Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hanging in there

Yes, I'm still among the living. I know it's been a few days since I've written anything so I wanted to assure everyone that I'm ok. I have been feeling slightly "under the weather" the last few days though. Nothing serious, but I had an ongoing stomach ache and headache that just stuck around for several days. I really haven't felt like eating anything but did eat boring foods like toast, oatmeal, and tea to get something in my stomach. Don't worry, there's no chance of me "wasting away to nothing!" lol I feel better today so I will just take the good with the bad.

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

Short and Sweet

Just thought I'd pop in to give you a quick update. I had an appointment this morning with my surgeon. This appointment had been made quite awhile back so I could "check in" with her. She was very happy with the way things were going and was surprised to hear I had already finished round one of chemo! (my how time flies when you're having fun) I asked her what my "plan" was and she told me that as soon as chemo is completed (end of May) then I will be ready for surgery(again) a few weeks later. She also told me that after the surgery is completed I will have radiation for six weeks. Ugh...still a ways to go...but at least things ARE moving along. I'm heading off to camp chemo tomorrow morning, I'll let you know if they induce a coma again! lol The only problem I've had this past week is a SERIOUS lack of sleep. Good thing you can't see me...I resemble a raccoon due to very large circles under my eyes. (NOT attractive)) I plan on talking to the nurse tomorrow about how to solve this problem. Other than that life moves on...hope you're having a great day.

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

March Reading Month

I told all of you in an earlier post about the PINK bake sale that was taking place last Thursday at my elementary school. The sale was a huge success and all proceeds are going to be donated to the Susan G. Komen foundation in my name. (what an honor!) My fourth grade class sponsored the bake sale and I want to say thank you to all of the families from Room 106 that took the time to bake, decorate, and send in such delicious looking treats. Thanks to all of you maybe breast cancer will cease to exist one day in the near future. These pink cookies were my donation to the sale, along with two dozen pink cupcakes. By the looks of the kids mobbing the bake sale table, I can tell that everyone went away with a smile on their face (not to mention a happy sugar high) *click on the last picture picture to enlarge it and read a special note from Zach and Jake :-)

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

Chemo Coma

Round two this past Friday went well. My appointment for chemo is usually at 10:30 on Fridays, but for some reason they scheduled me for later in the day and my appt. wasn't until 1:30. It worked out well however, because Carly was driving home from Chicago that morning, and she arrived in plenty of time to go with me. I always have my blood drawn the very first thing. They need to make sure that my blood counts are all withing the normal range before they can administer the chemo, and they were! So, the next thing they do is administer the drugs that will (hopefully) manage my side affects through an IV drip. This round there are four of those drugs. The last of those drugs given to me before the cheom drug (Taxol) was Benadryl.(sp?) I'm really not sure what it "manages" (yes...she did tell me, but to be truthful I can't remember what she told me)what I do remember is that she said it would make me sleepy. I said, "I'll be sleepy later?" She replied, "No, right now" and I said ok. Then she hooked up the Taxol. About one minute after the taxol began to drip, I looked at Carly and said, "I need to close my eyes now." The next thing I knew, the beeper on my IV drip was going off indicating that the drip was done, and it was ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES later! I heard my nurse saying, "Wake up sleeping beauty, you're all done!" Make me SLEEPY??? lol I'd say it was more like a SEDATIVE!! It was like being in the O.R. and they are getting ready to put you to sleep and they say count backwards from 100, and the last thing you remember is saying 99!!! The good news is my time in camp chemo sure did whiz right by! :-) Maybe I should bring my pillow and blanket next Friday!

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


It's Wednesday....my how time flies when you're feeling good. And I am! :-) No reactions and no problems. Life is good. Just counting down the days until I get my new round of drugs.

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

Inject MYSELF? You've got to be kidding!

Happy Monday everyone! And an early Happy St. Pat's Day too! Rachel left yesterday to head back to Butler University in Indianapolis. (Go Butler Bulldogs in March Madness!) It was really nice to have her home for the week, and she sure did catch up on her sleep while she was here! ;-) (I love you Rach xox) I'm getting ready now for daughter number 2, Carly, to come home for HER Spring Break this Friday.

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)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Look Good...Feel GREAT!!!

Hi everyone! Wondering where I've been? I've been busy "vegetating" with my daughter Rachel. lol She's home on Spring Break and I've enjoyed having some company to do nothing! :-) Earlier in the week however, she did accompany me to a wonderful event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Several times a year they have an event called, "Look Good…Feel Better." It is a free, non-medical, national public service program which helps women offset appearance-related changes from cancer treatment. The two hour workshop was held in an administrative room at the hospital where I receive my treatment. The session included a skin care/make-up application lesson and demonstrations of options for dealing with hair loss. Not to mention the AMAZING make-up bag of "goodies" that included (according to Rachel) some REALLY GOOD
brands of cosmetics and moisturizers. (Bobby Brown, Chanel and Clinique to name a few) The voluneers that led the workshop were wonderful and included a local Nordstrom's make-up artist and a hair stylist/wig person (who was a cancer survivor herself). Many items such as wigs, hats, and scarves are donated to these sessions by former cancer patients who no longer have the need for these items and now wish to donate them to someone who can use them. I was only one of two people at the session without hair, so we were both used as "models" for the wigs. I had a very short and sassy wig put onto my head, and everyone at the session seemed to think that it was "me!" lol (If only they knew that my original hair was about ten times that long!) When the hair stylist was finished, she told me that I could keep the wig if I wanted it! So I did! Now I will really keep people guessing when they see me around town. Wait, didn't she have chin length hair the last time I saw her? No, she had NO hair the last time I saw her. Wait, I saw her with a short spiky hair cut! LOL Are you SURE that's her???!! I'll just leave everyone wondering and enjoy whatever hair I'm wearing at the moment. :-)

I do have some pics of the workshop, but unfortunately they are on Rachel's camera, and she hasn't transferred them yet to my computer. (I'll get on her about that today) Then you can let me know how you like my new short hair. Many thanks to the American Cancer Society for hosting such a wonderful event. I really did feel GREAT when I left.

I'll be having my weekly check up tomorrow. Without my "booster" shot this past Monday, I'm hoping that my blood cell counts will be ok. The good news is there have been no reactions this week and no passing out in the snow (which would now be frozen mud) so this is a good thing.
I did have some taste return yesterday which was welcome. Steve and I ventured out to Whole Foods and I happily worked my way through the samples located throughout the store. (some tasted better than others, but I still tried them all...you never know what will work!)

The weekend is upon us, and I hope that everyone has a good one.

Joanne (drinks I've tried this week: FUZE Raspberry (NOT good!), OJ, Apple Juice, and Earl
Grey tea. But sticking to water...how boring)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

So many uses...

Watching television. While knitting. Watching a soccer game. While reading. And now we can add to the unlimited uses of the Snuggie. Wear it while having chemo! Every patient should have one. No need to withdraw your arms to expose them to a cold chemo room while the nurse draws your blood. Imagine the feeling of warmth you will experience while comfortably sitting in your recliner while getting infused. The possibilites are endless for the cancer patient :-) Buy one today and you will get an additional Snuggie free. But wait, that's not all, as a special gift you will also get a free bonus book light with page illuminating LED light. (excellent to have on hand if the hospital lights go out!) All for the amazing price of $19.95.

See... that big 'ol nasty shot of drugs doesn't look so bad when you're wrapped up nice and warm inside your Snuggie!

It's so warm and snuggly inside my Snuggie! :-) You can even share it with friends...it's large enough for two!
Don't they look happy inside their Snuggie! :-)

LOLOL I don't think I'll give up my day job and enter the world of infomercials. The above mentioned Snuggie arrived in the mail on Thursday, from nonother than Carly. Our family has had an ongoing joke about this new "sensation" (using term loosely here) and in reality think it's the dumbest thing we've ever seen. Which is why I was surprised to see one sent to me. So the burning question I had for Carly was, "What on earth made you buy one of these things?" The answer my friends is simple if you consider that it involves not only Carly but Jessica, who are 21 and 23 respectively. I'll let you think about this for a moment and see what you can come up with. Times up. So I'll tell you. Apparently "Snuggies" is sponsoring a nationwide " PUB CRAWL"
(if you guessed something about alcohol you were right) in selected cities in the country and Chicago is one of them. In order to even get into the bars, you need to be wearing (you got it) A SNUGGIE!! Now I have definitely heard of every use for this ridiculous item (and you thought wearing it to chemo was funny...I did!) I can only imagine a bar full of Snuggie wearing adults bellying up to the bar drinking their favorite adult beverage. I can only hope that people drink sensibly and do not spill anything on their Snuggie. I'm afraid if they wash it, it will dissappear into the bowels of the washer and dryer. It has the consistency of a glorified airport blanket and I have yet to put it on without static electricity erupting everywhere, and it does a magnificent job at attracting dog hair. Wait...it really DOES have other uses. LOL

Anyway, I knew you would enjoy these photos from camp chemo. I was accompanied again by my dear friend Terry, as well as our other dear friend Nancy, who drove all the way from the other side of the state to go with us. (Now that's a true friend xoxo) The last visit of round one went by without anything to write about...which is a good thing. I'll visit the office next week for my blood count check up and they will tell me then when round two will begin.

One last pic to leave you with. This one is for you Lisa (my friend down in the Big D) I wore your shirt to camp chemo and everyone smiled when they read it. I continued wearing it the rest of the day and I believe I got extra smiles from people in the grocery store as well. Now people don't have to wonder why I have no hair! :-)

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend. I'm sorry to say that I can feel my taste slipping away. It's not altogether gone, but it's going. Yesterday while the taste "window" was open I stopped at Starbucks before I left for chemo and had a a latte. IT WAS DELICIOUS! And that's all I'll say about that.

Joanne (not drinking too much of anything, but I know I have to, so (sigh) I'll find something.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Off to Camp Chemo

It's hard to believe, but today is my fourth and LAST A/C (round one) chemo treatment! Woo Hoo!
Hopefully it's downhill from here! I will have to wait another two weeks, then I'll begin round two
(Taxol) of my treatment. I'm definitely on the road to recovery! :-)

The last two days have kind of been miraculous...my taste returned! I don't know if it's fleeting (it more than likely is since I'm getting "poisoned" again today) but I enjoyed it immensely while it was here. I didn't rush out and eat myself sick, but the things I ate from my own kitchen sure did taste good! Last night I had dinner with friends, and to confirm to myself that I REALLY could taste, I ordered a cup of coffee. I could taste it! (and promptly drank it and ordered two more refills) I'd like to say that my dinner was something amazing like lobster tails or prime rib, but I ordered a good 'ol cheesburger and fries. It was delicious. Sure would be great if my rekindled tasted buds decide to stick around. If not, there's always my taco bell hot sauce.

TGIF everyone. I'll check back tomorrow with tales from camp chemo.

Joanne (drinking TONS of water this morning in preparation for camp chemo)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Amazing friends

It was a wonderful weekend! Carly was home from Chicago and it was great to have her here, if only for a few days. She ran errands with me and she was only to happy to eat anything that I cooked for her. I sent her home on Sunday with lots of tasty leftovers, more than enough to keep a starving college student going for quite some time. (I did give her instructions however to share with her sister in Chicago as well...she has plenty Jess) Besides visiting her dear old mom, Carly came home to film the March Reading Month assembly at my elementary school for her documentary class project. The theme this year was the brainchild of my dear friends Mary and Jackie Craite. (Mary teaches with me and Jackie is a freshman at Oakland University) The theme, "Read for a Cure" will be highlighted with lots of "pink" reading activities including students turning in their weekly reading minutes on pink paper. In addition to the students reading and donating money, Jackie has also placed donation jugs all around town at local businesses. All money collected will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I am truly humbled that my entire elementary school has chosen to honor me in this remarkable way. They mean the world to me. In addition to planning reading month, Mary and Jackie stopped by my house to show me something special that they had made to take to school.
I can only say that I was amazed and astounded by what they brought by. They created a stuffed pink ribbon "person" to go into the library. Students will be able to snuggle up with the ribbon (lol) and read. Since I could never adequately describe this ribbon person, a picture will truly be worth a thousand words. Here it is..

I told you I'd never be able to describe it! :-) And here I am with it...

Yes, it is LARGE! Thanks so much Mary and Jackie! You are both such amazing friends.XOXO

If anyone reading this blog would care to make a donation to help find a cure, they can be sent to:
Riverside Elementary School (checks payable to: Susan G. Komen for the cure)
c/o Mary Craite
5280 Farm Rd.
Waterford, MI 48327

I've been feeling relatively fine since the "fainting episode" last Thursday, and hopefully this week leading up to chemo will be uneventful. I have received some amazing gifts the past week that I'd like to share with all of you. Each and every day I am truly touched by the ongoing outpouring of kindness from friends far and near. On Friday I received this GORGEOUS plant basket from my neighbors across the street, the Peters Family. It has the most beautiful little pink flowering plants. It also came with my own personal angel which I just love. I am blessed to have such wonderful friends right there across the street if I need them. (and Diane is a nurse, so that's a double blessing!)

I'm going to have to find the perfect spot to hang my angel so she can watch over me.

I also had another floral delivery. This one from the Stoddard family at my school. These flowers are so bright and cheery they lifted my spirits the second I saw them. I know you will feel happy as well when you see them. Thanks to the entire Stoddard family, and Alice, I loved the special card and medal, thanks SO very much.

And last but certainly not least, my friend Sheri (hope I spelled it right) stopped by yesterday and she came bearing gifts as well. Look at these amazing slippers that she brought me (which happen to be on my feet right now as I type this!) as well as pink ribbon chocolate lollipops that she made herself! The lollipops were taken to the school she works in and she is selling them to raise money that will be donated in my name to the American Cancer Society. What a wonderfully thoughtful gesture. I hope she SELLS OUT! (Carly said they tasted delicious...sadly my taste buds and chocolate are not on speaking terms right now)

Hope everyone enjoyed the pics today. The weather is cold, but the sun is shining so I think I'll bundle up and take the dogs for a walk. It's good to just get out of the house.

Have a great day. (I'm back to just drinking water, NOTHING tastes good right now)