it over my shoulder. I proceeded to walk around the giant lot in front of Comerica Park where booths were set up, freebies were getting handed out, and every kind of "PINK" piece of apparel was on sale. (I even saw dog collars with the breast cancer ribbon on them. (No, I refrained from buying one. But I did consider it! lol)
I headed over to where the race was starting on Woodward Avenue. It was a massive sea of humanity. It was standing room only and you were standing shoulder to shoulder. Now, by this time you have to know that I was standing there bald for the world to see. You see, my nose started running and I had no tissues. So I did the only thing an inventive person would do (no, I didn't wipe my nose on my sleeve) I took my bandana off and used that instead. Hence, my shiny bald head for THOUSANDS to see! Well, that's all it took. The rest of the race (walk) I was approached over and over again. People asked me my story and I gladly told them. I met the most amazing people, and they all showed me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I even received gifts from strangers. The first gift came from another survivor in a pink tshirt. She overheard me when someone asked me why I wasn't wearing my pink shirt. (remember...size
SMALL!) She approached me and said the shirt she was wearing was a large and she would gladly change shirts with me, as hers was too big. People suddenly formed a human "dressing room" around the woman to shield her, and she took off her shirt in the middle of Woodward Ave. to give it to me. I was so touched. I immediately put on MY pink shirt.
I was also given a pink rose by a man that walked over to me and said, "God Bless" and while I was walking another man gave me a beautiful bookmarker (which I can really use) with photos he had taken from Bryce Canyon in Utah which also had an inspirational poem written on it. It was such an emotional morning I really can't even put it into words.
The highlight of the walk however, had to be when I turned and saw my favorite channel 4 news anchors walking right behind me! Rhonda Walker and Guy Gordon. There they were... dressed in pink and walking to support the fight against breast cancer. I approached Rhonda for a picture
(I really do watch her every day!) and instead, she hugged ME!! I told her how I had seen the news that morning (channel 4 of course) andjumped in my car to come down. She called Guy over to tell him my story. I was overwhelmed to say the least and started tearing up. It turns out that the whole thing was recorded by the camera guy and I wound up being on the channel 4 news last night! Ahhh the hilights of fighting breast cancer :-) (well, there have to be SOME good things)
I also want to mention (for all my Riverside Elem. friends) that towards the second half of the walk, I looked to my left and saw my old friend Dana Gorman! (for non school blog readers she was the speech teacher in our building but went to a new school district several years ago) I was shocked and yelled over "DANA GORMAN!" She looked over, but had no idea who I was. In her defense, it is hard to recognize a bald woman in pink that you haven't seen for years. I said, "It's JOANNE SHEIMAN!" I got the puzzled look that I'm now used to getting and then she flew over to give me a hug. We have not been in touch and she had no idea that I had been diagnosed. She told me that her family has been participating for 17 years (sorry Dana if I got the number wrong) as her Aunt had passed away from B.C. many years ago. I walked with her family the rest of the way. THANKS Dana and Family! :-)
I happy to report that I completed the 5K walk (3.5 miles), took lots and lots of pictures, and have enough memories now to last a lifetime. I plan on joining The Race For The Cure for many years to come (next year I'll pre-register lol) and hopefully some of you reading this will join me.
Together WE CAN make a difference.
Enjoy the pics!
Had to include this pic...BALDIES UNITE!! :-)
There was LOTS of entertainment along the way...this was just one of the groups. I loved their outfits!
Me and the Channel 4 Action News team! Guy Gordon and Rhonda Walker!
Dana and me! It was SOOO good to see her!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I'm really excited (well, as excited as someone facing a bilateral mastectomy can be) that the next phase of recovery can begin. The only downside is that my surgeon said I will need to have radiation after the surgery which will be daily for 6 to 8 weeks! (each session is only 10-15 minutes, Mon-Fri, and I will be able to be back at school in the Fall!)
This is the next time line in my life. My surgery will be Thursday, July 2. I need to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. and the surgery will be 4-6 hours. When the surgeon is finished, the plastic surgeon will then step in and begin the reconstruction. When the plastic surgeon has completed what he needs to do (in about 4 weeks) then I can begin radiation. WHEW!! And I thought showing up at camp chemo once a week for 12 weeks was tough! But a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do...you know?
If all follows the plan, then by the end of September I should be finished. That will be just just about ten weeks short of the day that I was diagnosed. Quite a year. But in the end, worth everything that I've been through to be able to continue on my life's journey :-)
Today, I am a happy camper.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Today it's back to reality. I have a doctor's appointment at 1:30 and then it will be right into camp chemo for my treatment. I also have my appointment with my surgeon on Wednesday, hopefully she will be able to schedule my surgery after that appointment.
I am looking forward to the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" which is taking place at my local Middle School in a couple of weeks. Here are the details:
June 13th, 10 a.m. - June 14th, 10 a.m.
Pierce Middle School
Walk as little or as much as you can...
The goal is to have at least 1 team member walking the whole 24 hours.
10:00 a.m. Relay for Life Kick-off - Cancer survivor victory lap
10:00 p.m. Luminaria - hundreds, thousands of lit candles with messages to love ones written on them incircle the track.
1) Donate online to our team...click the link below and search for the team name Riverside Racers.
2) Purchase luminaria bags - $10/each. Decorate the bag in honor of your loved ones. Bags are displayed around the track at the luminaria ceremony Saturday night.
Everyone knows someone who is affected by cancer. Everyone walks for a different reason. Who will you relay for?
I've signed up to be a member of the team from my elementary school and can't wait to walk the "survivor's lap." Anyone reading this from Riverside Elementary that would like to join us is WELCOME! I'd love for you to walk with me. Please go to this link, and you can register online.
Team: Riverside Racers
On the homepage, look at the sidebar on right that lists "Top Participants." At the bottom of that box click on "View Participants" and scroll way down to the bottom of the list, and click on Riverside Racers. You will see our page and you can join or donate here.
*Questions or additional information can be answered by Shannon Wikle (Team Captain) at
248-568-5940 or email her at : firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd LOVE to see you there, and welcome the support of EVERYONE to fight this deadly disease.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
P.S. Chemo yesterday went just fine. My friend Margaret Risser kept me company and we never stopped talking for three hours straight. Thanks Margaret for keeping my mind occupied! :-)
(Only three more treatments to go!)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I had a VERRRRRRY exciting day today. I was able to go to my elementary school to participate in the assembly they had to honor the entire school for becoming a "Michigan Exemplary Blue Ribbon School." Yes...it IS as big a deal as it sounds. We are SOOOO proud!! The best part of the day was walking into my classroom to see my students. I surprised them (I was just sure someone would call to say it was a mistake and I couldn't come) and boy were they SURPRISED!
They flew over in about 5 seconds flat and I was getting the best hugs in the world. In fact, it was hard to get through the school without hugs coming from all directions. It sure did feel good to be missed! :-) :-) I did bring my camera, but I didn't take one picture. lol I was too busy saying hi and hugging people. It was a GREAT afternoon!
I'll check back in after Monday to let you know how I'm doing, but just know that after my visit to school today I'm feel PRETTY DARN GOOD!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
I'm also happy to report that today makes treatment #7, only 5 to go! Then on to surgery. (we'll deal with that later) The sun is shining here in Michigan (yeah!) and two weekends from now I'll be headed to Chicago to watch my daughter Carly graduate from college. :-) (I'll have chemo the Monday after I get back) So all in all life is good.
Have a wonderful weekend. Get out and enjoy the sunshine.
Joanne (still trying to get my water in every day...I'm just not much of a drinker. Unless
I'm headed out after work for adult beverages!)
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I'm just going to lay low the rest of the day and wait for my head to stop throbbing. Thanks to everyone that continues to check in on me. This too shall pass.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I've been feeling alright, no major side effects to write home about, except one. Just when I thought I couldn't possibly lose any more hair (I'm bald already so what else is there?) it seems that I'm destined to be eyebrowless. (OK I made that word up...but you know what I mean) I noticed a couple of weeks ago that my eyebrows seemed to be thinning out (and I wasn't even plucking them! lol) so I've been keeping a wary watch on them. Lo and behold in the last few days they have all but disappeared. There are a few stray hairs clinging for dear life, but it kind of reminds me of a man with a "comb over," and since I refuse to draw on scary eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil it is what it is. Even though it's scary to see...here's what I'm talking about.
WARNING: Seeing a close up of my dry skin can be hazardous to your health. Proceed with caution!
See what I mean?! The ones remaining seem to be clinging on for dear life! Well, even though they are few and far between I'm hoping the remaining hairs decided to stick around. If not, anyone have a stick on mustache that I can trim? (Yes, I'm getting the moisturizer right NOW!)
Joanne (Happy to report that I've taken my coffee maker back out and I had a cup of coffee this morning.Life is good with caffeine again...eyebrows or no eyebrows)
Friday, April 17, 2009
I just wanted to let my CC friends know how much it means to me to have all of you still checking in on me. ALL of the support I receive helps me keep the positive attitude that I have. You are all very special to me. xox
Jodi...my cousin has invited me to her summer home in Maine in August. I'm shooting for enough of a recovery that I'll be able to go. I know Maine is a big place, and I'm not sure exactly where she is (I'll find out) or where you are...but I'm hoping I'll be able to make a side trip to a friend ;-) to say hello!
Lots of love to my CC friends
It seems these posts get further and further apart. It's not because I don't want to talk with all of you, quite the opposite. Nothing much to say. The past week since camp chemo has gone fairly well. I had a day or two with some stomach problems and I just dealt with it until it passed. I'm wondering though if the stomach aches had something to do with not having the benadryl last Friday? I will ask them about that today while I'm there. (Yes, it's Friday again already! My how time flies!) Today will be Round Two, Visit 5. After today I have 7 treatments to go. (Yes, I AM counting) Today marks a milestone for me...I'm going to chemo ALONE. I figure it's about time.
Lots of people at "camp" are there by themselves and I decided that I'd give it a try. I'm sure all will go well. (I'll be sure to tell you if it doesn't lol)
On a non cancer note (which is always a good thing) the weather here in Michigan has FINALLY turned nice. I'm not holding my breath though because I'm sure it won't last. I have been enjoying it while it's here though. I've been walking my dogs every day. We went to the vet last week for routine shots and Cubby is 9 pounds over weight! (who's ever heard of a fat Australian Shepherd?!) We have changed her name to Chubby! Even little Frankie who only weighs 9 lbs could lose a few ounces the vet said! So walking we will go. It's not like the walking won't do me good as well! ;-)
Well, time to get ready for "camp." Have a great day, get out and enjoy the sunshine where you live!
Joanne (my only beverages these days are water and Earl Grey Green tea)
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Joanne (back to drinking Earl Grey Green Tea)
Thursday, April 9, 2009
NO charging your cell either) Let's just say that I sat around praying for the power to return. I wish that I had taken a picture of myself to show all of you how I was keeping warm. Hat on head, Hoodie over shirt with HOOD ON and tied! Scarf around outside of hoodie wrapped around my neck and pulled up to my nose, which was COLD. Sweat pants, socks, and my fur lined Crocs on my feet. Sitting under two thick blankets. Quite the sight. The good news is I spent the morning reading (what else was there to do) and I finished an entire book :-) The power eventually came back on at 2:00 P.M. It had shut off at 3:00 A.M. the previous night. Twelve hours without power. At least it wasn't as bad as last summer when the tornado blew through town (I'm not joking either) and we went DAYS without power. Is it better to lose power in the winter and FREEZE (at least you can bundle up and you don't have to empty your refrigerator into the garbage) OR is it better to lose power in the summer and know that you won't be cold
(but you WILL sweat to death in your sleep without the A.C.) and live out of an ice chest? I'll let you decide. I for one just feel lucky that right now I can flip a light switch and the lights turn on.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Tonight is the BIG game here in Detroit and even though I'm not a huge basketball fan I will be watching the game. And for all of my friends at school that went to State (are you listening
Jan H. ?) all I can say is, "GO GREEN GO WHITE!"
Have a great weekend everyone.
Joanne (only drinking water these days)
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The weather in Michigan is depressing to say the least. Sunday afternoon there were HUGE snowflakes flying around and Monday morning there was a very thin layer of snow on the ground. Thank goodness by Monday afternoon it was all gone! Now I know why people move to WARM climates! I for one am truly looking forward to Spring and warmer weather.
Nothing else exciting to report. So that in itself is good. Hope all of you are well. Don't fall for anything tomorrow...remember it will be April first!
Joanne (drinking LOTS of water)
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Joanne (I drank some coffee today from 7-11. It didn't taste good. Is it me or do they make bad coffee?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
As promised, I also have some AMAZING videos from school to share with you. My elementary school has been SO supportive of my ongoing fight against breast cancer that words cannot even express how I feel. They have been there every step of the way...including staff members, families, and students. Without their love and support, I know this would be a very different battle. They have made it possible for me to remain positive, when I didn't feel positive, and they have inspired me to do what I need to do, so I can return to school cancer free. Special thanks to my blog assistant, Carly (home on Spring Break) who helped me add these videos to the blog. (you really didn't think that I could this could you!)
The first video was shot at the opening ceremonies of "March Reading Month" when the entire school was getting motivated to READ FOR A CURE. (Be patient, the first 20 seconds of the video are bars and tones and the video starts right after that)
The second video was put together by Shannon Wikle, a mom of one of my current students. It touched my heart tremendously, and I know it will touch yours too.
Thanks so much Shannon for all of your hard work, I truly LOVE the video :-) I'm warning everyone, you should probably have a kleenex handy when viewing this, I know I needed one!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
As far as how I'm feeling, I actually feel more like my old self. I was really tired when I got home Friday night, and went to bed early (even for me!) But yesterday I felt alright, and I went to the mall with Carly. My taste seems to have returned for the most part, so I'm hoping it sticks around. I had coffee at the mall and it was pretty darn tasty. I haven't noticed any side affects as of yet, so let's keep our fingers crossed. Even the weather here in Michigan has turned the corner. I think winter is finally a thing of the past. It seems that life is looking up and I for one am very grateful.
On another note, my elementary school had a VERY successful PINK bake sale (with all funds going to cancer research)and I for one baked up a storm for them. I have some fabulous pics of the goodies and the kids, and I will put them all into my next post.
I know you will enjoy seeing what went on.
Have a great week wherever you are, and I hope you can get out and enjoy the nice weather.
Joanne (I had two cups of coffee in the last two days and I LOVED it!!)
P.S. Thank you so much to my friends Sandy and Mike Peterson, and the Riverside Student Council, who both gave me gift cards to BORDERS. I had a WONDERFUL time yesterday picking out some new reading material while I was at the mall, and to my surprise, it was "Educators Week" and I received an additional 25% off my purchases, even WITH my gift cards! Now THAT'S a fabulous gift!! Thank you SO much! :-)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I had a visit yesterday from two wonderful families from my elementary school. Shannon Wikle (along with son Ben) and Alice Stoddard came by with a VERY special gift for me. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I was completely overwhelmed by the gift they brought.
Apparently families at my school were asked to make and decorate quilt squares for me and the finished product was shared this past Friday at the school's weekly "Community Meeting." So yes...they all knew before me! (I'm always the last one to know anything anyway) Even my husband knew about it! It was such a special gift and so much love went into it, that I had to share it with all of you. And to anyone that is reading this that helped to make the quilt, all I can say is that I absolutely love it, and I will cherish it always. Thank you so VERY much for taking the time to make me feel so special.
From left to right: Ben, Shannon Wikle, me (as if you couldn't tell), Alice Stoddard
I'm holding a framed square that didn't make it onto the quilt due to the transfer beginning to peel. It's my ALL TIME favorite book character, Harry Potter. Many thanks to Chris Thompson for remembering his former teacher's favorite book!
In my family room, where Steve is trying to get the whole quilt in the picture. (no luck here)
You can see my ever growing collection of cards behind me. I enjoy looking at them every day.
Good job Steve! :-) Here is the whole beautiful quilt! I plan to take it to chemo on Friday, so be ready for another shot of it from there.
Monday, March 16, 2009
As far as my check up at the oncologist this past Friday, well, it was just as we had suspected. Without my white blood cell booster shot last Monday, my white blood cell count was practically non-existent. The range for a normal white blood cell count is between 3.7 and 11.0. Mine was a scary 0.9 Yikes!! (Last week it was 10.2) So, I was given a mini version of the shot I usually receive on Mondays following chemo. The only problem was that the doctor told me that I also needed the shot for two more days...that meant Saturday and Sunday when the office is closed. I was asked if I had ever given myself shots before. Uhhhhhh.....NO! The nurse asked if I had any "friendly diabetics" in the neighborhood that could help me out. None came to mind. But wait...I did have a very friendly NURSE right across the street! I would be saved from doing it myself. So, they sent me home with two "ready to be injected" needles in a bright yellow bag that said, "CAUTION CHEMO DRUGS." Great, this would probably be the time that I'd getting pulled over on the way home and the officer would see a bald headed woman wearing a pink bandana with syringes filled with drugs on her front seat. lol OK it COULD have happened! Anyway, on Saturday I walked across the street, syringe in hand, and my wonderful neighbor, Diane, did what she does best, and it was over in a second. She told me to come on back on Sunday, which I did! The other good news from my doctor visit was after examing me, he told me that I looked substantially better and the swelling was less. (those are the exact words he wrote down on my chart which I read the second he left the room...you know you would have done the same thing!) He gave me the ok to start the second round of chemo this Friday. I only hope the new drug will go as smoothly as the first round.
As promised, here are some pics from the Feel Good Look Great workshop that I attended last week with Rachel. Hope they put a smile on your face. (I have spared you all from the bald headed BEFORE pic and only posted the AFTER)
This is the bag of cosmetics that we spread all over our table.
This is a close up of the make up inside the bag for those of you that actually know what it is!
Here is the AFTER of me in short hair....although you can't see it very well due to Rachel doing her imitation of the Morton Salt Girl! :-)
Here I am outside in the sunshine with my short spiky hair. Who IS that woman behind the shades?
And last but not least, here's Rachel thinking that she looks cool in my pink bandana. Hey girl, leave the bandana for us bald headed chicks!
That's about it for now. Hope everyone has a great week. It's supposed to get into the mid 60 temperature range here in Michigan tomorrow! I'm excited for the warm weather. And for all my cookie friends out there (and they know who they are) I made cookies for Rachel to take back to her sorority friends. I'll post some pics of them tomorrow.
Joanne (I was drinking Simply Lemonade which tasted good for two days. But all good things must come to an end...back to water)